The Importance of Effective Communication in Change Management
As businesses continue to flex and evolve as a response to the global socio-economic effects of 2020, it’s crucial for businesses to ensure employees are informed of organisational changes and fully understand their importance, in order to support business growth and performance.
Whether your business is re-establishing it’s values as a response to a new industry environment, launching business-wide initiatives to become more efficient, or tweaking your long term working from home policy, communicating the change carefully and effectively is the only way to ensure whole-hearted employee buy-in and support.
But before we explore the importance of effective communication in change management, it’s important to first define what effective communication is and how to recognise it.
Effective communication is accessible, useful and inspiring
From an employee’s perspective, effective two-way internal communications should feel effortless, positive, and honest.
What happens when change communication isn’t effective?
Not telling your employees the full story around the change and not taking them on that journey with you risks disengagement, disenfranchisement and sometimes, dissent.
Ineffective change communication focuses on the technical and practical components of the change which is occurring, without inspiring employees about the bigger picture first. For example, a greater business-wide efficiency won’t be delivered by simply implementing a system such as Workday and holding a few seminars on how to use the platform.
Greater efficiency within the business will only be accomplished by inspiring employees around why the business has “efficiency” as an objective, what their important role is within this evolution, and empowering them to be accountable for their own efficiencies.
Communicate the objective
Of course, every communication strategy has to involve the technical detail about what specifically is going to change. This needs to be appreciated and understood by all employees. But success isn’t assured by communicating that transactional, technical detail. The bigger picture needs to be understood and communicated effectively, too:
- Why – focus first on the business-wide reason change is being implemented, and the bigger picture impact on everyone
- What – be very clear on what is going to change, and the timeline for the changes
- How – finally, explain in relevant detail to each employee group, and then on an individual level, ‘how’ this is going to affect them and what is expected of them
When you share information in a personal, impactful and positive way, employees will feel accountable, and inspired to take action.
Developing an effective communications strategy
To put together and roll out an effective communications plan, the necessary groundwork needs to be completed. Interrogation of the business objective behind the change is important so the ‘why’ behind the change can be fully understood by the team leading the comms strategy.
Following this step, ideally undertake a comprehensive gap analysis of your existing internal communications and relationship with your employees, comparing this to where you want to be at the end of the change process.
Following those strategic actions, exploring your data and analytics to understand the behavioural mood of the business, staff retention and performance and undertaking focus groups and employee surveys will support your understanding of what needs to be done to communicate the coming changes effectively.
Understand the bigger picture
Before the execution of any internal comms strategy, a thorough interrogation of the bigger picture is also needed. As well as making sure you understand your people, what they need from you and how they need you to communicate change to them, it’s important to futureproof the brand. Remember when these changes have been implemented, you want your people to still be with you and your brand to still be strong.
Effective communication drives business performance
In our experience, we have seen that great internal communication is equal to wealth throughout a business
An effective communications strategy delivers the wholehearted participation of employees before, during and after, change. This ultimately drives business performance.
This improved business performance, in turn, generates wealth. But not just financial wealth. Turnover and profit are, of course, important in any business. However, a healthy bottom line supports employees being able to live the lives they want to – in this way, the improved performance of the business translates into mental and emotional wealth for all employees.
A successful change communication strategy embeds change on a transformative level, because people can see the bigger picture and their place in it. They don’t just learn a new process, they understand the reason the process is essential in order to move the business forward, and why their role is vital. Therefore, effective communication is essential for driving change that sticks, and delivering a better experience for a business and everyone who works in it.
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