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In this month’s edition of ‘Experts talk’, we speak to Caburn Hope’s communication expert Alessandra De Santis. She shares her insights on implementing a successful change communication strategy, who should be involved and how to measure its success.

What is change communication?

Alessandra: A communication strategy that aims to achieve an emotional ‘buy-in’ into change internally; it’s a balance of transactional information (processes, data, systems) and emotional elements (inspirational, personal, dynamic).

The change itself could be anything – from an office move or a company take-over. All changes are valid and should ultimately be treated with the upmost care. You could argue any communication strategy involves an element of change and I probably would agree with that!

Why is it so important to HR leaders?

Alessandra: Change happens on an on-going basis – it’s the evolution of business. HR leaders need assurance that it’s dealt with effectively, sympathetically and on-brand. But more importantly, it’s managed by employee communication specialists who understand HR language nuances – and have an innate fair for marketing-led HR campaigns.

What are the commercial benefits for the wider company?

Alessandra: There are a multitude of benefits associated to a successful change communication strategy. For example, reduced turnover rate of talent, reduced recruitment costs, increased productivity and employee engagement levels are just the tip of the iceberg. On the other side, change dealt with badly – or not dealt with at all – can have an astronomical effect on your bottom line.

Who should be involved in the creation of a change communication strategy?

Alessandra: This is depends on what subject your communicating, so it’s hard to justify without knowing. In general, the people who should be involved are HR, leadership and an external HR communication expert who has extensive experience in this field. Internal comms should also be ‘looped in’ from a corporate affairs perspective and they should be fully supported to deal with the influx of on-going dialogue.

What sort of trends do you see emerging in the landscape?

Alessandra: There is more emphasis on transparency and trust these days – and rightly so! Regardless of the magnitude of change, people need to be assured that it’s coming from an honest place. In terms of how to communicate change, my top three trends would include:
Storytelling – because people need to understand the bigger picture and how it will impact their world. Humanising the message will help people understand the reason behind the change, how it might affect their work and what role they need to play to successfully embed the change.
Shared purpose – there’s no point telling people a story without linking it to your corporate purpose and how it relates to their day-to-day lives. Give people a perspective into how this change relates to your vision, values and business needs.
Consistency – don’t pay lip service to a message or story and then let it fall by the wayside. You need continuity and consistency of messaging to ensure employees are emotionally invested in the change of the business.

How do you measure its success?

Alessandra: The objectives set-out at the beginning will drive what measurement initiatives you need to take. If you want to understand perceptions and gauge your people’s opinions, then a qualitative method such as a focus group might be beneficial. If you are seeking to understand emotions or behaviours then sentiment analytics (keyword analysis) or a pulse survey is beneficial to getting a quick response on real-time moods and feelings.

What are your top three tips for creating a watertight change communication strategy?

Alessandra:

Be genuine – nobody will respect a disingenuous message that’s impersonal. People need to have a strike between a transactional (information) and emotional (what’s in it for me) balance.
Avoid management speak and abbreviations – don’t complicate matters and make people feel like it’s coming from a faceless organisation. Breathe a little personality!
Tailor your message – Adapt your campaigns to the audience you are speaking to. Think about their needs, expectations and platform preferences.

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