Effective Change Communication requires a many-to-many rather than one-to-many process.
Any significant transformation of an organisation will require some level of culture change and improved communication. Change communication utilising narrative co-creation and multiple voices is an essential ingredient of successful organisational culture change.
Research shows that employees undergoing change prefer to hear change messages from three key groups in the organisation:
- The sponsor of the change
- Immediate supervisors
Resist the urge to communicate mainly through the project team. Those impacted by the change want to hear about the reasons for change (and their impact on the organisation) from the leader driving the change. They want to hear about how the change will impact them personally from their direct supervisor/manager. In addition, ideas and experiences from colleagues (employee generated change content) can be a powerful reinforcement of the change narrative.
When leaders are on the same page (with a congruent change narrative) it helps employees and other stakeholders understand how they fit into the larger change narrative, and how they can participate in shaping the future of the organisation.
Co-creating the change narrative helps:
- everyone get on the same page
- add perspective, making the change more relatable
- provide an opportunity for two-way communication
- reinforce organisational values
- make the information more memorable.
Keys to using organisational voice to support Change Communication:
- Make sure the leaders you select to deliver the message are credible. Ensure they are leaders who have built rapport and credibility with those who need to receive the message. Make sure that leaders do not talk about the change unless they are fully informed, committed, and comfortable with the change narrative.
- Answer the burning questions. “Why is the change happening?“, “What is the risk of not changing?” and particularly the “WIIFM” (what’s in it for me?). Continue to reinforce the ‘why‘ throughout the entire programme. Message repetition is particularly important when there is a delay between the first communication and the start of implementation.
- Use face-to-face communication where possible. Face-to-face communication has been identified as the key to effective change communication. Though it takes more time, do not underestimate the value and impact of a human touch on buy-in and retention.
- Repeat key messages five to ten times. Repeat key messages more often than you think you need to. This helps your message make it trough the noise of the day-to-day. Keep communicating all the way through. Stay focused on the change, cultivate champions, be visible, and keep communicating the merits of the change every step of the way.
- Create opportunities for two-way communication. Give employees regular opportunities to share concerns, give feedback and to ask questions. Two-way communication via multiple channels helps create buy-in and provide colleagues answers in real-time. Nurture a cascade-down, feedback-up loop.
NB: Change communication is not a “check list” activity. It needs to be regularly assessed to ensure the messages are effective. Ongoing communication assessment helps identify what is working, what is being misinterpreted, and what is getting lost in the noise of the day-to-day. Communication feedback helps us correct and refine our communications.
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