Change Management Secrets Communications

op contributors to success Module 2 – Communications

Change management research, based on seven benchmarking studies conducted over the last fourteen years reveals some interesting facts. In each of the seven studies, respondents identified the greatest overall contributor to success.

Here are the top 6 contributors to Change Management success identified in the 2012 benchmarking report:

Active and visible executive sponsorship
Frequent and open communication about the change
Structured change management approach
Dedicated change management resources and funding
Employee engagement and participation
Engagement with and support from middle management

 

This module presents success contributor #2: Frequent and open communication about the change

Success contributor #2: Communications Communication matters, especially during the uncertainty of change. Research participants noted that communications which positively contributed to the success of projects were frequent, top-down and open, which absolutely makes sense from a change management perspective.

Change management is often spoken of as the “soft-side” of change, but what this means more often than not is that change management deals with people – people who in the “normal human way” are concerned with how changes affect them, their career, their family, their future; people who appreciate clear choices over orders; people who are thoughtful and appreciate understanding the big picture, regardless if they are front-line employees or senior-level managers.

Communicating for communication’s sake is not sufficient, however. Communication must be effective, targeted and must not be redundant. Poor communication can be just as damaging as no communication in terms of resistance from employees and employee perception of the project.

An effective message regarding changes to an employee’s job is composed of the following characteristics:
Sends the right message
To the right audience
At the right time
From the right sender
Through the right channel

An effective change message tells the right story by considering the audience, their needs, how they are affected by the change, their past experiences with change, the relevant stage of the project and the most effective communication channel for the audience. Furthermore, change messages need to be timely – meaning they arrive when the content is most relevant for the recipient.

Effective communications also should come from the right “sender.” Depending on the message content, employees may want to hear messages from either their immediate supervisor or from someone at the top. The graph below shows study participants’ responses regarding preferred sender of change messages.

One thing the research is very clear on is that employees do NOT prefer to receive change messages from the project manager, the project leader, a communications specialist, an HR representative or the change management professional supporting the project. The preferred and most effective sender is someone who is either close to employees, or is trusted by employees due to their position or relationship with employees.

Implications for change management professionals
1. Build a strategy and plan Effective communications begin with an effective communications plan. It is helpful to conduct preliminary analysis of each audience group and map out what they will want to hear and when they want to hear it before getting too far along in the project. These initial steps help save time later by anticipating the communication needs of employees affected by the change and ensure that communications are on point.

It is important to distinguish between a project management communications plan – which focuses on important information pertaining to the project, solution, timelines, milestones, etc. – and a change management communications plan – which will focus on topics such as the reasons for the change, why employees should want to participate, and how the change will impact employees on an individual level.

A communication strategy and plan, from a change management perspective, aims to answer the questions employees have about the change.

2. Avoid the trap of “default messages” Employees can see right through a generic email regardless of whose signature is at the bottom. “Default messages” fail to take into account the audience and their needs. When time and resources are running short, it can be easy to fall into the trap of “default messages.”

However, taking time upfront to think through a strategy and plan can help avoid this issue and make every point of communication count. The other “default messages” that can sneak into a communications plan focus on details about the project. For example, early in the project effective communications focus on why the change is happening and the risk of not changing.

The “default messages” at this point would be details like dates and solution alternatives. Communication efforts guided by change management principles avoid becoming “telling plans” by focusing on what employees want to know instead of what the project team is doing.

3. Communicate more Many readers may react to this suggestion, contending that it is also possible to over communicate. Absolutely! Over communication, especially when using “default messages,” can be harmful to the change management effort as employees become disengaged and feel undervalued.

However, participants in the 2011 study indicated that more communication was the number one “do differently next time” suggestion.

Does this mean flood employee inboxes with emails? No. It means communicate to more people, more often, to more levels within the organization, using more targeted messages, more face-to-face interactions, and more relevant information.

There is a plethora of different communication methods and channels ready to be utilized ). In the interest of achieving successful business outcomes, it is worth taking the extra time to build a communications plan and craft relevant, valuable messages using a variety of channels that help employees understand the need for change and the risk of not changing.

Source : Prosci