Communicating change: Don’t rush it!

Written by
Connie REBER

Automation of communication enables communication departments to reach out to multiple communities instantaneously. However, this creates an environment conducive to “pulling the trigger” too fast, too often. While a plethora of tools and platforms have been emerging in the last 10 years, none of them can perform the most important task facing you - that is to say, to take the time to think it through. Just you, your coffee and a set of basic questions in front of you.

Creating change is a long-term endeavour that must be backed up by a robust communication strategy. As change happens one person at a time, it is of utmost importance to get everyone on board and aligned with the vision. The ultimate goal is to maximize adoption and utilization. Before you start crafting the “story of change”, make sure it is built on solid ground and, most of all, know your audience.  

Building communication on solid ground

A common mistake is to engineer the best possible technical solution and expect people to just go with the flow. Awareness and Desire are the first building blocks of a well-rounded and structured change process (ADKAR – Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, Reinforcement). Countless initiatives have failed because these essential steps were utterly disregarded. Priority must therefore be given to crafting a convincing message and ensuring it is relayed through the right senders at the right time. This involves answering a number of important questions beforehand:

  • Why is change important and, conversely, what if we don’t change?
  • What is the current situation and how did we get there (successes and failures)?
  • What are the business goals attached to the change?
  • What would success look like, how can we track progress and assess final results?
  • Beyond communication efforts, what other elements should support the process (systems, processes, management availability, reward programs, …)?
  • Who will be impacted by the change, either directly and indirectly?
  • How will communication help reach goals and mitigate possible negative outcomes?

Preferred senders for change messages

Sponsors must speak with a strong consistent voice with respect to the “business” reasons for change. Beware, though, that effective communication takes more than a one-off event and is by no means a top-management task by design. Executive managers are expected to translate the goals into practical terms and provide guidance. Because of their proximity to the field, supervisors play a key role in hashing out personal issues related to change and setting up feedback loops. Empathy and proper language are decisive factors for success. Frontline employees can only commit to change if they properly understand “what’s in there for them”.

Inadequate communication can be extremely costly as rumours start to fill in the blanks, fuelling resistance. Given that resistance is the most cited reason for the failure of projects, getting your communication basics right should be at the top of the list.

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Source : PROSCI®.

By now your cup of coffee should be empty and hopefully you have a clearer understanding of the needs of your audience. Ready, steady, go!

Written by
Connie REBER

Connie Reber is Head of Marketing & Administration of Prosci® Change Management seminars (NEXUM CHANGE LAB) for NEXUM clients in Switzerland. Supporting business partners of Learning & Development, Organisational Development and HR to better prepare tomorrow's workplace for changing environments.


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The ADKAR Model

  • A Awareness of the need for change
  • D Desire to support and participate in the change
  • K Knowledge of how to change
  • A Ability to implement required skills and behaviors
  • R Reinforcement to sustain the change

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