Change management is hard as most people are not happy about leaving their comfort zones.
However, change is inevitable for businesses that want to improve and grow. When implementing change, the most important thing for success is effective internal communication strategy that prevents misinformation in the workplace and prepares employees for the change.
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Why Misinformation is Deadly for Change Management
So what happens when you don’t communicate effectively during change?
For one, people start making up their own information. Then, they may challenge the goals you have set for the change and criticize the overall change process. Many of them imagine the worst that can happen and then start to believe their own assumptions.
Naturally, rumors will happen and spread like wildfire. People start believing the rumors and become angry and mistrustful of their leaders.
At this point, your change project is destined to fail.
Still, nearly 81% of employees indicated that miscommunication occurred in their organization very frequently, frequently, or occasionally.
No matter which change management model you decide to use, your employees should be the center of it.
Therefore, during changes, employers must communicate early, regularly and through the right communication channels.
The Role of Internal Communications in Change Management
Most change management efforts fail. Moreover, studies have shown that organizational change projects fail at a rate of 60-70%.
Companies that manage to implement change successfully are the ones that know how to effectively communicate with their employees before, during and after the change is being implemented.
Therefore, IC departments should be one of the most important strategic partners during change management efforts.
“When the future is unclear, focus often falls to strategic, top-level safety nets. Focus on the human aspect of change management – despite its huge role in providing business continuity, productivity and the means to weather any business storm – is often considered as an item on the checklist, without due care given to the impact of change on the workforce.”
Quote by CEB Global.
Keeping employees informed about the benefits, updates and consequences of change is crucial for employee engagement, motivation and job satisfaction.
One of our favorite change management models is John Kotter’s “Eight Steps to Successful Change“.
The reason why this is a good model to follow is because employees are in the center of it, and effective internal communication is the only solution to guide employees through the steps.
9 Tips to Improve Change Management with Effective Communication
Companies now need to understand that the essence of change is communication; that is, communication produces change rather than merely serving as one of the tools in its implementation.
Therefore, workplace communications have a significant effect on the success of change management projects.
Let’s take a look into how you can improve change management with a good internal communications strategy.
1. Answer your employees’ questions
When implementing change, every employee expects his or her questions to be answered, and the importance of answering those questions is significant.
For example, a study of major change at a hospital setting, found that employees were more likely to accept the change if they felt it was justified.
If you want to get your employees on board with change, be sure to clearly explain how those changes will affect their timelines, routines, and goals. Whoever is in charge of communications must reach all employees with information that will provide clarity and direction to facilitate the transition.
Leaders and communicators should be ready for questions such as:
- Why is change necessary?
- How does this strategy differ from the status quo?
- Why do we need this change now?
- How are we measuring the success of our new strategy?
2. Memos and emails are not enough
When answering those employee questions, memos are not enough, a big organizational meeting is not enough, and certainly an email blast is not enough.
Making sure everyone understands and accepts the change is a tough job, and change leaders need a big support from internal communications professionals to achieve that.
Instead of just sending an email or a memo to your employees, that many employees may ignore, encourage two-way conversations. This is the only way to engage employees in the conversation and prevent misinformation and rumors.
3. Build a strong company culture to give reassurance
During the change management process, it is not uncommon to see new cracks and weaknesses in your company culture.
Therefore, IC professionals should maintain workforce engagement to create strong company culture and values that promote learning, change and growth.
Managing that morale and mindset when employees work remotely can be even more challenging.
Professional internal communicators should strive to engage remote teams regardless of whether they are in their offices or not.
Not only that keeping employees aligned with organizational strategies is vital to successful change management, but it also makes teams feel connected and engaged.
At the end of the day, engaged employees positively embrace transformations and change because they have a greater stake in the success of the company.
4. Leverage your internal communication tools
Internal communicators, especially in large enterprises, need to understand that workplace communication happens across multiple channels, in various media forms, at all times.
Therefor, understanding how to best leverage those channels, including email, enterprise social networks or intranets, can optimize your overall internal communication strategy and change management efforts.
However, an emerging problem we see within organizations is inability to connect those channels into a single employee communication platform.
Having an integrated system makes it easier to reach all employees, even deskless and frontline workers. When all the information is in one place, communication becomes much faster and more efficient.
5. Target and personalize your communication campaigns
Good communicators understand the importance of creating and delivering personalized internal content to employees. When internal communication messages are properly tailored, employees are more likely to pay attention to company messages.
Not all messages are appropriate or relevant to all employees. Internal communications professionals need to understand that different teams perform different functions, and thus require different information during times of organizational change.
With the right communication tools, internal communicators can improve the effectiveness of their campaigns by targeting different employees with information relevant to their roles and needs.
Here is how we do that with Smarp.
Remember, today’s employees expect as high levels of personal engagement as consumers expect.
Therefore IC departments need to develop employee personas to better cultivate messages that resonate. This level of effort to personalize communications will yield greater change management results.
6. Measure the effectiveness of your communication efforts
This is the only way to understand what is working and where you need to change, update, or improve your communication efforts.
However, as the number of channels a company can use to engage its workforce is growing, it can be overwhelming to track data related to your communications efforts.
Luckily, internal communication solutions like Smarp can help organizations gather quantitative data and insights on employee engagement with internal content.
Just a few questions data can help you answer include:
- What type of content employees consume the most?
- Who are the most engaged employees?
- Who are your internal influencers when it comes to adopting the change?
- How well employees respond to your communications?
7. Align all of your business units
Ensuring alignment among business units helps preventing miscommunication in the workplace. Therefore, internal communications should be consistent throughout the organization, and not vary too much between business units, locations, or groups.
Even though there may be some level of autonomy and unique cultures among groups, internal communications should generally strive to provide a consistent and aligned message for the company as a whole.
8. Empower leaders and managers to lead through change
As mentioned earlier, consistent messages across different organizational units is very important during change management. Effective leadership communication plays a crucial role here.
Therefore, internal communicators should work with senior leaders to develop messaging, information guides and talking points to help mid-level and direct supervisors explain the reasons for the change, how the change is consistent with the organization’s values, and how employees will be affected.
Major changes or transformations often require employees to embed new and specific behaviors in order to be successful. When senior leaders model the behavior changes, transformations are five times more likely to be successful.
Leaders not only need to be equipped with information and resources, but they need to have the necessary tools to deliver the right information to the right employee at the right time.
9. Find creative ways to engage your employees in the change
Making change more fun and engaging helps build ownership and employee empowerment in the change, and makes employees more likely to support the change.
In this example, more than 150 FMC employees were nominated by leaders to be part of the Change Champion Network. The group was established to engage their peers, answer questions, and excite employees about the future of the company, and it served as a channel for two-way feedback for leadership.
Another way to boost employee engagement during change is to recognize those individuals who are embracing the change and demonstrating desired behaviors. This approach not only rewards those who are role models for change, but it encourages the entire organization to become engaged in the process.
Using Smarp's data and analytics, you can easily track which of your employees are change ambassadors and rewards them accordingly. Engagement with the internal change content is a great way to identify those who are best adopting and promoting the change.
Case Study: Creating Communication Strategy that Supports Change Management
Let’s take a look into a case study in which Royal Bank of Canada engaged their employees into creating a communication strategy for one of their change management efforts.
Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) implemented a major restructuring known as the “Client First Initiative.” This new strategy resulted in a new management structure, an aggressive plan to grow revenues, and an increased focus on a more collaborative and accountable culture to put the customer first.
In such a large change initiative, the communication strategy was of vital importance. David Moorcroft, then senior vice-president of corporate communications, told what he and his team did to communicate this major change.
In advance of the communications strategy, ten thousand employees were invited to participate in a survey. Key findings:
- 91% said online communication was their primary source of information.
- 88% said they wanted more information that impacted their clients.
- 79% said they wanted more information about corporate strategies and goals and how it connected to their jobs.
- 33% said they wanted better context and understanding of how events and information affect them as employees.
- In addition, the expensive feature magazine for employees failed to rank in the top five sources of information valued by employees.
After the above information was gathered, the company set four objectives to guide its communications plan:
- Help employees develop a better understanding of how their roles relate to the organization’s vision, strategies and goals.
- Create a more dynamic and interactive communication environment that involves employees in thinking about and understanding how they can influence business results.
- Ensure employees are getting the information they need to help frame and guide their day-to-day decisions.
- Promote and recognize the desired behaviors and outcomes in the communication plan.
Why Change Management Projects Fail
Many organizations believe that inability to adopt new technologies is the main reason why change management projects fail. However, this is just a cause of some other challenges that prevent employees from adapting to the changes.
Moreover, in a research by PMI, of 256 companies that were surveyed, only 14% of all failures can be chalked up to a company's inability to cope with technology.
The other 86% owe to some common management challenges:
- improperly defined objectives (17%),
- unfamiliar scope (17%),
- lack of effective communication (20%) and,
- poor project management skills (32%)
As lack of, or improper, communication often causes change management projects to fail, companies now have to reconsider their internal communications efforts and build a more efficient communication strategy.
Boost Your Change Management Efforts with Smarp
Smarp is a mobile-first employee communications platform designed to help businesses improve their internal communications and better connect with their employees, no matter where they are located.
Large enterprise organizations across the world struggle to embrace change management and digital transformation projects because of a lack of internal communication and employee engagement.
With Smarp, it is much easier to connect and engage with your employees, keep them informed, and encourage them to collaborate, especially when your organization is undergoing changes.
To see how Smarp can help you optimize your change management and digital transformation efforts, schedule a demo today!