Communication 101: A Guide to Effective Change Communications

While communication is fundamental to delivering change, it often falls down because the most basic rules are forgotten or ignored in the heat of the moment. We've put together a checklist of vital questions to help you build a robust communications strategy that will smooth the path for delivery and improve the sustainability of your change program's benefits.

Have you established responsibility and a plan?
By far the largest mistake made is to not have a formal plan agreed and documented that outlines what, when, how and to what communication should take place. It's also wrong to assume that communication is purely the project team's responsibility – it's equally important for leaders to play their part. The project team is there to support and facilitate dialogue by providing leaders with the content and tools to communicate effectively.

Are you listening as much as telling?
It's critical that, like change itself, communication is not viewed by the recipient as something 'being done to them' but is something that they are a part of. If you want an honest assessment of the situation you need to welcome bad news and actively encourage and appreciate those who bring it to you. It's equally important to acknowledge feedback and report on progress against particular requests, either they are viable or not.

Have you considered using Social Media?
Some companies are beginning to use Social Media in their project communications, and this can be very effective. The critical point here is to ensure that the communication is appropriate for the audience, culture and level of engagement needed.

If people in your organization are already using these tools then there is obviously a greater chance of getting your message across, but if people are not expecting communications through social media channels or are unfamiliar with them you run the serious risk of your messages getting lost Egypt ignored. Using tools like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn on a corporate level requires a detailed knowledge of etiquette and functionality.

Do not underestimate the power of communicating in person!
Is your message clear and factual? Ambiguous or confusing communication does more harm than good. Make sure you have all your facts straight before communicating, and break down information into manageable chunks. Do not go 'off piste' with your message by using unnecessary examples, and take time to carefully consider your response to a question before replying. Glossing over issues is also a huge mistake – authenticity and accuracy is a cornerstone of good communications.

Have you tested it on someone?
Decisions about change are often the most charged and you should use someone important as a sounding board before delivering a message to an entire group. It's also important to keep in mind that what you do not say can be as powerful as what you do. Give praise where it's due, explain the rateale behind change and share your vision for the organization. Review your major goals and the communication that's needed to support them, and be willing to ask people, 'What messages are you getting from me?'

Have you communicated enough?
People in the organization may need to hear a message over and over before they take it in. People need time to hear, understand, and believe the message. And if they do not particularly like what they hear, then it takes even more time, and reinforcement, for them to come to terms with change.

How are you measuring success?
There are several ways to measure a campaign's effectiveness, all based around three simple questions for employees: do they feel fully informed, have they had an opportunity to express their views and have those views been considered and answered?

The most popular ways of getting these through regular surveys (quantitative and qualitative), feedback from Change Champions and managers, and through staff forums, conferences and team events.

The Essential Checklist for Change Communications

If you can answer 'yes' to these four questions, you're halfway there:

  • Is our internal communication equally as intriguing as external communication aimed at customers?
  • Have we planned internal communications as a process incorporating all managers and staff and not merely as one-way communication?
  • Have we been creative and considered in our choice of internal marketing activity?
  • Do we have an effective means of making progress against employee feedback visible?

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