A change management communication plan is based on an understanding of the organisation, stakeholders and change impacts. The goal is to support the business objective by helping stakeholders understand the change, how they will need to adapt their day-to-day responsibilities and what is expected of them.
A good communications plan can help you successfully manage an organisation through change. Here are three reasons that strategic communications are an important part of the solution:
- Identify risks
Help to identify implementation risks ahead of time. Communications can help discover risks during the planning phase.
- Create understanding
Foster a culture that is comfortable with change. Communications help employees better understand the change – the reason, benefits, impact to them and their role.
- Engage employees
Engagement and commitment to make change successful. Communications help employees get involved in change, helping them feel empowered to commit and engage in the desired change.
An organisation’s approach regarding employee engagement is just as critical to the success of the transformation as the actual implementation of the change itself. Communications are an essential vehicle for engagement because employees understand how their personal contribution impacts the organisation and they feel empowered to proactively improve both themselves and the organisation.
An organisation going through change tends to focus on the project and follow the implementation action plans. It is the change manager and trainer that consider what people need to do differently to achieve the desired end results in the ‘future state’ and ensure that employees adopt those new ways of working.
Change communication is the informational component of the change management strategy that helps stakeholders understand what is changing, why, and how it will specifically affect them and those they are responsible for. It delivers timely messages and materials that are aligned with key milestones, ensures stakeholders receive consistent information about what is important to them, and provides a mechanism to share feedback and ask questions.
A change manager carries out a stakeholder analysis, summarising the levels and types of impacts on different roles and functions.
- Know your audience – collate details of changes happening to each audience to help drive what to communicate and when
- Define what is changing and why
- Explain the organisation’s reason for the change and how it aligns with the business
- Identify communication channels needed to reach the audiences – keep in mind that any face-to-face regular informal catch-up and operational meetings can be used to deliver and reinforce key messages
For more information on stakeholder analysis see our previous blogs:
For any change to be successful, leaders from every stakeholder group must be active and visible in leading their teams and reinforcing progress. These are the influencers.
Consider forming a super-user network, including subject matter experts and peer influencers. Decide what this group will be asked to do, how much time it will take, and the support to be provided. Share this information with managers and supervisors in each stakeholder group and ask them to nominate influential employees to participate. With leader approval, invite the individuals to participate, starting with a kick-off meeting to share expectations.
How you deliver your messages is as important as what you say. Identify how you will communicate with your various audiences outlining which channels or media to use to reach your audience and connect with the key messages. The channels you choose will depend on what you want to achieve from your communication and the audience you need to reach. The right channels for raising awareness would probably be the wrong ones for gaining ownership and commitment. Similarly, the needs of desk-based employees will be very different to sales force or factory workers.
A well-coordinated use of multiple voices and channels will be needed to ensure maximum impact. How much time you have will often dictate which channels you choose.
- Face to face contact is best for making a personal connection and overcoming resistance to change
- Meetingsare best for communicating more complicated ideas or when you want input from team members
- Paper(such as handouts at a meeting or a flyer on a bulletin board) is best when details are important, or dates needs to be referenced
- Electronic(such as email or an intranet page) works well for those who have frequent access to computers
- Video is best to use when you want to appeal to visual and audio senses and to tell a story. More and more companies are using short videos to get messages across
- Internal social media is most effective to build a culture of collaboration and rapport among dispersed team members
What, Why, When, Where, Who and How
Although the 5Ws and H (5 bums on a rugby post) are used in questioning techniques to ask open questions, they can also be used as pointers so that you don’t forget an important detail, you share the all-important context and make it relevant for your audience.
Adults want to know the “what” and the “why” of things, so start by answering those in your communications.
- What – What’s the change? What does it mean? What should I know? What’s in it for me?
- Why – Why is it the right decision? Why now? Why is it important?
- Where – Where is this decision coming from? Where/what locations will it affect? Where can I get more information?
- When – When is this happening? When will I be trained?
- How – How was the decision made? How will it be implemented? How will communications flow internally and externally? How does it impact me?
- Who – Who made the decision? Who’s in charge? Who does it impact? Who will support me?
To ensure that your communications and their content are remembered, here are a few tips:
- Simplicity:People remember things based on simple ideas
- Surprise:When you take people by surprise they tend to remember it later
- Clarity:Human actions and sensory information, images and proverbs help people understand an idea
- Credibility:Use facts, figures and examples and believable sources
- Inspiration:People remember things that tap into their emotions – whether it’s something funny that makes them laugh or causes them to reflect
- Narration:Narrative can influence feelings and sometimes behaviour
No matter how you develop your messages, be sure to use a template to keep yourself organised, consistent, concise and on target.
At the start you will be providing outline information on the project, what it is and the benefits and rough ideas of timescales. This is likely to go to many people and audience groups. As the project moves along the groups may change, some will not want to have the information and suggest a replacement. Different groups will need differing levels of detail and the timing of the delivery of these messages may also need to be reviewed. Keep track of what you do, how the groups change, and monitor feedback platforms to help guide you to creating more targeted, focused messages.
Here is a link to a Communication Plan template. The timeline across the top does not have to be at regular spacing, it can be monthly, bi-monthly at the start and then be weekly as the project progresses and needs arise.
If you have the audience groups as the first column, then if those groups change in the future keep a note of who was originally in the group and who is in the group now plus the date of the change. Keep the naming of the groups easily recognisable.
You could also have the communication bulletin type/topic in the left hand column and the audience groups noted in the timeline columns. A lot depends on the size of the project as far as groups impacted and the number of communications that will be needed. You can always adapt and create a Phase 2 Communication Plan should it work better for you.
If you need to know more about Communications in Change Management projects, we have a Change Management Intro and Advanced course available. We also provide courses in Planning a Super User Network and Effective Communication. Check out our Change Management Courses page for more information.
20 July 2020