Focus on Communication to Engage Stakeholders During Change Management

When an organization works through a significant change, like a software upgrade, or a leadership or cultural change, clear and strategic communication helps ensure employee understanding, buy-in and adoption of the change, all critical to a successful change management initiative.

To avoid the risk of employees not adopting the change, there are several aspects to consider when developing the communications plan in your change management strategy. Each message should identify the following:

1. Audience – Who will be impacted and needs to be aware of the change? Using a software upgrade as an example, more people need to know about it than just the end users. The managers of the affected groups, the help desk, and even those who conduct new employee trainings are all relevant stakeholders.

2. Key Messages – What does each audience need to know? Keep in mind that the information may not be exactly the same for each stakeholder group. In addition to communicating any necessary technical aspects, messaging should focus on:
– Creating awareness of the change
– The risks of not changing
– Identifying “What’s in it for me?” for each stakeholder group
– Any training and development needs
– A means for stakeholder feedback so that they are encouraged to ask questions, express concerns, and submit anonymous feedback

3. Delivery – It’s common for more than one individual to deliver messages related to the change, and these individuals could range from department managers to the project’s executive sponsor. Consider the impact of the people you choose to provide this information. Is the intended audience more likely to respond positively to communication from their supervisor, the CEO or someone else? It’s also important to decide on the best communication tools and a timeline for imparting messages. Initial information may need to be delivered face-to-face, while other pieces could possibly be sent via email, newsletter, company intranet, or other communication tools at different stages throughout the process.

4. Reinforcement – As critical as it is to introduce the change in the correct manner, planning for its future adoption is equally important. Creating strategies for mitigating resistance at the beginning of the change effort will help ensure successful adoption. When employees are successful in the change, ensure there is recognition. If they are resistant, how will you address this? Whether it be direct conversations from supervisors or an identified need for further trainings, resistance must be addressed.

5. Celebrating Milestones – Given that change can be difficult, employees will feel appreciated if thanked for their efforts. Will a thank-you email from a supervisor be sufficient? Or, should you go bigger and plan celebrations for reaching certain milestones? It’s also a good idea to think about recognizing individuals who served as champions throughout the project.

6. Metrics – A strong change management plan should include metrics for measuring the success of each component. Determine what success looks like for you. Did you reach your intended outcome after a specified period of time? If not, determine the root cause for failure. It may be that employees did not receive sufficient training or they were not able to put their training into practice.

Change is uncomfortable, as it requires people to modify their sometimes long-held habits, behaviors and way of doing business. However, effective communication strategies to introduce new systems, technology or leadership play a substantial role in whether or not change will be successful and help the organization meet its goals. Hartman Executive Advisors works with organizations to assess their readiness for change and ensure a smooth transition for employees through the all stages of the change process.

Interested in learning more? Reach out today to discuss our people-centric change management process and let us know about your specific situation.

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