With change management in the workplace, good communication skills are essential for a smooth transition.
It is essential, for example, in order to communicate:
- Why change is needed and required in the first place (in order to get employees on board)
- Dispel any rumors that might otherwise spread during the process (including regarding the safety of people’s jobs)
- Help employees to understand what they need to do and make them feel positive about the changes
- Involve and empower stakeholders
- Gradually bring in new ways of working and/or structures
These 12 tips below might be useful for communicating during the change management process.
1. Use a Variety of Communication Channels
Different communication media can be perceived differently by different people, as we all have our preferences.
For instance, some people may prefer written messages, others prefer to listen to oral messages, and others still may prefer visuals. Each of us responds and takes in information in different ways.
So, use different channels to convey the same message.
For example, when explaining to your team the reason why planned changes are taking place, use different sources and for instance:
- give a presentation to your team and relay in visual and audio form regards the reasons and benefits of the planned changes.
- send around an email message (keeping to the key points)
- maybe have a team meeting specifically to explain the changes and what they will mean for the team and company as a whole.
Overall, face-to-face in-person communication is still the most effective, so, make sure to include this type of communication, if at all possible, at least once, whilst also using other communication channels.
2. Do Not Be Afraid of Repetition
Repeating the same message various times (and, as we discussed, through different channels) is key to helping people retain information.
Sometimes we try to avoid repetition as we are afraid that people might get bored of hearing the same thing more than once.
However, it is very likely that people might not get the message the first time.
They may be distracted or may not have time to focus on the message as they are busy with their workload.
So, repetition of messages (as well as a variety of channels) is key.
Repetition can be especially useful for communicating the reasons for change in the workplace.
3. Be Clear and to the Point
Try to communicate in a way that is easy to understand, to avoid miscommunication.
To communicate clearly, for example:
- Keep to the facts
- Be friendly but firm
- Be conscious of your body language
- Define your goals ahead of time regards any meetings you organize to explain the changes to your team.
4. Employ Storytelling
This is about being creative with communication.
Stories are very effective communication tools because they help people make sense of a situation.
As a story has a plot and characters, it allows you to put forward both sides of the argument, add emotional details, and give a clearer sense of causes, developments, and future outcomes.
For instance, instead of just announcing that change is coming, you can tell a story of how the idea for change came, who was involved, etc.
You can also use metaphors and analogies to make the message more powerful.
5. Plan to Make It Coherent
To create coherent communication, you need to set up a communication plan in advance.
You need to identify the key points to communicate and set goals that can address how you communicate these key points.
Once you have clear key points and goals, you can decide how you are going to communicate, how often, to whom, and when.
Too often management does not have a communication plan. As a result, they communicate as and when it is convenient, or they may inform some people and not others.
This may happen not necessarily because managers do not want everybody to know something, but because they happen to be closer to some people and forget about communicating with everybody else in the same way.
Piecemeal communication like this is not ideal to generate trust. When communication is not well organized, employees might wonder, for instance, why they are being kept in the dark when other people are informed, or why there is not a coherent information line.
Employees may then become suspicious and think that management is trying to hide something.
6. Communicate with Empathy
Communicating with empathy means letting people know that you care and acknowledging concerns.
For example, to start an interaction with empathy, you can say something along the lines of ‘I know that this is a challenging situation and I appreciate the impact it’s having on all of you’.
Training in emotional intelligence can also be worth considering so that your managers gain a solid overall understanding of techniques and skills related to emotional intelligence.
7. Make It Personal and Relevant
Information that is specific to an employee and relevant to their job’s area or tasks tends to be remembered more.
So, make sure when discussing the transition and changes planned. to include references to your employees’ tasks and jobs when talking about change and how it will affect them.
8. Make It Two-Way
Effective communication is two-way, which means that not only do you give information out to people, but you also elicit information from them.
For example, you can ask people questions directly, allow them to ask you questions, run surveys and have an open-door policy so they can talk to you at any time.
9. Engage with Resisters
Engage and talk openly with resisters.
Don’t see people who resist change as a nuisance. On the contrary, they can give you invaluable feedback.
They may help you clarify the issues at hand, so you can identify any problems and find strategies to overcome them.
They may also be right in their criticism as they may raise points that you did not think about before.
So, it is important to engage with resisters as part of your communication strategy.
10. Leverage Opinion Leaders
As we mentioned earlier, trying to persuade these people first might be a good strategy.
So, if you win them over, they are likely to then try to persuade the people who listen to them about the value of the change.
11. Involve Line Managers
Line managers are the closest level of management to employees.
As such, they can communicate most directly and effectively with their direct reports.
12. ‘Walk the Talk’
This means showing your enthusiasm for the change, not only in words but also with your behavior if you want your employees to listen to you and trust you as the changes at work begin to take place.
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