Following a blog I wrote about internal communications myths, it has become apparent there are also lots of common misunderstandings about change communication.
According to Bill Quirke 50% - 70% of change programmes fail and poor internal communications is seen as the main reason. This can make change communications feel like a daunting prospect, however it also emphasises the importance of communication in change.
To help navigate some of the change comms grey areas here are some of the most common myths and my tips on communicating organisational change.
Myth one: I need special skills for change communication
The fundamental skills for change communication are the same as we use of our day to day internal communication. These include:
Knowing our different groups of people and involving and engaging the right people at the right time
Engaging line managers - internal communications can help managers to engage their teams by ensuring they understand when and how decisions will be made
Ensuring employees are kept informed through timely, honest and accurate communication
Understanding our organisational priorities, leadership, culture and context
Change communication can’t happen in isolation. Our role is to ensure we understand what else is happening across the business and tell a joined-up story as well as thinking about the external implications of the change.
Myth two: The need to 'sell the benefits'
People often feel the need to market or sell change. I'm lucky to work with Ann Pilkington (from PR Academy), whose mantra is that rather than seeking to explain 'what's in it for me' we should instead be answering 'how does this affect me?'
We need to ensure that our people are involved and help shape change wherever possible. Employees need to be engaged in conversations about what the change really means, both to them and the organisation more broadly.
Instead of avoiding bad news we should explain why a change isn’t going to plan outlining next steps and giving timeframes.
Myth three: Communicate early and often
There's no point in communicating for the sake of it. If there's nothing to say, instead signpost to where existing information is available and give clear timeframes and milestones of when information will be communicated.
Spending time listening and responding to conversations across the organisation is essential.
Change communication needs to focus on understanding the key issues of different employees. This will include things that affect them personally (seating layouts and car parking can often create the biggest issues!), but there is also a need to communicate the wider implications of change, including why it is needed and how the change will be made. We need to communicate outcomes - what will be different as a result of the change.
Useful resources for change communications
John Smythe: Chief Engagement Officer
Kevin Ruck: Exploring Internal Communication
Bill Quirke: Making the Connection
IC Space GCS top tips: https://communication.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/ic-space/change-communications/
About Jane Revell
Jane is a CIPR Chartered communications practitioner with more than 15 years’ corporate communications experience. Jane provides strategic internal communications consultancy support to a range of global and UK-based organisations.