Communication itself is a challenging topic within organizations.
In the context of change, companies should pay particular attention to who delivers what messages when. By having a clearly planned communication strategy, change leaders are able to facilitate organizational transformation. The entire process happens in a context where everyone understands why change is necessary and what role they play in it.
It’s often very difficult to please everyone with the chosen style and channels. As change cannot happen without communication, it’s even more important to control who delivers what messages when.
Coming up with a communication plan to support change is a lengthy, sustained effort. At the end of it, all departments affected by the change will have access to the information they need. With that data at hand, they can then be a knowledgeable part of the transformation.
What Does Change Management Entail?
Change management is a three-step process that includes the following actions:
- Sharing information implies transmitting what needs to be changed and subsequently delivered in order to achieve the newest goals
- Ensuring alignment means that all information should be acknowledged correctly by the stakeholder
- Mobilization basically means setting things in motion so that a change occurs in the way of working
While the above steps are simple to understand, they may not be always simple to implement.
To counteract resistance, changes also need to occur at a cultural and structural level. Communication continues to play an essential role in all of these. Because of that, organizations should look for ways to make it more efficient.
The Interlocked Components of Efficient Communication
Truly productive communication requires the following four components to fit together much like four jigsaw pieces. These stand true no matter the channel or medium of communication.
The sender should convey integrity and authenticity when delivering a clear and detailed message.
The receiver must be open to listen and should trust the sender. Asking questions to make the context clearer is also among the receiver’s duties.
The delivery method should fit the context and meet the needs of both parties.
The content of the message should act as a means of connecting the sender and the receiver. This is typically achieved by resonating with the already-held beliefs of the latter.
Once the criteria are met, organizations can proceed to distil the whole communication process. Much like a workflow, communication can be examined in detail, so that improvements occur at an atomic level.
Tips for Improving Communication in the Context of Change
Both internal and external communication should be consistent, frequent and spread across multiple channels. While some companies prefer a business telephone, others like to use email for communication or other means. That being said, the message should be altered for better delivery in writing, speech, video, and more.
All details should be shared across the company right away to avoid the negative consequences of not communicating enough. After all, it has been often said that companies going through a change can never over-communicate. Explaining why changes are necessary can help people better comprehend the context and the purpose. In other words, change leaders must create a theoretical framework that can be easily memorized.
Understanding that communication is a conversation, and not a monolog or a presentation, is vital for the adoption of change. Ideally, a conversation should occur between the change leaders and small groups of the people expected to make the changes. Changes typically come with a vision, mission, and objectives in mind.
Employees should understand how changes impact them. On the other hand, change leaders should provide ample time for requesting clarifications and giving feedback. This, in conjunction with some work incentive plans, can be the catalyst for successful change.
As new details emerge, employees will want to learn about them. Interactive workshops are a great way of exploring the changes. Training works best when it’s bi-directional, assuming that all levels of the company are involved. Moreover, these are great opportunities for networking, both formally and informally.
After receiving requests for clarification, leaders should only answer the ones they know the answer to. Doing otherwise can hurt their credibility. That doesn’t mean that they should avoid those requests entirely, but that it would be better to admit that they don’t know. Promising to find out an answer in due time can certainly help.
Positive approaches and accomplishments shouldn’t pass unrecognized. On the contrary, each step that gets the company closer to change should be celebrated publicly.
Made by Cogeco – A Communication-Centric Transformation Model
One year ago, Canadian telecommunications and media company Cogeco came up with a change methodology named ‘Made in Cogeco.’ The objectives were to improve the quality of the existing services, stay ahead of the competition and cut down labor costs. To accommodate this change, they first hired a Director to be in charge of Communications and Change Management. Next, a Senior Advisor on Change Management came onboard. Not at last, the Organizational Development staff were given the possibility to develop their skills in order to become better change agents.
Armed with these three factors, the HR specialists proceeded to creating a plan that would get the entire company closer to the desired results. To do so, they:
- Analyzed the need for change, as well as the affected teams
- Guided the executive sponsor for a better selection of the stakeholders
- Developed a communication plan for sharing details about the change more effectively
- Implemented the change
- Measured and managed the resistance
This plan enabled the VP of Customer Experience and the respective operational Directors to design a roadmap for change. One of the first steps was to ask stakeholders for their input to better approach transformation.
The communication framework stood at the center of the change management process. The focus on the method of communication used by a big department spread over two provinces. To increase the impact of the change, it was linked to the corporate initiative. More precisely, the communication was focused on one of their components of their five-year plan.
The VP of Customer Experience went on a tour to communicate the vision, mission and objectives behind the change to whomever was concerned. Along with his Directors and the HR Business Partner, the VP of CX ensured that everyone understands the impact of the changes at an individual level.
To facilitate discussion and to answer clarifying questions more easily, the group met small groups of employees. This way, everyone taking part at the meeting could give their input, without any fear that there might not be enough time.
The main goal of the communication strategy was to answer why change was necessary at that particular moment. On top of that, change leaders had to explain what the company would risk if change didn’t take place. Within 24 hours, there already was a means of bi-directional communication between front-line workers and management.
Next, a primary sender was designated. Being only two levels up, the primary sender not only had first-hand knowledge of the matter, but was also able to communicate more closely. Managers acted as the secondary sender of information through direct supervisors. The main focus was to pinpoint the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) in order to reduce resistance to change. The managers’ need for a vehicle for asking questions became apparent. Having realized that it would do away with barriers and rumor mills, the company proceeded to creating one.
The communication vehicle came in the form of a change management inbox that was accessible by everyone. Supervisors and staff held training sessions under the guidance of the Senior Advisor of Change Management. The introduced modules were called Communicating to Drive Change and Coaching to Drive Change.
Following the training sessions were lunch’n learns that occurred regularly. During these sessions, a fresh news and information communication model was introduced. The newly created template assured consistency in the message. In addition, it offered details on the
- Link to the corporate initiative
- Context that made the change necessary
- Ways to get assistance
- Benefits to staff, company, and customer
As a direct consequence, the time and methods leaders would use for answering questions were identified. On one hand, front-line workers were thus able to get exactly the answers they needed straight from the people with the best answers. Cogeco created the energy for the change by making sure that all feedback received a response within 24 hours.
Using Communication Plans as a Prototype for Change
In companies that have innovation at their core, changes occur continuously. These are reflected not only on the products but also on the internal processes and workflow. The good news is that once a major transformation has taken place successfully, companies can use it as a prototype for the ones to come. Adjustments might be necessary in future endeavors, but these are only minor.
Once a change management model such as ‘Made in Cogeco’ is established, companies can capitalize by using it again and again. Having a recipe for communication in the context of change is really invaluable, and could even be regarded as a service.
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