Change is an inevitable fact for the business world. Without it, there cannot be any progress or appropriate reaction to shifts in demand.
However, the success of major structural or strategy changes that affects a variety of stakeholders often depends on the way it's conveyed. As such, experienced communication professionals can often find themselves in a position where they are responsible for this.
The effects of not communicating effectively with all involved stakeholders can seriously impact business performance. From disgruntled staff who think they are treated unfairly through to the risk of underestimating how time consuming drastic change is, communication specialists need to consider it all.
It's important to think like the receiver of a message.
1. Start from a user's point of view
To avoid negative side effects of change, Forbes contributor Carol Kinsey Goman – an expert in non-verbal communication and leadership and – emphasised the importance of approaching change communication with a "real person" mindset. This means leaders need to be aware of how the message receiver will view the situation and open a dialogue from this perspective.
A key part of implementing change with minimal resistance is therefore making sure you understand how employees could react. Once you are aware of the emotional impact the news could have, you will be able to structure the message more effectively.
2. Be transparent and clear about the change
As communication professional, you know how critical it is to be honest about your message. The same rings true for communicating change to stakeholders. Leverage your employee's trust by being straightforward about what exactly will change and why.
Being secretive about details or approaching staff as if they can't deal with the truth can only backfire. Instead, reassure employees of their value by explaining how, when and why the change will happen.
3. Focus on the individual
When you tell people about the change, make sure you emphasise what this means for each individual. People are driven by concern for their future, so you should address potential fears by emphasising the benefits of the change to them.
Whilst things will be different after implementation, and not everyone will agree, you will want to highlight how important the step is for the future of the organisation. Good communication specialists might, for example, acknowledge that despite the discomfort, leaders want to make the transition as smoothly as possible.
4. Target your message to the audience
Despite the fact that everyone should be informed, some groups will be more or sooner affected than others. So ensure you tell those individuals and groups who need specific information most urgently as soon as possible.
As with any message delivery, you will want to plan the format appropriately, precisely and relevant. Use bold fonts, link to important materials and bullet point critical information and be clear about the actions people need to take.
Open, clear and honest communication is the way to go.
What does this mean for you?
Communication professionals deal with tricky situations on a daily basis. However, in times of drastic structural change within an organisation, it is even more important to utilise your skills to encourage two-way communication.
Creating channels for employees to be heard, ask questions and express concerns is therefore key. Effective communication specialists convey messages as their bread and butter, yet taking on the challenge of helping an organisation through big changes will always be a daunting task.
In essence, the success or failure of change communication hinges on the way it is approached – something where transparency, clarity and guidance are crucial.