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Communicating Change – It’s an Opportunity Not a Chore

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Chris Davies

The lack of effective communication is one of the top complaints from users when organisations implement change. It can be difficult to get right. The business leaders may understand why this change is necessary for the business, but the employees may not. Effective communication should promote the value of the upcoming change – for both to the organisation and the individuals – as well as deal with any concerns people may have. Done well, communication can lead to a smoother transition – improving engagement, positivity and adoption.

Top tips for effective communication

Present a vision
Don’t just tell people when and how change is coming, tell them why. When people don’t understand why change is happening, this can result in resistance and negativity. If change is part of a larger business strategy – for example, to help the firm be more competitive, deliver improved functionality and performance for employees, or facilitate a better service to clients – explain that vision.

Be clear and keep it simple
Deliver the messages simply and in a straight-forward manner. Also, think about the format of communication and use multiple formats. At all costs, avoid ‘death by PowerPoint’ presentations, or long, overly technical emails. If you can, generate a buzz about change. If there’s no good news, then be honest and ask for their understanding and patience.

What’s in it for you?
The average employee cares little about business benefits, such as ‘reduced costs’ or ‘operational efficiency’. They do care about the impact change will have on how they execute their role and indeed their career progression. Communicate honestly, but make sure you focus on the positives. Does change solve any of their problems and frustrations? Will it help them be more efficient? How else will it benefit them as individuals?

Be creative
Use promotional videos or other communication channels to reach a wider audience. If the change is complex, use graphics to help get the message across – people love graphics! For example, if your project has a number of phases, which impact different parts of the business at different times, a graphic can get this across in a much more effective way than a complex email.

What do you need to do?
Provide clear instructions on what the employees need to do at the various stages of the project. Do people need to leave their laptop in the office, or close down files? If there are important tasks you need people to do, then make sure this is communicated clearly and that they understand their role and indeed the impact of that action. Just sending out an email may not be enough. Engage local champions to help you get key messages across.

Get leadership involved
Communication from the top has a much bigger impact. It demonstrates their buy-in into the project and is a great opportunity for them to explain their reasons for initiating the change.

Set expectations
If there’s going to be some pain, tell them. Employees often see through spin and it may result in some resentment when the reality differs from the dream. Transparency and trust are important elements in any business transformation programme.

Make it a team effort
It doesn’t have to be one-way communication. Run roadshows and team meetings. Give people opportunities to ask questions and raise concerns. If you have some difficult users, perhaps get them involved in the project as a stakeholder, or during design workshops or testing. Listen to them, secure their buy-in and give them some ownership in the process – then perhaps they’ll become a ‘cheer leader’ for the change.

As Henry Ford said, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”

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