Managing Change Toolkit

People in  Change

Communicating Change

In every organisational climate survey ever undertaken, communications has scored poorly, with people claiming "Nobody ever tells you anything around here".

It is not just that communications is difficult, but also that the potential for mis-understandings, becoming out-of-date, missing something, is so great. We all have so much information given to us (some of it junk-information) that it is difficult to distinguish and prioritise. When an organisation is undergoing changes it becomes even more difficult and frustrating. Below are a few key pointers:

1.    Think about what you are trying to achieve.

In all communications there is a receiver (someone who must hear and understand the messages), as well as a transmitter (someone wanting others to understand).

The objective is not simply to get a memo out, but to capture the receivers attention and help/get them to understand.

2.    Sketch-Map your organisation.

Your organisation is made up of groups (sections) and individuals, all of whom have their own agendas which sets their priorities.

How can you get the communication onto their agendas? How can you get their attention?

3.    Networks and Grapevines.

How do people in your organisation usually find out about things? Find out and use that. Don’t try to tell everybody everything.

Try to make use of the networks, grapevines, meetings, etc. that already exist and feed them, use them. Particularly important are the grapevines. There will be rumours; try to make sure they are your rumours.

4.    Use the Hierarchy.

Central groups often try to by-pass the hierarchy with newsletters etc. Particularly in changes where people my feel threatened, people will tend to go to their managers to check things out.

Any worries or discomforts are best handled at that point. Try to make sure that manager is up-to-date.

5.    Newsletters, etc.

They can easily get lost in peoples’ in-trays. Make them short (one or two pages) with easy-to-read headlines.

It is probably best just to use them as a signpost, to tell people that something is happening with a contact-point for them to find out more. Leave the rest to them and the grapevine.

6.    Get People Involved.

The best way for people to really understand what is happening is through them working on it.

Get them involved in designing or introducing the changes through project teams, working parties, workshops, etc. and they will really begin to understand what is happening and what the implications for them are.

7.    Don’t assume they know - Survey.

Check regularly with a simple six-question, climate survey, that people feel they are being communicated-with.


Communication Tactics

Carefully planned communication can help in:

Often, just as much time needs to be spent in preparing the groundwork for people to accept change as is spent in implementing it.  Some key points are:

tailor the message

Aim it at your audience. For example are you talking to creatives or computer specialists from the IT department?
Exactly which employees are we trying to reach & how will they react?

adopt the appropriate approach

Choose the right degree of formality, humour, tone - to be dictated by the kind of message you need to get across, and to whom. Is the aim to pass on instructions, to canvass opinion or to galvanise the troops?
What style should we adopt to ensure the message is interpreted in the way we intend?

create ‘two-way’ traffic

Newsletters etc. are one-way. Create channels to ensure you receive feedback from to make sure the message has been understood.
How can we measure if the message has been received, believed, & accepted?

practise what you preach

Align actions with words. Be seen to be adopting the kind of behaviour or actions you’re trying to promote.
What are they saying about this on the grapevine, and what rumours, if any, need to be dispelled?

keep communicating continuously

Keep communication consistent and continuous. Make people responsible for passing on information; reinforce ‘question time’ meetings with the senior management with lower level discussion and focus groups.
How are we getting the message to every part of the organisation, and how often does it need to be repeated?

be open

Transparency creates trust. Give as much information as you can - you’ll gain peoples' respect if nothing else. Answer questions that can be answered, and explain why others cannot he answered. Focus on areas of concern to the workforce; for example, in restructuring programmes, focus first on their fears.
What information are they likely to want, how will it impact them, and how can I find it out?