If you've ever experienced changes that have been forgotten about within months, been told to follow new processes without understanding why, or been the last one to know about a change that impacts your day-to-day, you can probably appreciate the importance of good change communication.
Failing to have a change communication strategy in place is a lot like tripping just before the finish line. So, what does a good change communication strategy look like?
Resist the temptation to wait until everything is set in stone.
Begin communicating early in the change management process and continue until changes have been fully implemented and accepted.
Keeping people in the dark makes them more likely to resist the change, as they feel ambushed by the announcement with no room for input and feedback, and therefore no personal connection to the initiative's eventual success or failure.
Your communication to those affected should ideally answer the following questions: (via whatFix)
What is changing?
- Who is affected, and who is carrying out the change?
- Where will the change happen? (i.e. a - physical location, process, or software system)
- When will the change take effect?
- Why is the change needed?
Even with fantastic messaging, you can't just tell people to be excited or even interested in change, and it's even harder to combat scepticism or personal biases if messaging isn't being delivered by the right people.
Identifying your school's key influencers and bringing them into the process can be a huge help – but these may not be the people you expect.
Research from McKinsey & Company shows that every workplace has 'hidden' influencers that don't typically align to organisational charts, roles, or tenure length.
Fortunately, it's not difficult to identify these influencers using McKinsey & Company's "snowball sampling" methodology :
Survey a small sample of staff, asking for 3-5 nominees to a question like "Who do you go to for information when you have trouble at work?" or "Whose advice do you trust and respect?"
Ask the nominees identified above to then answer the same survey.
Repeat this until nominations start repeating (typically 3-4 rounds).
Those with the most nominations are the key influencers.
Getting these people on board will make a massive difference in how changes are received, allowing you to leverage their input and influence to build positive impressions of the change process.
Resistance and Reinforcement
It's safe to assume that some objections are inevitable, so failing to provide opportunities for feedback means that you won't get a chance to hear or respond to concerns.
Use a variety of channels to encourage participation; face-to-face or online meetings, group chats, and other instant communication channels will facilitate more natural conversation, compared to often cluttered inboxes and the formal nature of emails.
It's also important to maintain communication as the change is being implemented, to ensure the new processes are continually reinforced. Dropping communication immediately after implementation risks giving the impression that the change may be forgotten about if avoided for long enough.
Ultimately, though change can be a challenging process, it doesn't have to be a battle.
A strong change communication strategy can prevent people from avoiding, rejecting or resenting change, ensuring that changes are welcomed (or at least accepted), energising staff, and encouraging further innovation.