by Andrea Ziomek, Partner Corporate Communication & Change Management
COMMUNICATION – THE ENGINE THAT DRIVES CHANGE MANAGEMENT
Dr. W. Edwards Deming’s famous quote, « It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory. » serves as a powerful reminder that the long-term success of organizations relies on their ability to adapt, improve, and remain competitive. Even more relevant in today’s ever-changing markets, companies that embrace continuous change and can adapt quickly are better positioned to succeed.
Driving this change is a complex process that often involves making significant changes to an organization’s structure, processes, systems, and culture. There are several elements to successful change management, and carefully aligning all of them with consistent, strategic communication is crucial to the successful outcome of any change initiative.
In part 1 of this dual-article series, we’ll explore the essential elements of change management, and the critical role communication plays to support them:
ELEMENTS OF CHANGE MANAGEMENT
The following essential elements provide the framework to successful change management:
Clear Vision, Strategy and Objectives: A well-defined vision for the
Strong Leadership: Effective change requires strong leadership to guide and drive the process. Leaders must be committed to the change, communicate its importance, and actively support and champion it throughout the organization. Communication is the backbone for effective leaders to drive change successfully. Leaders must communicate the vision, goals, and expectations clearly to their teams, inspire and motivate them, and provide feedback and guidance throughout the change effort.
Stakeholder Engagement and Communication: Engaging and involving stakeholders is vital to gain their support and address any concerns or resistance they may have. Regular and transparent communication is the backbone to stakeholder management as it helps them understand the changes, their impact, reduces uncertainty, mitigates potential risks, and promotes support and buy-in.
Change Readiness and Planning: Assessing the organization’s readiness for change and developing a comprehensive change management plan are essential. This includes identifying potential obstacles, designing strategies to overcome them, and setting realistic timelines and milestones.
Employee Engagement and Empowerment: Involving employees in the change process empowers them and fosters a sense of ownership. Effective communication is essential for engaging employees during change management and ensures that they understand the changes, their role in the change process, and how the changes will impact their jobs and the organization. It helps build trust, motivates employees, and generates buy-in for the change effort.
Employee Motivation: Employee engagement is not enough. Leaders need to motivate and inspire employees to embrace change and contribute to its success. This means recognizing and celebrating successes, providing feedback and support, and creating a sense of urgency and excitement around the change effort through consistent, strategic, and transparent communication.
Training and Development: Providing opportunities for training and development to build capabilities is crucial as it empowers employees and helps them succeed. Effective communication is essential for successful training and development during change management. It ensures that employees understand the new processes, systems, and tools required for the change initiative. It helps to identify training needs, develops training materials, and ensures that feedback mechanisms are in place.
Change Agents and Champions: Identifying champions and natural change agents within your organization can help drive your change initiatives at different levels. These individuals should have the necessary knowledge, skills, traits, mindset, and influence to guide and support others through the change and designating them as change agents will help facilitate change effectively.
Continuous Evaluation and Adaptation: Change management is an iterative process. Regularly evaluating progress, gathering feedback, and making necessary adjustments is crucial to ensure the change stays on track and achieves the desired outcomes. Consistent communication facilitates the gathering of feedback, sharing updates, addressing resistance, promoting learning, celebrating progress, and reinforcing the change.
Resilience and Adaptability: Change can be challenging, and setbacks are to be expected. Communication plays a critical role in building resilience and adaptability during the change process. It provides clarity, addresses concern, promotes learning, encourages collaboration, facilitates flexibility, and sustains engagement.
Change Communication Plan: Effective, strategic communication is the engine that drives every element of change management. Communication should be ongoing and tailored to
different audiences throughout the change process. It should include not only the rationale and benefits of the change but also address concerns, provide updates, and celebrate milestones and achievements. More to follow in Part 2 of this dual-article series.
Resources and Support: Allocating sufficient resources, including financial and human resources, and partnering with experienced consultants, if necessary, assures that organizations can provide the necessary tools, training, communication, and support systems for employees to navigate the change effectively, thus maximizing the chances of a successful implementation.
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF CHANGE MANAGEMENT
People tend to go through a series of emotional stages when faced with change, including denial, resistance, exploration, and eventually commitment. Effective Communication can help people move through these stages faster and ultimately helps them embrace change as it can help to:
Build buy-in and support: Change can be unsettling. Effective communication can help to build buy-in and support for the change initiative by explaining why it is necessary, what benefits it will bring, and how it will be implemented.
Create clarity: Change often involves new processes, structures, and expectations. Communication can help to create clarity around these changes, ensuring that everyone understands what is expected of them and how they can succeed in the new environment.
Facilitate feedback and input: Employees need to feel heard and valued during times of change. An effective communication plan should provide opportunities for feedback and input, allowing employees to share their concerns, ideas, and suggestions for improving the change process.
Address resistance: Resistance to change is common, but effective communication can help to address and overcome it. By listening to employees’ concerns and addressing them openly and honestly, leaders can help to reduce resistance and build support for change.
Measure success: Communication is essential for measuring the success of change management initiatives. By regularly communicating progress updates and soliciting feedback, leaders can gauge whether the change is meeting its goals and adjust as needed.
THE POWER OF COMMUNICATION TO MOTIVATE
Research reveals that about 70% of major change initiatives fail to achieve their goals, largely due to employee resistance and lack of support from management. Studies have also shown that change is 30% more likely to stick when people are motivated and invested in the change.
Motivating management and employees needs to become a top priority during change initiatives, and while it’s a challenge, effective communication can play a key role in helping employees understand the reasons behind the change, and how it will benefit them and the organization. Here are some ways to motivate employees during change management using communication:
Explain the why: It’s important to explain why the change is necessary, and how it will benefit the organization and employees in the long run. Communicate the rationale behind the change in a clear and concise manner and provide examples to help employees understand the impact of the change.
Provide a clear vision: Provide a clear vision of the future state of the organization, and how it will look after the change is implemented. This can help employees see the end goal and understand how their efforts will contribute to achieving it.
Address concerns and questions: Acknowledge employees’ concerns and questions about the change and provide honest and transparent answers. Be open to feedback and suggestions and use this input to improve the change process.
Engage employees in the process: Involve employees in the change process and provide opportunities for them to contribute their ideas and feedback. This can help employees feel valued and engaged and increase their buy-in and commitment to change.
Celebrate successes: Celebrate successes and milestones along the way to help keep employees motivated and engaged. Acknowledge and reward employees for their contributions to the change effort.
Communication is integral to every element of change management. Skilled communicators align stakeholders with the vision and objectives and motivate and engage them in the process. Investing in communication expertise ensures effective change readiness, empowers employees, and supports change agents and champions. It enables continuous evaluation and adaptation, provides necessary resources and support, and ensures a shared understanding of the change throughout the organization.
ABOUT ANDREA ZIOMEK:
Andrea Ziomek is a senior consultant and skilled communicator with extensive experience in internal and external corporate communications, business to business brand communications, change management & employee engagement communication, and all aspects of public relations including media, government, and community affairs. She was part of major change initiatives within the fashion industry and in the industrial automation sector.
In her previous roles as head of public relations and corporate communications in the advanced automation and automotive technology sectors, Andrea created and implemented highly effective PR campaigns resulting in prime TV and media coverage on major networks including PBS NOVA, Discovery Channel, CBS, NBC, FOX Network, NPR Radio and WallStreet.com.
ABOUT ALTIX: Altix is the middle-market international industrial champions’ management consulting partner, providing business strategy, technology and innovation, and operational excellence support, in the world of advanced manufacturing and international supply chain. www.altixconsulting.com