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7 things you need to know when communicating change

Change Management
Communicating Change - 7 things you need to know

The single biggest problem in communication
is the illusion that it has taken place.

George Bernard Shaw 

…And we couldn’t agree more in our Organizational Change Management practice.

Why? Well, have you ever felt left out of something, and felt frustrated that you didn’t know what was going on from the beginning? Poor communication leads to negativity.

Let’s get scientific for a moment. Studies in neuroscience show that doing something that is different from the norm (i.e. using a different tool or starting a new process at work) automatically registers as a threat in our brains. This threat triggers the amygdale – our emotional centre – and activates our flight or fight mode in order to survive.


“Not knowing what will happen next can be profoundly debilitating because it requires extra neural energy. This diminishes memory, undermines performance and disengages people from the present”
David Rock, Director of Neuroleadership2009 

Putting this simply, change and a lack of communication around it puts employees in disarray and leads to poor productivity.

But before you cancel your impending organizational change for fear of riots and tears, don’t panic! These 7 tips for effectively communicating change can significantly mitigate this turmoil…


1. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ when communicating change

So, with an impending organizational change coming, you’ll need to send out a few emails, and then schedule in a few training/information sessions – right?

Wrong. Conduct persona assessments and user profiling interviews at the beginning of a change program; you can then use these to tailor your communications to different stakeholder groups. This gives the project a more personal touch and maintains its relevance for different users.


2. Come at them from all sides

Ever heard of the ‘Rule of 7’? This dictates that somebody needs to see and hear a message 7 times for it to fully resonate with them. If you’re implementing an organizational change, you’re going to want people to understand and be on board with it. So, leveraging as many communication channels as possible is paramount for effectively communicating change.

Lots of emails will not cut it – the amount of email traffic in most organizations is huge, so it’s important that we get creative here! Think about newsletter articles, blogs, social media posts and videos. 

Each communication should define the vision of the change, with the current and future state. They should call out the benefits and the ‘what’s in it for me’. Posters, flyers and desk drops work well to spread awareness and positivity of an impending change. Try and leverage your internal communications team where possible. Getting creative stimulates interest. I’ve seen some companies adopt a fun fictional character that sits across all communications to play out how the change will happen and affect them. It really got people talking!


3. Think about an elevator pitch

An elevator pitch is the name given to the concept of creating a short and succinct pitch to describe the What, Why, How and When of your project. The idea stems from the concept of being in an elevator with a colleague. You have around 30 seconds to convey the main points and explain the benefits of your project. When your colleague leaves the elevator, he or she should be able to pass on this message easily.

Build out your perfect elevator pitch based on the outcomes of a Benefits Mapping Workshop, and think about different formats in which to distribute it – using a video from your executive sponsor works excellently! Learn more about mapping the benefits for a Change program by speaking to one of Arkadin’s change management experts.


4. Get the RIGHT people to spread the word

If it’s an IT change program you’re looking at, getting sponsorship from outside of IT is a great tip to ensure the right people listen and take notice. People listen and look up to their direct line managers so get these middle managers on board to spread the message. And make sure they have the ability and right information to clearly convey it.

In an era where digital communication is prevalent, never underestimate the value of face to face time. Holding team meetings, awareness sessions and information stalls in central staff areas really do stimulate engagement and allow people to feed back about the change. If you’re a global company, consider using video webcasting instead of personal meetings or written communication. Read more on that in our blog on How to create employee engagement with webcasts.

How to create employee engagement with webcasts


5. Push and pull communications – don’t forget those feedback loops!

Push communications, for example, emails, posters, flyers and videos are fantastic at giving people knowledge of an impending change project, as they push selected information onto people. However, allowing people to also feedback and be a part of the change is essential to reduce change resistance. This is where we need to include pull’ communications too, to draw them in and allow them to have their say. Organizing meetings or ‘change forums’ where people can discuss effects and outcomes gets users more on board. They can also be crucial for you to understand what else you might need to take into account for the change. It nudges people into feeling as though they are helping to drive the change, rather than being unwillingly forced down a particular route. So when communicating change, make sure to use both push and pull communications.


6. Put on your ‘real person’ hat

People will respond better when you keep it real. Try to avoid business jargon and corporate speak – this can often seem hollow and not as relevant to them. Using metaphors and analogies also works well – just make sure to keep the language authentic for it to resonate with the masses.


7. Have a tagline – and keep it simple!

An overarching brand or tagline to link all your communications together is a great idea to keep the message aligned across any videos/posters/flyers/emails. It also serves to be a memorable takeaway – try and incorporate main benefits from the project and take language from your elevator pitch. Just keep it catchy!


Need a bit of help? Lean on us! Our Organizational Change Management department is skilled in managing all of this for smooth transitions.

Read on in our free ebook:

How to persuade different non-tech savvy stakeholders to adopt UC


About the author

Emily Merron is an Organizational Change Management Consultant for Northern Europe. Emily joined Arkadin in 2018, and has a wealth of experience in the Change Management field, having run multiple business change programs in the technology space over recent years. Primarily focusing on digital transformation, Emily is a registered Change Practitioner and embeds detailed Change Methodologies for Arkadin’s clients within Professional Services. Emily holds a technology agnostic approach to transformation, and ensures smooth transitions by putting a premium end-user journey at the forefront of any implementation.

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