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| 4 minutes read

Communication is Key, Especially When You’re Making a Change

Deciding to make a change in systems, people, and processes can feel overwhelming for an organization, and actually implementing that change can be even more difficult. It’s no surprise, then, that executives often overlook another critical step in creating change within a company: communication.

Informing employees about a change in an efficient, appropriate, and consistent manner is more important in today’s fast-paced workplace than ever. Learn more about how strategic, proactive communication can strengthen your company and ensure that a change you make is a change that lasts.

Why Communication is Key to Change Adoption

When information is shared across all levels of an organization, leaders can expect to see increases in trust, collaboration, and innovation, to name a few. However, our research shows that 60 to 70% of organizations struggle to implement change, with lack of communication being a top reason for failure. If individuals are not aware of a change, are not sure what their role is in implementing change, or are confused about how to contribute to the change process, the company’s effort to change is unlikely to succeed.

Graphic showing stat about lack of communication

For example, if an organization invests in a new tool and overlooks the importance of communicating who should use it, how it should be used, and what objective it meets, the tool is likely to be underutilized or not adopted at all. To avoid this scenario, leaders should proactively discuss how they will communicate to their employees about the tool before it is introduced.

A typical change communications plan outlines target messages, key spokespeople, type of communication required (such as email, in-person, individual or group, etc.), departments and employees affected, and, of course, a timeline. The goal is to create a plan which ensures consistent and timely communication so that employees are prepared and supportive of change.

Choose the Right Communication Style and Speed

Given the rise in digital communication over the past 20 years as well as the surge in remote and hybrid work as a result of COVID, communication today is more complex than ever. One recent study found that employment in jobs requiring average or above-average levels of social skills, such as communications, has increased by 83% since the 1980s. Managers today have to juggle multiple types of communication tools and must consider employees’ preferences alongside practicality when determining how to best convey a message. 

Twenty years ago, a simple all-hands meeting would be enough to “check the box” of internal communication; today, that’s anything but true. Not only are large company gatherings difficult to organize due to the pandemic, but they’re also simply not enough to fulfill employees’ demand for transparency. Although there’s certainly nothing wrong with a mass email or multi-department meeting, managers should be prepared to host smaller group and individual meetings to describe a change plan in detail. Furthermore, leaders should expect and encourage feedback so that every team member clearly understands their role in a workplace change. A recent study found that more than half of all communication errors in the office were attributed to not giving clear directions. When it comes to changing an employee’s role or responsibilities, clarity through communication is key.

Additionally, the pace of communication today requires leaders to remain agile and efficient in their dialogue. Technology allows information to spread at a rapid pace, meaning that any delay in management-level communication could result in cascading miscommunications down the line. With a change communications plan set in place, managers can feel confident that they are in control of their message and that it will reach the right audience at the right time.

Remain Transparent, Even if it’s Tough

Today’s competitive workplace has shifted the “psychological contract” that bound employees to employers decades ago, and transparency is an offering companies can use to retain talent and build trust. Transparency in the workforce grants employees access to information – both positive and negative – therefore providing them the opportunity to innovate, engage, and take more ownership. 

When it comes to introducing a change to a process, system, or staffing situation, a transparent communications approach helps employees navigate through uncertainty and build trust. It’s natural for employees to question change, and a manager’s job is to provide answers – even if the answer is as simple as “I don’t know.” Instead of trying to dodge open discussions, leaders shouldn’t be afraid to own mistakes or admit weaknesses. Following up with updates and progress reports can help rebuild confidence in the workplace.

For example, executives overseeing an organizational restructure should expect plenty of questions from staff who are unclear about new roles and reporting hierarchies. Managers should prepare for tough questions by thinking of responses ahead of time, clearly defining what information they can and cannot share, and making a commitment to remain open and supportive. Consistency in communication through proactive planning helps ensure that all employees receive the same message, reducing confusion.

Prepare a Change Communications Plan

Communicating during a period of change can be difficult for leaders who are expected to craft the right message, reach the right audience, and also pinpoint the appropriate timing, tone, and type of statement. Given this complexity, we always recommend having an expert fully dedicated to crafting a communication strategy. Reach out to Ankura’s change management team to learn more about how we can help. 

Benefits of a Proactive Change Communications Plans

© Copyright 2022. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of Ankura Consulting Group, LLC., its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates, or its other professionals. Ankura is not a law firm and cannot provide legal advice.


article, f-transformation, transformation, change management

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