When reviewing communication plans of a change project, I often see a strong emphasis on transmitting messages - town hall meetings, e-mails, videos, posters and blogs, etc. All great ideas for raising awareness, but we need to remember that communication is also about listening, especially when managing change.
Impacted managers and staff will need to be provided with opportunities to ask questions and raise concerns safely in a legitimate environment. Make sure you consider ways for staff to openly and constructively discuss the changes and how they will be affected. This can be done through surveys, interactive workshops, Q&A sessions, sponsors visiting teams informally, social events, online discussions and social media.
Bear in mind that not everyone is going to feel comfortable standing up in a packed meeting and asking a question, so encourage relaxed discussion in small groups or remotely, harnessing simple-to-use and reliable digital communication tools like Skype and webinars.
It is also really important to avoid labelling staff who have questions or concerns as negative or resistant to change, or “difficult”. This could prevent staff talking openly about concerns, meaning these concerns will continue, and possibly escalate, while remaining hidden from the people managing the change.
It is also essential that you remember to check understanding. Just because you have transmitted a message several times in different formats, don't preseume that the message has been received, understood and accepted. Ensure your change management planning includes some form of checking and evaluation.
When looking for change management team members, it’s also important to remember that good communication skills entail a lot more than simply being confident and presenting well. Members of change management teams will need active, empathic listening skills, and the ability to build rapport and trust so they are able to effectively identify points of resistance and help facilitate discussions to consider constructive solutions.
Sponsors and managers will also need to develop strong listening skills. Good, creative ‘transmitting’ communication is something we can all see and appreciate. Strong listening skills can be less visible … Something we all need to consider to ensure we are able to minimise resistance and maximise adoption when managing change.
What do you think?
By all means drop me a line and let me know your thoughts and experiences of change communications done well, and not so well, in the organisations you have been working with. Find out more about Rachel Marsh.
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