As the old saying goes, change is inevitable. Whether it’s moving to a new location, expanding your team, adopting new or changing technology, or adjusting a policy, your business will continuously need to adapt. How you communicate change management can be the difference between those involved owning and committing to the change or rejecting and fighting the change.
What Speed Will People Adopt
The Rogers Adoption Curve is a theory that people adapt to change at different speeds. There are five types of adopters according to the theory:
- Innovators: first to adapt
- Early Adopters: quick to adapt
- Early Majority: more judicious in adoption
- Late Majority: skeptical about adopting but will eventually get there
- Laggards: change-averse and are the last to adapt
Understanding the types of adopters in your organization helps you design and develop your communications to either shift people along the curve or support people regardless of where they are along the curve.
The Six Elements to Communicate Change Management
We’ve identified six elements to start with when communicating change to your team and customers that will help them understand its reason and importance, see how it will impact them specifically, inspire commitment to the change, and finally adopt the change.
1. Be transparent in communications
We at Simply Hudson promote good communication as a key driver of success. Effective, transparent communication before, during, and after a change is imperative to keep stress and frustration at a minimum. Change can be overwhelming – transparency in the rationale behind, and impact of the change, helps others understand the necessity. If the change isn’t ideal and can’t be prevented, transparency builds trust and helps teams bond.
Frequent, clear communication also helps keep rumors at bay, employees engaged in the change process, and the importance of the change at the forefront.
2. Include the details
Start by answering the following questions, keeping in mind the perspective of the impacted player:
- What is the change?
- Who does the change impact?
- Why is it happening? What is the rationale or need?
- Where will I need to take action?
- When is this happening?
- How does this impact my work and how do I prepare? How will it happen?
- What is being done to help with the change and limit the impact?
Including these details in your messaging in a clear yet concise way shows your team that you have thought through the change, understand the potential impacts, and are there to support them. Include the pros and potential cons (along with proactive actions when applicable) so they can feel prepared. The last thing you want is for team members to be caught by surprise, so be sure to think through any domino effects. Empathize and help others overcome any fears that come with change.
3. Communicate regularly
Managing through change is not one and done! It can be easy for people to push the change to the side rather than preparing over a length of time, so provide regular updates and reminders. Determine the extent of impact based on the scale of change and build change management into your overall timeline for implementation. Some changes are quite simple, only needing a quick email blast to impacted team members, whereas others may need a long runway with frequent communication and detailed training. Your messaging can adapt over time, including information such as what is going well, what challenges are being managed, impacts on business, and any changes such as timeline or scale.
4. Make it personal
It’s important for people to feel heard and understood. Identify a few strategic partners to gather feedback and provide input on the impact. Incorporate that feedback into the project and communications to show the broader group you aren’t working in a silo. Managing through change is about inclusivity and understanding, so take action to show others they’ve been heard, considered, and accounted for to help increase buy-in, support, and overall adoption.
5. Maintain open channels
Communication is a two-way street. You want those impacted by the change to ask questions and give feedback. (You may even want to consider those not affected – why them and not me?) Encourage people to talk about the change and create a welcoming environment for feedback and discussion. Ensure they know where, when, and how to communicate so their input doesn’t fall into a black hole. As the advocate of the change, you will be an active participant and source of pertinent information in these open discussions to overcome potential fears, challenges, or detractors.
Actively engaging people in the process will build ownership, support, and commitment to the change.
6. Have a plan to answer questions
Change is uncomfortable, but it’s also a part of everyday life. There will be questions, and having a plan to answer and broadly communicate those answers will be essential. Consider:
- How people will submit questions
- Who will be responsible for answering
- The process of researching and identifying an answer if it is unknown
- Developing a list of anticipated or frequently asked questions and their answers
- How you will publish or disseminate these Q&As regularly
Having a plan to answer questions and maintain that two-way communication street will keep the change process transparent, impacted people informed and engaged, and provide the necessary support for the transition.
This Is Just the Beginning
We’ve just scratched the surface of good change management communication. There are many factors that will determine the best course of action for your organization. As always, we’re here to help if you want to explore more in-depth and determine the best change management communication plan for your organization.
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