A Guide to Understanding Change Communication

Learn about change communication and how it helps organizations effectively manage initiatives, restructuring, mergers, and more.

a manager relaying operational changes to a group of employees via a change communication meeting

What is Change Communication?

Change communication refers to the communication strategies and tactics implemented within an organization to manage and navigate the process of change. This may include cascading new initiatives, restructuring, mergers, or any other significant changes that impact employees.

By effectively communicating change, organizations can increase employee buy-in, reduce resistance, and successfully navigate transitions. It also helps address any concerns, alleviate fears, and create a sense of transparency and trust within the organization.

5 Key Principles

Here are five key principles for effective change communication:

Principle 1: Craft the Perfect Message for Your Target Audience

Effective change communication and management start with understanding your target audience and creating a message that resonates with them. This includes considering their concerns, emotions, and motivations when it comes to the change at hand.

Principle 2: Utilize Effective Communication Channels

The method of communication used can significantly impact how the message is received by employees. It’s important to choose channels that are easily accessible and relevant to the target audience. This could include town hall meetings, email updates, or even a dedicated digital workplace communications space.

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Principle 3: Follow The 20-60-20 Rule

When it comes to change, there will typically be three groups of people within an organization: early adopters, the majority, and resistors. The 20-60-20 rule suggests that:

  • 20 percent of employees will quickly embrace change;
  • 60 percent will take some time to adjust; and
  • 20 percent may resist.

It’s important to tailor communication strategies for each group to ensure everyone is on board.

Principle 4: Maintain Flexibility and Openness

Change is often unpredictable, and it’s essential to be flexible with communication plans. This may mean adjusting the messaging or channels based on feedback and progress. Additionally, maintaining an open-door policy for employees to voice their concerns can help address any issues that arise during the change process.

Principle 5: Exercise Patience and Perseverance

Change can be a slow and ongoing process, so patience and perseverance are vital when implementing change communications. It may take time for employees to fully adapt and embrace the changes, but consistent communication and support can help facilitate this transition.

5 Steps in Creating a Change Communication Plan

Before rolling out any communication materials for organizational changes, having a plan is a must. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to create a change communication plan:

Step 1: Determine the Basic Details

Before developing a communication plan, it’s essential to understand the specific situation and audience. Start by identifying key stakeholders, understanding their concerns and needs, and determining the best channels for reaching them.

Step 2: Develop the Change Communication Plan

Based on the evaluation in step one, create a detailed plan outlining the goals, objectives, messaging, and timeline for communicating change. This should also include the identified channels and any creative campaigns or strategies.

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Step 3: Encourage Leaders to Participate

Leadership and management play a crucial role in driving change. They should be prepared to act as influencers and advocates for the changes by providing them with all the necessary information and resources.

Step 4: Implement the Plan and Communicate Regularly

Once the plan is in place, it’s time to put it into action. This involves regularly communicating with employees through various channels and addressing any concerns or questions that arise.

Step 5: Review Your Communication Strategy

As the change process progresses, it’s important to assess the effectiveness of the communication plan and make any necessary adjustments. This could involve stopping or starting certain communications or strategies, as well as continuing with successful ones.

Change Communication Best Practices

Every enterprise is different, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to change communications. However, here are some best practices that can help guide the process:

Develop an Effective Strategy for Communicating Change – Before any change takes place, it’s crucial to have a well-thought-out communication strategy in place. This includes identifying key stakeholders and designing a plan that addresses their needs.

Engage Leadership and Management – Leadership and management play a vital role in implementing change, and their support is critical to the success of any communication plan. It’s essential to involve them in the process and ensure they are aligned with the messaging.

Get Your Internal Communications Department on Board – Internal communications professionals are trained in effectively communicating with employees and can offer valuable insights and support during the change process.

Define the Most Effective Communication Channels – As mentioned earlier, it’s crucial to choose the right channels for communicating change. This may include a mix of in-person meetings, written communications, and digital platforms.

Communicate Frequently to Eliminate Fatigue – Change can be overwhelming, and employees may experience fatigue from constantly hearing about it. It’s important to balance regular communication with giving employees time to adjust and process the changes.

Build Internal Awareness with Creative Communication Campaigns – Utilizing creative and engaging communication campaigns can help generate excitement and buy-in for the changes. This could include videos, interactive presentations, or competitions related to the change.

Make Communication Personal and Relevant – In any change management process, it’s critical that you make your communications as personal and relevant as possible. Personalization shows that the organization values its employees and considers their unique perspectives.

Clear the Path to Two-Way Communications – Effective change communications involve listening to and addressing employees’ concerns and feedback. Creating opportunities for two-way communication, such as surveys or focus groups, can help facilitate this.

Enable Easy Access to Important Documents and Information – During a period of change, employees may need to refer to new policies, procedures, or other important information. Making these easily accessible through a centralized platform can help alleviate confusion and ensure everyone is on the same page.

Publicly Recognize Your Change Ambassadors – Identifying and recognizing employees who have embraced and championed the changes can help inspire others to do the same. This can also help alleviate any concerns or fears by showcasing real examples of success within the organization.

Measure the Effectiveness of Your Change Communication Strategy – It’s important to track and measure the success of your communication efforts. This can help identify areas for improvement and ensure that employees are receiving the necessary information and support during the change process.

Rob Paredes
Article by
Rob Paredes
Rob Paredes is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. He is a content writer who also does copy for websites, sales pages, and landing pages. Rob worked as a financial advisor, a freelance copywriter, and a Network Engineer for more than a decade before joining SafetyCulture. He got interested in writing because of the influence of his friends; aside from writing, he has an interest in personal finance, dogs, and collecting Allen Iverson cards.