Change can be stressful and unsettling for employees, so it’s important to effectively communicate the rationale for the change and how it will affect them. A common way people can get disengaged, frustrated and unproductive in the workplace is to not understand how their work connects to the bigger goals of the organization. Similarly, a thoughtful communication strategy can help to avoid issues like delayed project milestones, incorrect rumor swirl, or employee confusion.
1. Review your communication plan with a project or leadership team
Make sure you’re not working in a silo. Project team members can give excellent feedback and inputs about which tactics are effective, and the needs of their teams.
2. Align communication with critical project milestones
Ensure communications are happening before project milestones! This is particularly important if the change is visible (remember, the absence of information usually leads to assumptions being made!) or if action if required. As an example, it can often be useful to communicate with managers or certain stakeholders a few weeks before the general employee population. Communicating with these groups earlier allows them to adjust to the change and ready themselves to discuss and prepare their teams.
3. Create two-way communication opportunities
Consider how to enable two-way communication between your customer and the project team. How do employees go about asking questions or raising concerns? Could you set up a Q&A forum, in-person or virtually? How can communications like emails be supplemented with chats, in-person meetings, or visuals?
4. Ensure you’re communicating enough
A rule of marketing states that a customer needs to hear about something SEVEN times before taking action. Are you taking advantage of all the available communication channels to ensure your employees have the information they need? Consider the timing of communications too to allow employees to have enough time to digest and react to a change announcement before anything is expected of them.
5. Switch up your communication tactics
Use a variety of channels to ensure that everyone has access to the necessary information, and be transparent and open in your communication. Different learning styles, different personalities, and different generations all have preferences in communication styles.
A stakeholder analysis is critical to any change management effort and when completed properly will help ensure the success of your initiative. This will help you to manage change in your workplace, organization, or for a project.
Has your project been experiencing these problems? These are all issues that can be fixed or improved by completing a thorough stakeholder analysis & engagement plan.
Common issues encountered with inadequate stakeholder management:
Lack of manager support
Lack of awareness in project
Not completing required training or prerequisites
Low employee morale
Employee confusion & frustration
A stakeholder analysis will help us to:
Understand the needs of your key stakeholders
Deliver the right information at the right time to those that need it
Change management is a dynamic and evolving field, and it’s important to stay up-to-date on emerging trends and developments in order to effectively lead and manage change in your organization. Here are some trends and predictions for the future of change management:
Increased focus on digital transformation. With the rapid advancement of technology and the increasing reliance on digital tools and platforms, it’s likely that change management will continue to focus on digital transformation. This may involve the implementation of new technologies, the adoption of new business models, and the incorporation of digital tools and processes into the organization.
Greater emphasis on employee engagement and involvement. Change management is increasingly focusing on engaging and involving employees in the change process. This may involve providing employees with the resources and support they need to adapt to change, as well as involving them in the decision-making process and encouraging their participation in change initiatives.
Increased use of data and analytics. Change management will continue to rely on data and analytics to track progress and measure the effectiveness of different approaches. This may involve the use of data analytics tools and techniques to better understand the impacts of change and identify areas for improvement.
Greater emphasis on agility and adaptability. The future business environment is likely to be characterized by rapid change and uncertainty, making agility and adaptability crucial for success. Change management will continue to focus on helping organizations to respond quickly and effectively to changing market conditions and customer needs.
Continued evolution of remote work. The rise of remote work has brought with it new challenges and opportunities for change management, and it’s likely that this trend will continue. Change management will need to adapt to the unique challenges and opportunities of leading and managing change in a distributed work setting.
By staying up-to-date on these trends and predictions, you can position your organization for success and effectively navigate the complexities of leading and managing change in the future.
Change management can be a complex and challenging process, and it’s easy to fall into common pitfalls that can derail even the most well-intentioned initiatives. Here are the top 10 change management mistakes to avoid:
1. Lack of clarity around the change and its purpose.
Without a clear understanding of what the change entails and why it is necessary, it can be difficult to gain support and buy-in from key stakeholders. From the beginning, it’s useful to collect information from your project team about the impact of this change, the timeline, the alignment with business strategy, the intended outcomes and benefits of the change. Having an early understanding of this will help influence a thorough and comprehensive communication plan and training approach.
2. Inadequate or ineffective communication.
Change can be unsettling for employees, so it’s important to effectively communicate the rationale for the change and how it will affect them. Lack of communication or a failure to be transparent can lead to confusion, mistrust, and resistance. Consider multiple communication channels, identify your audiences, and never rely on one form of communication.
3. Insufficient engagement and involvement of stakeholders.
Change is more likely to be successful when it is embraced and supported by key stakeholders. Failing to engage employees, customers, and other stakeholders in the change process can lead to resistance and undermine the initiative.
4. Lack of a clear plan and preparation.
A well-thought-out plan is essential for ensuring that the change is implemented smoothly and effectively. Failing to plan and prepare can lead to delays, unexpected challenges, and ultimately, failure.
5. Insufficient resources and support.
Change requires resources and support to be successful. Failing to allocate the necessary resources and support can make it difficult to implement the change effectively. Consider not only the time required of the project team (for example, project manager, sponsor, SMEs, communications and change support), but also the time required of managers and employees to engage with, learn and adopt the change.
6. Inadequate leadership
Change requires strong leadership to guide and motivate employees through the process. Lack of leadership or poor leadership can undermine the change initiative. Ensure managers are involved early in the change, expectations of their behaviors or support is clear, and two-way communication is encouraged. Managers are closest to their people and can help escalate resistance, concerns, questions, and the need for more support.
7. Insufficient training and support.
Employees may need training and support to adapt to the change. Failing to provide adequate training and support can lead to resistance and a lack of buy-in. Consider additional ways to offer informal or formal opportunities (examples: teambuilding, project office hours) to discuss the change and provide two-way communication opportunities. Ensure training milestones are aligned with project milestones, and changes are not expected of employees before adequate training has been offered.
8. Lack of ongoing communication and support.
Change is a journey, not a one-time event. Failing to provide ongoing communication and support can lead to a lack of progress and ultimately, failure. The speed at which employees will adapt to change varies widely. Also, the needs of employees may be different when it comes to rigor of communication or availability of support.
9. Inability to adapt and be flexible.
Change is a dynamic process, and it’s important to be prepared to adapt and be flexible as needed. Failing to adapt and be flexible can lead to setbacks and ultimately, failure. A change management strategy and communications plan should be routinely assessed and changed to meet the needs of the stakeholders.
10. Lack of monitoring and evaluation.
It’s important to monitor the progress and effectiveness of the change to ensure that it is on track and making the desired impact. Failing to monitor and evaluate the change can lead to missed opportunities and ultimately, failure. Determine if there are quantitative or qualitative metrics that could be tracked and/or communicated regularly to stakeholders.
11. Lack of timely decision making.
Ideally when an employee raises a concern or asks a question, an answer is promptly shared. However the complexity of project and change efforts can make this difficult, especially when it comes to unknown or potential impacts to an employee. Try to facilitate fast decision making and communication of relevant decisions. Consider your information management approach to make project details and common questions readily available, for example creating an FAQ, website, or newsletter.
12. Going too fast.
Change can be an emotional journey. Each employee may have a different reaction and response to a change. Plan for resistance and the need for discussion opportunities and ensure your project timeline incorporates your communication, engagement and training tactics.
13. Going too slow.
While going fast may be worse, slow movement can be tricky too! When a project timeline is years-long and there is a long time between hearing about a change and actually seeing the change take place, ensure your communication plan is regular and predictable to keep employees informed. Remember, the absence of information often leads to speculation and even incorrect assumptions. I often go as far as to tell employees when and how they will hear their next update.
14. Ignoring the root cause of employee resistance.
Don’t make assumptions about where employee resistance is coming from. Understanding the resistance will help determine the best way to mitigate it. Wherever possible, try to understand the feedback quantitatively to influence the rigor of your change management efforts. This can help ensure that a few loud voices on one topic does not overshadow a more impactful topic.
15. Inconsistent leadership messages.
Leaders in your organization have important responsibilities when it comes to managing change. They are required to communicate about it often, whether that be formally introducing it in a staff meeting, or chatting about the change in 1:1 or small group settings. It can be confusing and frustrating if messages are not consistent between managers. Include managers in your communication, training and engagement planning, often allowing them a few days, weeks, or months more with the information so they are in a better position to adapt to and support the change.
16. Not planning for resistance.
Resistance to change is natural and should be planned for! Give adequate time and resources to support your employees through the change. Frustrated and confused employees are less productive and investing in a thorough change management approach can save a lot of wasted time on swirl and confusion.
17. Oversimplifying or downplaying the change.
Understand the impact of the change on each employee, if possible. This is often assessed by group of employees in larger change efforts. Don’t overlook or make assumptions about “small” impacts because employees can surprise you with what is most important or top-of-mind for them.
18. Not understanding the needs and concerns of those impacted by the change.
Always start with understanding your stakeholders. The impact of change on them, their needs, concerns and benefits are all important things to understand, plan for, and include in training and communication planning.
19. Not activating an informal or formal change network.
Engage and support others that can be your change agents! Prepare them with information, talking points, early awareness and see your change efforts amplify. Don’t underestimate the power of informal chats over coffee, lunch, or while walking to your next meeting. Ensure these change agents have the correct information and are not spreading misinformation.
20. Not allowing feedback and iteration.
Demonstrating the effort to listen and potentially make changes based off employee inputs can be a powerful way to gain trust with employees. It also can be invaluable to delivering the best product or improvement that will benefit the organization.
21. Inconsistent or disengaged managers.
Managers need to be engaged, receptive to feedback, and advocates for a change. The manager role naturally becomes one of role model, and employees will be quick to mimic disinterest or ignoring of a change if a manager does first. Keep your manager population informed, included, and accountable through the duration of the change.
By avoiding these common pitfalls, you can increase the chances of success and effectively navigate the complexities of change management.
Change is inevitable. The rate and frequency of change initiatives only seem to be increasing as organizations face new challenges such as digitalization, multi-generational workforces and an increasing focus on employee well-being. Managing change can be a complex and challenging process, but with the right strategies and approach, it is possible to successfully navigate even the most significant changes.
5 tips for leading and managing change in your organization:
Clearly define the change and its purpose.
Before embarking on a change initiative, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of what the change entails and why it is necessary. be sure to define the scope of the change, what it will achieve, and how it will benefit the organization. Here is a list to get you started.
Change can be stressful and unsettling for employees, so it’s important to effectively communicate the rationale for the change and how it will affect them. Use a variety of channels to ensure that everyone has access to the necessary information, and be transparent and open in your communication. Follow our communication template to capture the complexity in audience groups, key messages, timeline and communication tactics.
Monitor and evaluate the change.
Once the change has been implemented, it’s important to monitor its progress and effectiveness. Use metrics to track the impact of the change. Ensure ownership, knowledge management & training sustainment is accounted for. Follow our sustainment plan for more details.
Managing change can be a complex and challenging process, but by following these steps, you can increase the chances of success and ensure that your organization is well-positioned to adapt and thrive in an ever-changing business environment.