Topic: Change management
It is believed that up to 70% of change initiatives fail. There are many reasons for this such as poor planning and the other barriers explained in an earlier question. However one of the biggest reasons is to do with communication. Before explaining why communication is important during the change process. It is important to understand what we mean by communication. It is about the imparting or exchange of information. This may take the form of oral, written such as emails and newsletters, or non-verbal in the form of body language.
In the previous question I talked about Kotters 8 step change model, and the step where many change innovations fail is step 4 ‘communicating the vision for change’. He reported that the message for change should be communicated at every opportunity. However even for organisations that are not following this model, communication is essential for the transfer of information from the mangers to those affected by the change or innovation. There is nowhere this is more important then at the start of any change process. Communication at this point has several purposes:
a. Convince the employees that change is needed.
b. Show them that change will be beneficial for them and organisation-without this there will be little incentive for them to change
c. Explain how the change will come about. This is important to do because whenever change is being implemented the employees will likely have to carry out new activities/tasks. Thus by communicating with them you can tell them what their role is going to be.
If theses things are done correctly communication can help you create a positive attitude for the change and motivate your team to act. The communication shouldn’t just be one way from managers to employee, otherwise it gives the impression the change is being forced upon them and then they are more likely to resist. And this will be discussed later
Communication is important at the start of the process, but it’s also important that it continues throughout the process of change/innovation. The reason for this is that uncertainty about the change is likely to surface and the change process could be hampered. So engaging in communication throughout the change process, you can keep them informed but also reassure the employees. When the change is being implemented there will be a lot going on in the organisation. There will be people that are involved in the change and also other around that is not. So by communicating you can continue to support people involved with the change and inform them again how they will be affected and what there role is. Communication can also provide information to those people not involved in the change process. As a failure to inform them would likely lead to rumors and generate resistance.
Communication can also serve to reduce resistance to change. As was explained in earlier question on barriers to change. Whenever a change or innovation is being implemented it is likely to result in both fear and anxiety. Those effected by the change will be thinking ‘ am I still going to have a job’, ‘will I be able to cope’. By engaging in two way communication you can serve to address some of the concerns and fears of the employee such as how it will affect them and what they have to do. Failure to communicate with those people would only serve to undermine your efforts to implement change, as they would likely resist. However if you engage in communication with the employees then you can hopefully turn these negative feelings into a more positive ones towards the change/innovation.
Motivation is another key benefit that communication can bring. I mentioned at the start about providing information to those affected by the change and the vision of the change. One of the other reasons I mentioned for this was to motivate them to act. But it is also important to keep them motivated as you move forward with the change as many difficulties may be encountered and team and individual morale may be affected. But this can be aided by effective communication. This could take the form of an inspirational speech to reenergize the change process. Or could be something as simple as a simple ‘pat on the back’ to someone for working hard or achieving something in the change process. So non-verbal forms of communication can be just as powerful as the verbal form
Communication is also important as it can serve to build trust. As I mentioned already change is uncomfortable, and will often damage the trust that the employee had in the organization before the change process. However through communication with the teams you can rebuild this trust. In order for this to happen though, the communication ideally is face to face rather then in writing. As this can show that you are honest in what you’re telling them. This can be done by providing the team with facts and not twisting things around to suit your own motives. Also by telling your team if you have made a mistake. All theses things will convey to your team that you are honest in what you say and thus help build trust. You can also regain trust by showing to your teams that you are human and not trying to hide behind your title. This could be done by non-verbal communication for example in my organization several years ago we moved store location to a larger one a few 100 meters away. And this involved moving equipment/files/tables etc. And the director and managers didn’t stand around giving orders but actually helped in the move. This showed to the employees that they were ‘down to earth’ and helped build trust in the move. Trust can also be gained by following through with what you say. So if you say that someone is going to have this benefit from the change that they actually do. And if you have this trust you are more likely to have better cooperation and a more positive attitude towards the change.
Employee participation can also be improved through communication. I mentioned earlier about the importance of two-way communication in addressing employee concerns and reducing concerns. But the other benefit of this is that it can gives provide employees the chance to engage in the decision making processes of the change. The employee for example could have an idea on how to more efficiently carry out an activity during the change. And if there are lines of communication available for them to have this input. This will not only improve there job satisfaction but also give them a more positive attitude towards the change as they will feel that they are part of the change and not just being dictated to.