It has been interesting to watch parents communicate the multiple facets of the Covid-19 pandemic to their children. As families have adapted to new norms, there are so many questions to answer like, what is Covid-19 and how does it spread? Why is school closed? How do we use the online learning platforms like Zoom? Why is hygiene and social distancing important?
It is increasingly visible that with simple, clear, and consistent communication, children are highly adaptable and open to learning new concepts, exploring new areas, and adaptable to changing circumstances.
Unfortunately, the same is not true for adults who are more resistant to change and therefore need well-structured systems and processes that enable a smoother transition to a new state. Every leader, whether parent, teacher, politician, business leader, or other, needs a well thought out communication strategy. This is a key pillar to help those affected manage the transition they are facing more so in the context of crises like Covid-19.
Also Read: Understanding Resistance To Change
Leaders in every organisation whether C-suite, mid-level, or other change managers need to develop clear, concise, and structured communication. The communication must cover all aspects of the change projects or initiatives being implemented to build buy-in. Buy-in is also helped by a well thought out change communication plan that clearly defines the following, the key audiences, the main message(s), the frequency of communication as well as the package, delivery mechanism, and source.
The intention of a clear communication plan is to:
- Build awareness of the change, its nature, why it is needed, and the related risks
- Enable ‘preferred senders’ to interact with teams
- Formalise feedback mechanisms and enable two-way communication
- Publicly celebrate success
It is imperative to identify who the change team needs to communicate with before, during, and after the change is implemented. The key audiences are identified by function, location, organisational level, and impact. It is also important to communicate the upcoming and ongoing change all through the organisation, why it is happening, why now, how long it will take, and the risk of not changing.
The key messages include the overarching project communication, customised messages to smaller audience groups, and updates on the phases. Additionally, the primary project sponsor and change management lead should prepare context-specific communication to be provided at specialised meetings that can be expanded or reduced for the different levels of the organisation.
Every phase of the project needs its own set of key messages. The preferred start is communication to the whole business followed by how the change will impact the individual. Every employee will absorb the information differently based on their position in the organisation and their ability to absorb increases as their awareness of and progression through the ADKAR® individual change model increases. (More information will be shared on the ADKAR® individual change model in subsequent articles.)
Also Read: Job Of A Change Manager
Content Packaging, Delivery Method, Frequency, and Sender:
The Corporate Communications department usually prepares all formal change messages in close conjunction with the change management lead and team. They also validate delivery mechanisms and establish a detailed schedule to release the information. For true effectiveness, it is advisable to use a variety of communication opportunities including:
- Town halls
- Leadership meetings
- Staff/department meetings
- Lunch and learns
- One-on-one meetings
Other communication channels that can be used are:
- Cascading emails
- Posters and Banners
- Flash mobs
- Experiential pop-ups
- Project communication collaterals
- Project Dashboards
Communication Risks and Budget:
From the onset, the communications plan must clearly define the inherent communications risks and develop strategies to monitor, mitigate, and resolve the same. This is enhanced by a detailed communication budget that covers all Corporate Communication activities and incentives needed to ensure the process is successfully implemented.
Even as change management and communication are key to a project, they are not the same. Very often corporate communications and project management teams build communication plans but miss how it fits into the larger change process.
Effective communication is a critical component of change implementation, yet it is not the only requirement for successful change. It does not have to be fancy or a barrage of messages. Effective communication targets the different audiences affected by the change, focused on what they care about, and what they need to know. A structured plan, therefore, presents the right messages, in the right way, at the right time, through the right channel to the right audience, from the right source.
Communication is the ideal tool to build the first two elements of the Prosci ADKAR® Model namely build awareness of the needed change and create the desire to participate in and support it. When built on this foundation, communication is more effective, provides the right information, in the correct sequence that will enable employees understand and internalise the change.
Written By David Chabeda