5 common change communication blunders

If you’re sending the same message to everyone, leaving managers in the dark or measuring ‘awareness,’ you should rethink your processes.

Communicating change initiatives is tricky, and most organizations simply stink at it.

Here are five common mistakes:

1. Blasting the same message to everyone

Is your change initiative going to affect different groups of employees in different ways? If so, you should craft individualized messaging to address pertinent pain points or concerns. Blasting out the same message to everyone will only create friction, resistance or widespread confusion.

Instead, list all the different audiences the change affects, and spell out exactly what each group needs to know. For example, you might write special messaging for hourly employees or part-timers. If external audiences such as suppliers or customers are affected in any way, they deserve a tailored message, too.

2. Neglecting managers

If you leave managers in the dark, you’ll create a domino effect of miscommunication. This is an easy way to ruin employee morale, trust and engagement.

When change is on the horizon, make sure managers are informed and equipped to cascade pertinent messaging to their teams. Managers are often the most crucial communication channel in your organization—treat them accordingly when change is afoot.

3. Measuring or monitoring the wrong stuff

Everyone might be aware of the new strategic plan, but do they understand it? Do employees get how their role fits into the bigger picture of what the company’s trying to accomplish?

Alas, awareness does not equal understanding. “Intent” is also quite useless.

What matters in organizational change is whether people actually do things—and, if not, why? Track how many employees started using the new software. Gauge how many colleagues attended the training webinars or how many logged technical tickets, and note which departments or locations are lagging in certain initiatives.

It’s smart to measure opinions, too. Consistently ask front-line managers whether they had what they needed to communicate properly to their teams, and gather feedback on how projects were rolled out.

4. Treating change as a task

A new timekeeping system is not exactly transformational change, but it does ask people to behave differently—which often takes time and repetition. To drive desired behavior change, prepare to communicate more than once.

Employees often have overflowing inboxes, hefty to-do lists and loads of concern that have nothing to do with your initiative, so one email is not going to cut it. Your change communication plan should include follow-up messaging to hammer home what you want employees to do and how they should go about it.

5. Excluding, sidelining or overlooking communication in the planning process

When a major organizational shift is planned, communication is often viewed as the last piece of the puzzle. The opposite should be true.

Communicators must earn a prominent enough spot at the table to understand what is happening and when. It takes time to segment audiences, develop KPIs and craft messaging for managers, so fight to ensure you’re at the front end of these crucial conversations.

If you’re not part of the planning process, there’s a good chance the change initiative will flop. To avoid confusion, chaos and consternation, become an authoritative architect of change instead of an order taker. Be—and design—the change you want to see in your organization.

A version of this post first appeared on the BizMarketer blog.

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