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Organisational Change: The importance of communication

Written by Genevieve Norton

March 30, 2014

Major organisational change can be one of the most difficult challenges a business can face. Preparation is key in making sure staff are aware of the change and hopefully support it.

Communication is an important element of an organisational change management strategy and it should outline ways an organisation will listen and engage with their employees throughout the journey.

Below are some key activities to help all organisations achieve effective communication during change, including large publicly-listed multinational companies, smaller ASX-listed entities, privately held companies and not-for-profit.

Communication Strategy

Before embarking on a major organisational change program, the first step is to develop a comprehensive communication strategy that clearly establishes the priorities and helps staff understand the proposed changes, the benefits and if applicable, explains the rationale behind potential negatives. Identifying key staff groups is a critical step in this process and the recognition that there may not be a ‘one size fits all’ approach depending on the location and role staff play in the organisation.

An organisation that has its workers split between field, as well as desk roles, may have to adopt a different strategic approach to each group, particularly if field workers do not have the same access to internet on a day-to-day basis.

A successful strategy should promote engagement and be built around a set of common themes and key messages. Maintaining consistency of message at each stage of the process is vital in building and maintaining trust.

At different stages of the process, the communication strategy should be reviewed and the key messages may need to evolve with these stages.

Spokesperson / Spokespeople

To ensure the key messages and themes of the organisational change are successfully communicated, a spokesperson (or spokespeople) should be chosen that has authority, as well as integrity. They must be able to deliver clear and coherent messages, while showing staff that they understand. The spokesperson / spokespeople need to influence the perceptions of change and be well equipped to deal with any employee questions.

Constant Communication

Employee communication should always be proactive and released in a timely matter to avoid the message being lost or distorted. It is important that employees are made aware of the reasons for change and the overall objectives so that they are not only on board but if necessary can communicate to a wider stakeholder group. As a milestone is reached, celebrate it with your staff so they feel like they are part of the process.

Two-Way Communication

Effective communication should always be two-way. Give your staff the opportunity to ask questions and provide ideas. Ask them for their feedback as to how things are going, what they are hearing and their concerns. Think of ways you can involve them in the process. Not only is this good communication, but it may mean you come up with a better way of implementing the change and come up with an ‘out of the box’ solution.

Communication Channels

Consistent communication across multiple channels is essential to deliver key messages and themes. Use communication channels that deliver the right message and ensure key staff groups are reached. This may include face-to-face such as staff meetings, or electronic methods such as emails or the intranet.

Depending on the nature of the organisational change, some times it can be appropriate to appoint ‘change ambassadors’ who are a team of staff members who take on the additional responsibility of communicating the change and being a point of contact for feedback. These change ambassadors do not necessarily have to be people in management roles, some times it can be more effective to have ‘peer ambassadors’ in these roles.

Considering these communication tools when developing your organisational change management strategy will assist in the delivery of a successful outcome in what can be a difficult process to navigate for many businesses.

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