How to engage employees during organizational change

3 steps to build effective change management communication

“One size fits all” may be okay for T-shirts, but it isn’t effective when it comes to communicating change. What works for one group of employees won’t resonate with another segment of your staff. That’s because most organizational changes do not affect all employees in the same way.

What you need is a communication program that provides employees with relevant information and involves them in the process of making the change a reality. Follow these three steps to create change management communication that is tailored to employees:

1. Examine the situation

Employees are going to want to know why the change is happening and what it means for them. In order to create communication that answers employees’ questions, you need to understand essential facts. Here’s how to investigate the change:

· First ask lots of questions

Sure, you can review a 42-page PowerPoint presentation about the new change initiative. But chances are, you’ll yield more useful information by having a conversation with members of the change team. Here’s a list of questions that will help you understand all aspects of the change:

· Then segment employees by impact

Segmentation is key when creating change management communication. This technique will help you customize messages and communication tactics for each group. Here’s how to segment:

· List groups within your organization. You need to consider every key stakeholder group including those with a role in communication, employees directly affected by the change and employees who aren’t affected by the change but need to know what’s going on, etc.

· Identify what each group needs to know or do. Think about what each group needs to do differently for the change to be successful, and be as specific as possible.

2. Assess the needs and preferences of the impacted groups

Now that you have a full understanding of the change and mapped your audience into groups, it’s time to explore the best ways to communicate the change to each group. Here’s how:

· Host a short survey

Since you most likely have communication channels in place, create a pulse survey to measure how well each channel is meeting employees’ needs and preferences. If the survey results reveal problem areas, conduct focus groups to further explore these topics and gather suggestions for new channels.

· Analyze existing data

Tap into employee demographics and channel participation metrics to gain insights about who employees are and what they do.

Demographics: The potential demographic categories useful for employee communication are almost limitless but don’t get overwhelmed by the possibilities. Focus on gathering answers to the following questions:

o How many locations?

o Do employees have access to communication tools?

o What percentage of employees work in manufacturing, sales, and office positions?

Participation metrics: Gather metrics from communication channels like intranet articles, emails, newsletters, town halls and other meetings to understand how employees read/attend/watch your communication channels.

· Combine your findings with ours

Incorporate what you learned about your key stakeholders’ needs with our 30 years of research. We’ve spoken with thousands of employees and discovered what they really want from internal communication:

o Relevant information
Employees expect communication to be personalized to their role, location or department.

o Simple and transparent content
Employees want information that’s clear, honest and gets to the point.

o Convenient communication
Since employees are inundated with information, they prefer quick access to communication that’s timely and easy to understand.

o Up-to-date tools
Employees tend to be frustrated with corporate communication channels and suggest shortening newsletters, improving “search” on intranets and creating targeted emails with key messages upfront.

o Opportunities to participate
Often communication stops when the email is sent or the story is posted on the intranet. Employees expect to share their opinions, ask questions and receive feedback in real-time.

3. Create a change communication plan that’s focused on stakeholder segmentation

Use your research findings to build a change communication plan that takes into account the impacted audiences. Be sure to:

· Define objectives

Now that you know the details of the change and the needs of impacted employees, think about the desired outcome for each group. Ask yourself what you want each stakeholder segment to know, believe and do as a result of your communication. These objectives will drive the rest of your change communication.

· Articulate the story

Craft a messaging platform that covers critical information and clearly explains the situation. You may need to create a set of messages specific to each group, articulating what the change means for that group. Use the messaging platform as the foundation for all communication deliverables, so that you’re delivering a consistent narrative.

· Utilize a mix of tactics

Lastly, identify communication tactics that will reach each group. Consider channels that will build awareness (such as posters and email), as well as knowledge-building tools (such as workshops and Q&A sessions).

When you’re faced with communicating a new change, become knowledgeable about the change and the needs and preferences of impacted employees. Use this information to create a custom-tailored communication program that engages employees.

Alison Davis is founder and CEO of Davis and Company, the award-winning employee communication firm. Visit https://www.davisandco.com to know more.