Change management is more than a buzzword. It’s fundamental to business success in a world that continues to see massive, rapid transformations. 

Change management dictates how you prepare for, deliver and follow through on new business objectives, products and strategies.

In recent years, change has been front and center. Prominent examples include: 

  • Balancing remote, hybrid and in-person work environments
  • Modifying benefits and compensation, including rising salaries and paid time off 
  • Restructuring workforces to deal with inflation, supply chain disruptions and uncertain economic metrics

But change management isn’t just about large-scale challenges. Smaller transitions such as technology upgrades, new training requirements and new office layouts can positively or negatively affect your employees. 

The best change management strategies address changes big and small. And it all starts with communication.

Communication strategies for change management

Even the best-laid plans won’t live up to their potential without employee support. Communicating with employees before, during and after a change will increase your odds of a successful transition. 

To enhance your communication strategy and get your workforce on board with changes, use the following strategies:

  • Communicate, communicate, communicate.
  • Provide consistent messaging.
  • Identify communication champions.
  • Highlight the benefits.
  • Encourage feedback.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

Frequent communication is essential for successful change management. Begin your communication efforts well before a change occurs to give employees time to process the information. Ramp up your communication during the transition to capture employee sentiment, provide reassurance and troubleshoot potential missteps. Continue reaching out after the change to ensure adherence to new processes and refine your strategy for next time. 

Communicate across channels, including:

  • Emails
  • Instant messages
  • Phone calls
  • One-on-one conversations
  • Team gatherings
  • All-staff meetings

Even when the outcome seems like a slam dunk, people are naturally averse to change. Repeated communications reassure your employees throughout the transition. They also help your organization avoid rumors and control the message.

Provide consistent messaging

In addition to repeated communications, keep your messaging consistent. Create talking points for executives, supervisors, HR staff and other important stakeholders. These points help reinforce the need for change and why it will lead to better outcomes. 

Communicate about the upside of change to all employees impacted by the decision. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) notes that many companies create a name, brand and logo for big internal changes. These elements help employees visualize the change and accept new information.

Identify communication champions

Early in the process, identify employees on board with the change. Encourage them to speak with colleagues. Word-of-mouth is a great way to convince your workforce that change will lead to positive outcomes.

You can find communication champions throughout your organization, at any level. Look for employees who connect with many colleagues across roles and departments. Provide them with talking points for consistency, but allow them to be authentic. You want their enthusiasm to be natural rather than scripted. For new technology or work processes, provide communication champions with training and resources to enhance their knowledge and understanding. 

An article from SHRM also suggests reaching out to employees initially opposed to the change. This allows you to hone your messaging and discover strategies to reverse resistance. And getting these employees on board can help others overcome their doubts.

Highlight the benefits

Reinforce the expected outcomes of your change initiatives. Highlight the benefits for employees and the organization. Explain the change, why it’s necessary, and the role employees play in making it work for themselves and your organization. 

A change might create more work in the short term. But if employees understand that it will result in streamlined processes and more manageable workloads over the long term, they will be more likely to get on board. 

Similarly, an uncomfortable transition will face less resistance if employees see how the change will lead to higher revenue and the potential for better compensation and benefits. Whenever possible, note the positives on a personal and organizational level. This will help integrate employee and company efforts.

Encourage feedback

Getting employee input is crucial to improving the change process. With every change, distribute a list of contacts so employees know where to go with questions and concerns. 

Encourage dialogue throughout the process, from identifying the change through implementing it and transitioning to the new standard. By responding promptly to employees, you can prevent smaller issues from becoming larger barriers to change. If an answer isn’t immediately available, acknowledge the question and find the appropriate stakeholder to communicate as quickly as possible.

Some employee objections to change will be reasonable. When possible, act on this input. Other suggestions may not be feasible. Even still, acknowledge the feedback and make employees feel like a valued part of the process.

Change is Constant

For better or worse, change is constant. Strategic communications can help you manage that change for the better.

For more information on change management, talk with your benefits adviser. They can guide your team through communication best practices. If changes go beyond the capacity of your current team, they can help you find consultants with experience in change management communications.