Communicating change

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Managing the Change message

I had a great group on a recent change course, who had loads of questions about how to organise the large volume of information we need to communicate during a change. I thought you might like to see the summary of our discussions.

1. Be prepared to repeat yourself many times.

Not everyone enjoys change. Rogers Innovation Adoption Model usefully gives us 5 categories of preferences, from Innovators to Laggards. Innovators are more likely to listen out for information about new ways of working and new ideas. At a subliminal level these messages fit with their view of the world. However Laggards are motivated to maintain current ways of working and will ignore any information about doing things differently for as long as possible. So whilst the Innovators heard you first time, you will have to repeat information about the change many times before it is accepted by the Laggards.

2. Appeal to different preferences

Some people need the details and some need the bigger picture. Some people like facts, statistics and reasons. Others want to know how decisions were made and what their impact will be. Communications must include all types of information, explained in different ways to meet the preferences of everyone.

3. Address the most important needs first

We used Maslows Hierarchy of Needs to make sure our communications answer the most important questions that are buzzing through people’s heads as soon as change is mentioned. Maslow put physiological needs as the first level of his model. In the context of organisational efficiency, physiological needs includes salary, pension contributions, bonuses and other financial factors.

Put simply, the first thing people want to hear is whether they are going to be a winner or a loser financially. Depressingly this information is often not communicated because there is no change to salary or benefits. This doesn’t matter. An effective change communication will address this head on so there is no room for speculation and stress.

Another key physiological need is place of work. This is because where we work has such an impact on how we live. It determines how early we have to get up in the mornings, how much it costs us to get to work and how we live our lives – based near schools or child-minders or shops or leisure facilities. Even if vour location and working hours are not changing, this information needs to be clarified as soon as possible to stop you worrying.

Each of these models adds to our understanding of how to structure change communications.