As we enter another year – in what is an uncertain political and economic climate – it’s more important than ever to ensure your business is set up to cope with change or to review what about your business may indeed need to change.
Whether that change is a structural, resource or systems change, whether it is in response to a negative impact or a conscious positive move, it is going to have a profound impact on your business, employees, clients and wider stakeholders. It is therefore business critical that you communicate that change carefully to all audience groups.
Redwood Consulting offers a bespoke change communications service that has seen a wide variety of clients through mergers, acquisitions, HR moves, relocations and profound structural changes. We don’t take a ‘one size fits all’ approach to communicating change, but there are a few key things any company about to undertake change should bear in mind.
In any circumstance, it is important you start with a large amount of patience. Change, even positive change, will be complex and challenging because it involves people. Trying to force people through a process to create change without stepping back and gathering different perspectives and information will fail.
Remember that as a leader of your business you’ve already been through a long journey of ups and downs to reach the decision to change. Your audiences may have not started that journey or they may be at various points within it, either way, you need to go back to the beginning and ask: why? Why is this change necessary? What is wrong with the status quo / what implications will there be if we don’t make it? An outside advisor can help you decipher this by asking the challenging questions your in-house team might shy away from.
Think about these questions in terms of each of your audiences. Why would they care? How will they be impacted? What are their most pressing concerns? Then develop your messages to fit each audiences’ needs. Again outside advisors can help you with this by mapping stakeholders and setting out the messages for each.
Once these questions are answered you then need to think about how to share information. And do so as soon as possible – with consistency. The worst case scenario in a changing situation is for you to lose control of the message and the longer you sit on the change the greater risk you have of the rumour mills running away with you.
Make use of a variety of communications tools to speak with your different audiences, this will enable you to reiterate messages across multiple platforms as well as allowing for mass and one-on-one communication. Have a plan for this, but be prepared to adapt and respond as the change takes hold.
Most importantly, don’t forget to listen. Change is not a step-by-step process it requires careful management through live situations. You can best navigate this by listening to your audience groups and responding appropriately. That way you can bring everyone on the journey with you.