Change Management Communications Strategy And Tools For 2024

Stephen Roe

Internal Communications

When your business is changing—new management, new software, a new process—you’re responsible for making it as smooth as possible. Change management communications help you accomplish this.

Leading a team through change is one of the hardest tasks possible. There are countless variables you need to identify, consider, and share with your employees. It’s crucial that you ensure everyone is on the same page when undergoing a big shift in business—and your internal communications are a huge part of this.

With the right tools and knowledge, you can bring a transformation that helps your team reach new heights.

Change management communications enable your team to stay up-to-date on the changes that affect their work. You can minimize interruptions and ensure your employees are prepared to succeed in whatever new direction your business is headed.

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What is Change Management Communications?

As your organization changes, change management communications help to make sure you’re telling the right people at the right time what’s happening.

There are plenty of theories on effective change management. But you’re not here to theorize. You’re here for an actionable plan you can use immediately.

The good news is that we know what works. I’ve read the models—Kotter, McKinsey 7-S, ADKAR, Kübler-Ross, Lewin’s, and more—and they follow a basic five-step pattern.

Those steps are:

  1. Plan
  2. Empathize
  3. Teach
  4. Hold accountable
  5. Follow through

We’re going to break down each one with exact steps and word-for-word scripts you can use.

1. Plan your change management communications

Planning is the very first step in change management communications. Without an effective plan before starting, you’ll struggle to effectively communicate any change.

A study conducted in 2014 showed that 68% of experienced project managers believe a good plan is the most effective change management practice.

A successful plan should answer these questions:

  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of my team in this change?
  • What objections should I expect and plan ahead for?
  • How does this benefit every employee?
  • What are the specific advantages for each department?

You’ll also want to decide on tools. We’ll cover those in more depth in a later section.

Finally, you’ll need to make a broad announcement to the team. This won’t cover everything, but it should set the pieces in motion.

Who’s responsible: Management will want to be in control of the planning, but you need to get input from lower-level team leaders as well. Their insights will help you prepare.

For the first announcement, senior management is most important.

Your best tools: The planning process must be done in a live meeting of no more than seven people. Again, getting feedback ahead of time is a good idea, but a meeting with everyone won’t be productive.

The first announcement is best made in person, in the form of an announcement or staff update. Try to have employees hear it directly from upper management whenever possible.

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2. Empathize with your employees

It’s easy to jump into execution, but the research is clear—the next step is emotional. That’s because emotions drive our reactions, not logic.

But this isn’t a barrier. It’s an opportunity. With the right method we can turn resistance into a force for change.

To succeed, we need to listen to exactly what our employees are saying, and connect that change to an emotional motivation. But, easier said than done.

Oftentimes, what we see as employee resistance is actually just a complaint they want to voice. So don’t feel threatened with employee complaints. Instead, listen—and encourage your managers to listen—intently and carefully.

Who’s responsible: Probably not you. The key leaders here should be the direct managers of your employees. But every employee must feel empowered that their opinion will be “taken to the top” if needed.

Your best tool: To really listen, we need to be face-to-face. Having a series of one-on-ones between managers and employees is the best way to learn frustrations and real objections.

To develop an idea across the whole company, you can collect anonymous feedback. Anonymous surveys through ContactMonkey is a great way to do this.

Here’s a sample script you can adapt:

ContactMonkey’s email template builder makes it super easy to add employee feedback options to your internal communications. Conduct employee surveys, collect anonymous employee comments, and gauge employee engagement to ensure your change management is having the desired effect.

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Check out our library of helpful sample emails and internal comms templates today.

3. Teach your team how to implement changes

You’ve explained the broad strokes. You’ve empathized.

Now it’s time to put the plan into action and teach. This isn’t a short or easy process, but your teaching methods will determine how well your team implements the change.

As the saying goes, we don’t rise to the level of our goals—we fall to the level of our training.

Here are three secrets to making that training as powerful as possible:

  1. Make it concrete. Use specifics and examples. Instead of saying “from now on, use Salesforce,” say “during each sales call, type your notes in the ‘Log call’ field on Salesforce.”
  2. Use checklists and steps. Having a set of actions helps with consistency and makes reinforcement objective. It also helps to highlight specific problem areas.
  3. Fix the environment. The right environment is your biggest lever. Use it. Hang the new safety policy on the factory floor, not in the break room. Make review software open automatically when booting the computer. Small environment changes lead to big results.

Who’s responsible: The single most important people to manage the instruction are direct managers. They can better adapt and frame it based on their team.

Of course, they’ll need to be trained by an expert. Who that is depends on what kind of change is happening. It could be a lawyer, tech guy, or even you.

Your best tools: You’ll want managers to work with their team one-on-one. You’ll want to train those managers either one-on-one or in a larger session.

Here’s a basic script you can use to get manager buy-in:

4. Be accountable to your goals

You’ve taught the change. But there’s a gap between knowing and doing. Now, you need to make sure it happens.

First, set small goals and build up. Don’t start with a completely new process without first setting smaller steps along the way.

Goals also help with your second mission: keep up morale. If it feels like a long slog through what’s required, it’s hard to keep everyone focused. Use little milestones to keep up the excitement.

Keep improving the exact details in this stage as you learn. For example, you might find employees struggle to switch from email to an internal message system when sending attachments. Training on the capabilities of your messaging system might be a worthwhile step to offer via your change management communications.

Who’s responsible: If you’re in charge of the overall change management, then you are. You must ensure the change actually happens on the ground day-to-day.

That said, you can and should recruit others to help depending on the size of your organization.

Your best tools: The best way to reinforce change is to spot check the deliverable itself. Surprise one team standup meeting weekly, check CRM data, review every programmer’s fifth commit.

You can also collect data via one-on-one meetings and through anonymous feedback. You need anonymity for honesty. And again, checklists help with objectivity. Ask, “did you follow step 2,” not “did you do the process correctly?”

Here’s a sample you can adapt as needed:

5. Follow through on your change management

Congratulations! You’ve successfully navigated a change for your organization using change management communications. You’ve planned it out and informed everyone. You’ve empathized with everyone’s concerns, and taught and reinforced.

Thankfully, following through on your change is the least intensive part of change management. After a while it can peacefully hum away in the background.

In essence, follow-through is maintaining a lower level of accountability for the long-term.

What’s important is that it doesn’t disappear entirely.

Who’s responsible: Following through with change is a shared effort. You’ll need to have people in roles that are designed to keep everything moving forward correctly.

But you’ll also need to engage with the process yourself and ensure everything runs smoothly.

Your best tools: Really, every tool is useful here. You’ll want to keep using what you used in the previous steps—occasional random check ins and anonymous emails.

Let’s now look at the tools in more depth.

Which Tools Are Best for Change Management Communication?

There is no single tool for all your change communication. But some tools are more effective than others.

The best tool is one you’re already using. If you implement change communication at the same time as you switch a tool, you’re just getting into more trouble.

A complicated intranet, interactive software, or messaging system could be fatal. If your current setup isn’t enough (and it likely isn’t), you’ll want to integrate with systems you already use, like weekly meetings or internal emails.

Here’s a summary of the most common tools:

  • Group meetings are most effective for decision-making and coaching a small team. However, they can be dominated by the loudest employees and are less effective with larger groups.
  • One-on-one sessions are highly effective for communication and feedback. They are hard to scale, however, especially in large departments or companies.
  • Static email generally isn’t very effective since there’s no accountability of who engages with the content. Email’s advantage in speed, cost, and ease doesn’t make up for its faults.
  • Interactive email using a platform like ContactMonkey counteracts the problems with static email—low engagement and lack of anonymity—while keeping email’s benefits of being fast, reliable, and easy to use.
  • Intranets are ineffective, according to 56% of professionals in a Deloitte study. Chances are, your employees aren’t using it like you think they are.
  • Brochures are the most ineffective, according to three-quarters of the professionals in the Deloitte study. Quite frankly, nobody will read them.
  • Bulletin boards are likewise another outdated and largely useless tool. They can be part of your arsenal, but don’t depend on much change from a bulletin post.

How to Overcome the Biggest Challenge of Change Management Communications

There’s a simple problem you’re going to encounter as you work to lead your team: being in the dark.

One of the biggest struggles you’ll face is not getting enough feedback about how your employees feel and how they’re implementing the change.

The solution is seamless feedback and course-correcting.

To succeed, you need the right tools. And one of the most powerful is ContactMonkey. You can set up a demo today and get a personalized walkthrough of exactly what to do.

The best way to prepare yourself is by using a proven tool with accountability and feedback built-in.

ContactMonkey is an all-in-one internal communications software that optimizes your internal communications process. Book a free demo with one of our friendly experts to see all that ContactMonkey can do for your change management communications:

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