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Internal communication, a change management tool

When there is a major evolution within a company, internal communication  becomes a precious ally to lead the management of change.

Digitalisation of processes, integrationn of a new activity after a merging, reorganisation of the production lines… Changes are part of the companies’ lives. However, they’re not minor events.

Indeed, employees are often the first ones who are impacted by those evolutions, and are not always aware of the reasons behind those changes. They have their working habits, and are usually not enclined to change them if they don’t understand the reasons behind it, and the benefits they will gain from it. This situation can bring some stress, frustration, even anger… Which leads to disengagement of the staff.


Understanding the dynamics behind the change management


That is when change management is important. It is to help employees understand and accept the transformation to come, in order to avoid any internal blockage when the change will be rolled out. The employees should therefore know:

  • the reasons behind the changes
  • how it will materialize
  • the deployment schedule

If this is achieved, the transition between the “before” and the “after” will be smoother.

An evolution in several steps

Change management is usually applied in five steps :

  • Awareness : explain why change is taking place
  • Desire : be willing to take part in this change
  • Knowledge : understand what this change will look like concretely
  • Ability : be able to apply the necessary change, at the level of performance that is expected
  • Reinforcement : make the necessary adjustments in order to sustain that change. 
The first two steps are the responsibility of internal communication, which will present the different aspects of the project to the employees. The last phase is also partly done by the communicators, as they will need to answer the questions and concerns of the employees.

 

Supporting change management with internal communication


This is therefore down to the internal communication teams to prepare the employees for the changes to come. The objective is to gain their adherence to encourage them to participate in the implementation of the project

A dedicated communication strategy should tackle those following aspects:

  • Why was this change decided?
  • Why is it taking place now?
  • What are the expected benefits, in the short and long terms?
  • What will be the implementation steps?
  • Which tools will be available to the employees to help them navigate smoothly through that period (trainings, etc)?

Communication should be present all along the implementation of the project. There can be regular information briefings to go into the details of the different steps as the project evolves. The employees will then know about its progression, or if there is any delay to expect. And above all, they will see the transformation happening little by little, which will help them to get used to the new context.

The more the company will be transparent about its situation, the more the employees will understand it, and will remain engaged.


A global communication to manage important changes


Internal communication must ensure that all the employees who will be impacted by the future changes are reached. As internal comms teams know the different internal populations and their habits, they hold an important asset here.



It will be its responsibility to produce consistant and varied content in order to reach the different audiences, on the channels they use. Even an email signature can become a media, discreet but efficient.

Producing a precise communcation plan is important to anticipate the flow of the different pieces of information, both in terms of content and form. Storytelling techniques can also be used to put change into perspective and explain its different phases.



Internal communication is here to serve the employees

Even if the messages reach all the employees, it is unavoidable to see some concerns emerge among the staff, for example related to the evolution of their jobs. Internal communication may not be able to anticipate all of those questions.

This is why internal communication must rely on managers themselves, and give them the necessary tools so they can reassure their teams. Managers should be able to answer the questions of their colleagues, explain them to what extent they will be impacted by the upcoming changes. In order to achieve this, it is important to:

  • inform the project managers before it is being rolled out
  • give them a dedicated communication toolkit
Managers should also be able to ask their own questions about the changes to come, and receive some clear and detailed answers. Indeed, if they are not convinced themselves, it is not very likely that they will be able to reassure their own teams.

In a second stage, they will also be able to bring up the concerns of the employees. This will help the internal communication teams to adjust their content, and make sure the information they spread out remains relevant throughout the implementation of the project.