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Role of communication during organisational change

Updated: Aug 28, 2020

By Padmaja Alavarthi

Organisational change, either it could be a change in vision, new or change in existing process, new leader, new team member, or even new tools, need to be implemented with a strategy. Unplanned changes may give rise to conflicts between the team members, process failure, availability of limited resources, and unanticipated requests. There will be ups and downs during the change, and everyone will try to find a way to adapt to the change.

Initially, the employees will be resistant to change as they work in their comfort zone with the old way of working. It is ubiquitous to hear that the change introduced is not meeting their expectations. They might not be able to perform the same way as before as they are still getting used to change, goals might slip, the work stalls, and the team struggles. Then the team members will start coming up with new ideas on how to overcome the situation, new ways of thinking to achieve their goals, and exploring the possibilities of improvement with the change. Slowly the team gets adopted to the change, knows how to maximise productivity, and will move on to the comfort zone.

'The only thing constant within organisations is the continual change.' During which, communication plays a vital role. Poorly managed change communication results in resistance to change, chaos, uncertainty, and anxiety about the future. If the organisational change brings in the transformation of employee's tasks, then communication about the move and information on the turn to employees is vital.

What exactly we need to achieve with organisational communication to bring in the change for long term sustainability? Firstly, to inform all the employees not only about their tasks, policy, and other issues of the organization but to provide sufficient, complete, and high-quality information. They need to have a clear direction for a better future. Secondly, organization communication as a means to create a community spirit. The organization should address the reasons to change and clarify the employees with the questions they have initially. Conduct the awareness sessions to make the employees understand the rationale for change, the consequences of not changing and how the organization appear after the change

There should be a communication approach followed to bring in the changes successfully.

Measure communication effectiveness through both formal and informal mechanisms. Define, schedule, and assign responsibility for communication events. Outline the content and format of material to ensure alignment with communication and stakeholder engagement objectives. Develop communication materials according to design and submit for review and approval. Prepare, coordinate, and execute communication events according to the communications plan.

Organisational change is a delicate topic and needs effective communication for a smooth transition. It needs to be started with awareness programs explaining what the purpose of the change is, what are the benefits and what is the scope and general timeline. Next is to bring the employees to understanding. Are there any new processes/tools? What's in it for me and what learning is available. Prepare the employees for acceptance of the change by detailing them on how will their responsibilities change, their job will change, prepare their teams, and expectations from them as use of the business processes and tools. Motivate their employees for their commitment. In the end, it needs to be clear on what adjustments they need to make to adopt the change, what support they will be provided with, how they can maximise the benefits, and how they can support and reward others for commitment to the new way of working.

In today’s world, where organisations are forced to implement the change with immediate effect to overcome new challenges, they must be more innovative and agile to succeed. Though the change is uncertain and painful, it is not impossible if we follow the communication approach, design, and execute the communication plan.

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