communication strategy Think strategically and clarify your messages

Why are we changing?

Even when you have the trust of your employees, they won’t get alongside and make changes unless you provide a compelling and logical reason to change. Your strategy should be to motivate staff through inspiration, not desperation.

Having a structured process is only part of your strategic planning. An iterative process that allows you to make continual improvements depending on the feedback you receive is an excellent approach. Acting on feedback demonstrates that you are not only listening to your employees but taking note of them too. This can be a powerful way of engaging staff and moving them through to the Exploration stage of the Change Curve.

Part of a successful change management process must include communicating strategically. This includes ensuring that your management team communicate effectively. A strategic move might be to measure how effective managers are at communicating key messages and to provide some training for those who perform poorly. Roger D’Aprix comments that as soon as some leaders meet resistance they either ignore it or want to squash it. He suggests a more strategic approach; one that embraces engagement through:

  1. Trust
  2. Compelling logic
  3. A match of actions and words
  4. Involvement of those who are affected
  5. Communicating a sense of confidence and minimizing fear
  6. Repetition of the primary themes.

Think about these building blocks when you are crafting key messages to support the change process.

To build on trust, you need to be honest. Miss the chance to make a compelling case for change, and you will find that employees will concoct their own, usually less flattering, reasons for change. Don’t assume that the negative people will necessarily sabotage your project. They will if you let them, but it is your job to win them over. Converts can become your greatest allies.

‘Walk the talk’, since actions speak louder than words. Engage those who are directly affected. You may not like some of the messages you hear, especially during the Denial and Resistance stages. However, acknowledging people’s fears is one way of minimizing anxiety, especially if you work in an environment of trust and honesty.

Your messages need to accentuate the positive and eliminate (or at last minimize) the negative. Repetition is a powerful tool. People only hear the message when they are ready to hear it. Those of us who are constantly bombarded with information have got really good at screening out noise. So, repeat your key messages until everyone gets it.

Customize and target messages to each your key stakeholder groups. Don’t forget to massage your messages to take into account staff mindset at each stage of the project.

Make sure you see the project through to the end. If this means giving extra support to some groups, or providing additional training, do it. The behaviors need to become embedded.

Sun Microsystems’ ‘Knowledge, Attitude, Action’ model provides a tactical approach based on moving staff from an existing position to a desired one. For example, seek to move:

  • Current employee knowledge from ‘I don’t know our strategy’ to ‘I know where we are going’
  • Current employee attitude from ‘I’m scared I’ll lose my job’ to ‘I’m excited about my future’
  • Current employee action from ‘I just do what I’m told’ to ‘I proactively shape my work to help the company meet its goals.’

Clear, positive messages give a clear and positive direction.

If you do not have a strategic plan, staff may feel demotivated and suspicious. You could spend a lot of time and money on communications, but still find staff uncommunicative or feeding the rumor mill. Think strategically and craft clear messages and make your communications work for you.

This is part 3 in the 11 part Series: Tips to Communicate Change Effectively to Staff

This series is based on an article by Communications specialist Sarah Perry. Sarah is a Director of Snap Communications,, a company which provides specialist Internal Communications tools and Employee Communications Solutions.