CQU Project Management education

Orientation and communication to support staff through change

Elissa Farrow
June 3, 2013

I have already discussed the need for managers to have support themselves to best support their staff. Here, I emphasise that managers need to inform, orientate and engage staff and that managers need to reinforce change with effective communication.

Please note I will use the term manager to cover team leaders, managers, directors, executives, senior executives and C-level executives.

Good change managers know that effective communication is critical in any change process. Another key success factor is that staff affected by change need to have an opportunity to participate. That participation may not be in the form of being able to negotiate against the change or to change the strategy, but certainly staff need avenues to participate in decisions that affect them. Being informed and involved will bring benefits to the change process in the form of collaborating rather than resisting in the change process.

  • Managers need to be clear on who needs to be consulted and communicated.
  • Managers need to keep people informed of ongoing changes focusing on the what, when, why and how.
  • Managers need to identify with and leverage obvious staff leaders (they may not be managers, but staff who are popular, thought leaders and/or vocal).
  • Managers need to provide opportunities to express their feelings, raise concerns and have questions answered.
  • Managers need to ensure their messages are in line with the corporate change processes so that local staff are getting messages contextualised for them but still in line with the corporate/organisational change message and process.

With any change, even if it is moving offices from one building to another, staff need to be orientated to the reasons behind the change and the new environment they are moving to. This change needs to be reinforced by a manager using effective communication.

Change messages communicated verbally or in writing need to follow a few basic principles:

  • Key messages need to be repeated five to seven times
  • The ‘whats in it for me’ needs to be answered
  • Don’t rely just on project team or change manager communication; the most effective messages come from the line manager
  • Answer the questions of why is the change happening
  • Be visible and listen to your employees
  • Ensure multiple channels exist and ensure two-way communication opportunities, including face-to-face opportunities, are created
  • Consider the cultural needs to staff (are interpreters required? Does culturally sensitive language and/or protocol need to be considered?)
  • Assess the effectiveness of communication: don’t assume the communication has been effective until you have tested understanding

I will cover the critical role of a manager’s need to sensitively manage the emotional responses of their staff in a separate post.

Elissa Farrow
Elissa Farrow is the founder of About Your Transition, a business specialising in strategy development and implementation, the Director of Ethics of the International Institute of Project Coaching and the Global Secretary for the Change Management Institute. With extensive experience in strategic organisational change, portfolio, program and project management in the public, commercial and not-for-profit sectors, she has assisted organisations in increasing their delivery maturity by implementing enterprise-wide methodology and building the capability of the people who use them.
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