Checklist for Internal Communications During a Change

When buzzwords come at the expense of understanding

When a company is ondergoing change, there are mostly communication and marketing plans to communicate these changes. Those plans are mostly focussed on an external target group. However, in a time of working remotely and fast market developments, innovation us crucial to be able to stay ahead of the competition. Therefore, the internal target audience should not be forgotten when making plans to communicate a (strategical) change. But how?


The past months have shown: digitalization is more important than ever. But especially during digital transofrmations, most companies fall back on the marketing and communications plans mentioned above. But the past months have also shown that focus on the internal audience of a company is more important than ever - after all, engaged and knowledgeable employees are one of the best marketing tools a company can have. It's only logical that good internal communication is needed to encourage innovation from within the company.


Checklist for Internal Communication During Change

It is important to realise that any change, for example a strategic change or digital transformation, stands or falls with the acceptance of the change of the employees. The 'internal customer' of the company needs to change their behaviour and work with the change on a daily basis, no matter if it is a change in IT, strategy, HR or product development. If the employees do not accept and embrace the change, any company has a hard time to implement it successfully.


Therefore, change managers, project managers and / or consultants should always take their internal customers into account during any change process.


Internal communication makes or breaks any change project. Just sending out a short intranet message or one management webinar is mostly not enough. Especially when it comes to structural changes, paying more attention to the internal audience is crucial. Having a good internal communication plan is key. That's why we created a checklist for internal communication during a change based on our experience!


Organisational Perspective: Focus on the Problem


Or as Albert Einstein put it: 'If I had an hour to solve a problem, I'd spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.'


What does it actually mean when an organisation is facing change? It means that the current situation changes, including the daily business as your employees know it. It might be a small change, but it might also affect them more structurally. But in any way, it changes something. First things first: Define and clarify what the change means for your organisation. To which degree is the change business-critical? Why is it important for the company that the change is successful? And what happens if your employees do not support the change?


Gap Analysis: The Difference Between your Starting Point and Your Goal


Knowing your final destination is crucial when it comes to (internal) communication. Where do you want to take your target audience? Why haven't you done it yet? And where are you right now? Once you set your starting point and goal, you can start mapping out the road to get where you want to be.


To get to your goal, you need motivation and a good level of knowledge amongst the people you want to get with you, in this case your employees. Make sure to identify the 'motivational gaps' and 'knowledge gaps'. How? Ask yourself if the destination, need of information and expectations are the same for everyone. 


Once you know the motivational and knowledge gaps of your target audience, you have a clear picture of what you need to reach your goal. And you also gain insights of how complex the change project is about to become.


Target Audience: Think Like Them, Not Like the Management.

One of the biggest pitfalls in internal communication is to keep thinking from the perspective of the management. In other words: It might be perfectly clear to the management, why it is necessary to implement a change, while the employees do not see this yet. They have a different starting point and might need a different approach or motivation.


You will need to start thinking like your target audience. You could work with personas to define which information they will need. This is nothing new when it comes to external communication for a product launch, but for some reason this approach is hardly ever used in internal communication.


Creating a persona basically means to create a kind of fictional personification of your target audience. Who is your target audience, what do they do on a daily basis and how will they react to certain information? Personas make it easier to think like the target audience. As a result, you will be able to communicate to them on their terms, which will eventually make your communication more effective and purposeful. 


Employee Journey: Communicate the Right Information at the Right Time


Timing is key. You need to communicate the right information at the right time to really reach your target audience. Make it easier by creating an employee journey. The end of this employee journey is your goal: Where do you want to be once the change has successfully been implemented? Identify the steps the target audience needs to take to get there.

Let's look at an example to clarify this step: 


Goal: Canteen needs to be cleaner.

Target audiences: Administrative employee & cleaning staff


Do both target audiences need the same information to reach the goal? The answer is no: 


Target audience 1: Administrative employee

The administrative employee's daily work has nothing to do with the goal. Cleaning the kitchen is not directly his or her task. He or she will need more arguments to be convinced to contribute to the goal (by, for example, putting used cups in the dishwasher) and will probably ask why they do need to help to reach the goal.


Target audience 2: Cleaning staff

For the cleaning staff, the goal is very clear, as cleaning the canteen is already part of their daily business. Therefore, there is hardly any need to explain the why to them. They rather need instructions to know how they are supposed to reach the goal.


After you figured out that both audiences need a differenct kind of information, you should ask yourself if you can reach everyone in the same way. What is the right time and channel per target audience? The answer to this question can be as diverse as the question if they need the same kind of information. Depending on the change you are aiming for, one target group might profit from an e-learning while another one needs an instruction video. Although we have to admit that an e-learning might be a little over the top for the goal of a clean canteen.


Success: Predetermine Success and Optimise your Results


Obviously, you know your final goal and you are working towards it. But at what point have you achieved it and can you call it a success? Make sure to define what reaching your goal means in advance. Set achievable goals (including steps to get there) to reduce the complexity of the project.


No matter how big or small your internal communication campaign is, you will need to make your activities measurable to determine if the campaign was successful. As soon as it is measurable, you will be able to gain relevant insights that help you to improve your strategy and ensure efficiency. 



The central question of the communication of every change process therefore remains: What do your target audiences need to reach the goal in terms of knowledge and motivation? Once you have answered that question, you can proceed to identify what you need to get the message across successfully to those different target audiences and make your success measurable.


Good luck with communicating your change project!


Het is ‘de’ vraag voor goed changemanagement: hoe kun je het gedrag van een groep mensen beïnvloeden? Onno Rompa trekt een parallel met de recente presidentsverkiezingen.

Focussing on internal target audiences is crucial to make change successful. Curious about how we can help you to achieve your goals? Learn more about our consultancy service to design and roll out an efficient communication strategy!

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