Internal Communications in Change Management:
Start with Asking Why

05 March 2021

Change Management


The biggest challenge in change management is to communicate the right message to the right internal target audience at the right time by using the most effective channels. After all, if you want your employees to accept the change and work with it, you need to communicate your message successfully. However, you should always take into account that we are all different. That also applies to your internal target audience. They might not start at the same knowledge level, or they might have different information needs. To ensure that your message still reaches all of them, we think that it is crucial to 'Start with Why', as Simon Sinek puts it.


Let's start with the basics: We all process information differently. That certainly also applies to your internal target audience in change management. Depending on the phase the target audience is in, they might need different approaches or information. Basically, there are three different phases: the why-, what- and how-phase: 


Why is this important?
What does this change mean?
How can I contribute?

As you can see, the first question is always 'why'. And therefore, it is crucial to answer this question first in internal communication when it comes to a change project. Or to put it in other words: The likeliness of an employee accepting the upcoming change and acting accordingly decreases significantly if you do not explain to him or her why it is important first. Answerring the 'why'-question creates understanding for the importance of a project and triggers intrinsic motivation to contribute. And to successfully implement change, you need your employees to go along.


Sounds logical, right? Good, because it's getting more complicated: Before you start communicating, you should also realize that your employees might be different target audiences. As mentioned above, everybody processes information differently, and their starting points might differ. Why one department might already understand the why and be motivated, another might be rather negative about the upcoming change. To convince them, you need different approaches.


Let's suppose you want to implement a new software that employees around the globe will need to actively use every day. Somebody working in the IT department of your company will need different information than a member of the management team or an administrative employee. Probably, it's easier to answer the why question for the management team, because they understand the need of the company to innovate. However, don't make the mistake on focussing only on the 'how' when communicating to the rest of the employees. Because that won't motivate them as much as the answer to the 'why' question.


Consider the Needs of your Employees First 

Put yourself in the shoes of your employees. Instead of just getting instructions, wouldn't it be nice to understand why the new software needs to be implemented? Not only for the company, but also for the employees themselves. In the end, the answer to that question also tells them why they should actively support the change project.


Only after that, you might want to know what exactly will change for you. What does the implementation of a new software mean for your daily work? And what are the expectations when it comes to your behaviour? Are you supposed to follow a workshop or e-learning to learn how to use the software? Should you block time in your agenda for the implementation? And should you just sit and wait or participate actively?


Once these questions have been answered, the focus shifts to the how: concrete instructions on how to use the new software. How can you log in and how are you supposed to use it on a daily basis? It's only now that your employees actually need detailed instructions on how to work with the software.


Obviously, most change management projects are not this easy. There are more factors playing a role to successfully implement the change throughout your entire (inter)nationally operating company. Therefore, we also indicate six change management indicators: identifiers that determine the size and complexity of the communication challenge in front of you. By categorizing them, you can quickly create an overview to compare the complexity of the change per internal target group. This helps you to identify the need of information per group and define your internal communication strategy.


Start with 'Why?'

In the end it all comes down to knowing the phase your target audience is in. Do they understand the 'why' of your change project already? Have they received more information about what the change means for them? Only then, you can communicate how it's going to happen. By jumping one of the phases of informaton processing, you decrease your chances to rely on the intrinsic motivation of your employees. That's not how you manage behavioural change throughout your entire company (or even only certain departments). If the employees do not feel involved, they are less willing to support the change. It's as easy as that.


This is just what is currently happening in the internal communication world.


Although this all sounds pretty logical, this is exactly what is going wrong in internal communication today. While in external communications, companies design customer journeys to optimise their marketing, the funnel of the employee is not taking into account when communicating internally. If you only communicate one of the phases, you leave your employees with questions. They might not know what is expected from them or not understand why the change is important. And instead of supporting it, they might end up doing nothing to help it.


While we often see a focus on the why-question when it comes to strategic changes, technical changes are often implemented by focussing on the how-question. In the first case, employees miss information on what is expected from them and how the change will be implemented. In the second case, they might not understand the reasons for the change and what their active role is in this. Especially in combination with the neglect of different knowledge levels and target groups, this kind of internal communication is mostly not very successful. While companies expect the employees to contribute a full 100% to any upcoming change, they do not fully acknowledge their needs. Not really fair, don't you think?


Communicating the right information at the right moment is therefore the only way to ensure effective internal communication. Your internal target groups will thank you by supporting your change project more actively.

Curious about what we can do for you? Get in touch with our Consultancy team who will help you to design and rollout an effective (internal) communication strategy.

our partners

Thousands of happy Funk-e clients...