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Three Ways to Use Communication to Break Through Barriers in Change Initiatives

There are many barriers to implementing change – both for the organization and the individual. Examples of barriers to implementing change are:

Organizational barriers

Individual barriers

  • Past change initiatives that went poorly or failed
  • Lack of engaging of employees
  • Lack of sufficient communications/ failure to communicate effectively
  • Lack of executive support for change
  • Too much else going on within and/or external to the workplace
  • Fear of loss of jobs, reduced responsibilities, being irrelevant
  • Lack of awareness of the need for change
  • Stuck in a “that is how we always do things” mode

Three Ways to Use Communication to Break Through Barriers in Change InitiativesIt is important for change leaders to understand that barriers do exist and to identify what those barriers are – both at the organizational and individual level – prior to communicating about and implementing the change initiative. Once there is an understanding of what barriers may exist – either actual or perceived – use this information to tailor communications about change.

Here are three ways to use communication to break through barriers in change initiatives:

  • If there are past failures around change within the organization, acknowledge those failures in communications or face-to-face meetings as well as what will be done differently this time around (what lessons were learned). Use this time to engage individuals in what they would do differently to ensure a successful change initiative. When employees feel a part of the change, they are more likely to adopt the change and be engaged throughout the initiative.
  • Communications should happen before the initiative is started, with a focus on providing the who, what, when and why of the change project. Communications should be in a variety of formats, including in-person, and should focus on the benefits of the change from the perspective of the organization but also, and even more importantly, from the perspective of the individuals in the organization. In initial communications, arrange for time for small group or one-on-one sessions to enable those who need more individual time to chat about the change to do so. Follow up sessions via department, small group or virtual meetings enables those who need to process the information to do so and then come back to you with their questions, concerns or ideas.
  • Develop a communication strategy early on that enables for communications, via a variety of channels, throughout the change initiative and after implementation. The goal is to regularly communicate what is happening, when it is happening and progress, as well as issues that are being addressed. This keeps employees engaged in what is happening and enables for them to continue to feel a part of the change through sharing their thoughts and ideas.