By Andrea Jastrebski

Now that we’re one year into the pandemic, communication continues to gain emphasis as a change agent in the places we work and for the clients we work with. Changing plans are likely to be in the queue and timely responses are going to remain among the expected from stakeholders. Frequent, two-way, forward-looking communication will continue to be highlighted as we move through the rest of 2021. As facilitators of communication, it’s our responsibility to continue to ensure those who rely on us most have the best and most accurate information.

To help organizations and clients sustain communication in their change initiatives, I’ve put together five tips for making change communication in 2021 most effective. In the book Change Happens by Dr. Beth Page, communication is highlighted as part of a five-part model to guide any change initiative and the following tips are a nod to the book and identified experts in the field of change communication leadership. 

Communicators toolbox facilitating a strategic change in 2021.
  1. Continue to Communicate Frequently.
    • In communications, it’s known that messages need to be heard multiple times in a variety of formats for them to land. Page (2020) explains that, before, during, and after a change is not the time for decelerating communication. Amidst a change (perhaps like the one we’re in now) is the best time to consistently monitor and balance the frequency of communication while ensuring that messages make their way to those who need to hear them. 
  1. Use Two-way Symmetrical Communication to Your Advantage. 
    • We see, we hear, we respond! This is the mantra of two-way symmetrical communication. Anticipating, monitoring and responding are the best ways to ensure that the right communication is ready for any stakeholder. Channels of feedback continue to be a great resource now—they offer the questions that need answers and messages. By setting-out to generate two-way symmetrical communication it becomes easier to lead change. Feedback received strengthens relationships and reputation, creates mutual understanding, accommodates stakeholder needs, and persuades audiences because of the equal emphasis on listening and responding. 
  1. Highlight and Facilitate Space for Social Relationships.
    • Research shows that social relationships are a major structural component of organizational communication. Planned change and changing environments limit building workplace relationships, and resistance or disengagement could be a product of newness. These days there is a big disruption to the capacity to socialize at work. Planning casual social moments (in-person or digital) are another way for leaders and consultants to listen. Simple ways to connect are valued more than ever, and having a plan for this type of casual communication will in 2021 recall attention.
  1. Remember that Certainty is Difficult to Achieve.
    • If change is our “new normal”, then adopting a consistent communication approach that works during periods of change serves organizations well. Even if the information is unclear or imprecise, choosing to communicate, even in the absence of full information, helps avoid the pitfall of information lack. Right now, some information is not certain, but it can be addressed from a place of vulnerability and perhaps even the heart. 
  1. Keep Choosing Candor over Charisma.
    • We’ve learned that openness is never more important than in a crisis/pandemic. Continue to be honest about where things stand, and show vulnerability where it exists. Maintained transparency and loyalty are outcomes of great communication in the past year and certainly can be strong points of leverage for maintaining culture and trustworthiness in the year to come. Continue to focus on what’s been achieved and what’s yet to come. The momentum is there!

While we can’t slow change or prevent it, we can plan for it. The tips included are simply reminders of what is working for communicating change, and are intended to give us a moment to pause and to reflect on our current plans to applaud success or perhaps integrate strategy where relevant. Change is a continuous process with various developments over time – communication is essential to helping efforts succeed! 

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