3/2/2015 | Chuck Leddy

Change can create insecurity within your business as members of your staff seek to understand what it means for them. Rumors and anxiety may run rampant, making change management a challenge. Combat this by anticipating the organizational apprehension and controlling it with clear, consistent internal communications that answer your staff's burning questions.

4 Ways to Use Internal Communications to Manage Change at Your Midmarket Company

Though your business's leaders will be hard at work developing a strategy behind the latest change, they still need to clearly exemplify the initiative's goals throughout the organization. If your official channels of communication aren't operating well, the grapevine will start working in overdrive. Effective internal communications thus need to be a central means of helping your employees understand how the change will impact their work. This should help to align employee efforts and engagement with the change.

Consistent communication reduces individual and organizational anxiety and helps pave the way for shared success during change implementation, but it can't be tackled with a one-size-fits-all approach. Communication is "a complex process that must be addressed from many angles to achieve the best results," says Jo-Anne Facey, an HR consultant for Mercer. By the same token, "Poor communication is repeatedly cited as a key contributor in the failure of major change efforts."

Here are four essential components to properly communicating changes:

  1. Leaders and managers need to fully understand how the change fits. There should be a granular understanding concerning why the change is necessary and how it will be executed, fitting the initiative into the middle market company's overall strategic goals. In order to answer questions and potential objections from employees about the change, managers must be able to explain "the why," thus placing the message into a wider context and showing the impact and consequences for employees as individuals and for the organization as a whole. How will the change help your people and your company? Leaders and managers need to own the answer to this big question.
  2. Establish the right message and the right messengers for communication. Invest time and effort into reasons and expectations surrounding the change that the entire executive team has signed off on. Delegate some communication to the right messengers. If the message impacts a single project, for example, the project manager may be the right person to deliver it. If it impacts the entire organization, then a top executive of your company would be a better choice.
  3. Tailor messages for relevance to individual recipients and their work. One size does not fit all, and each employee may perceive the change differently. Personalize communication as much as possible. Engaging employees is a two-way street that requires managers to listen, take in feedback and deliver that feedback to leaders when appropriate. Departments, teams and individual employees all interact differently, and it's important to take those differences into account — especially in the midmarket realm, where it's possible to consider individual messaging because of the manageable amount of employees.
  4. Provide the correct channel to optimize communication. A message is linked to the manner in which it is communicated, so managers have to weigh carefully the channels that will optimize a message's impact. For example, bad news is best delivered face-to-face in a private setting. If it's necessary to gain buy-in for change, a small group meeting that enables interaction may be best. Sometimes, a conference call or written communication will suffice. It all depends on the message, the recipients and the communication styles of all involved.

What is the most proper way to introduce major changes in phases (e.g., presenting the change to certain employees ahead of time before dispersing the information to everyone else) at your company? Let us know what you think by commenting below.

Boston-based Chuck Leddy is an NCMM contributor and a freelance reporter who contributes regularly to The Boston Globe and Harvard Gazette. He also trains Fortune 500 executives in business-communication skills as an instructor for EF Education. Circle him on Google+.