Why clear communication is the key to effective change management

Image for Rich Dawson By Rich Dawson

Bringing a new system into your agency can seem a great idea to you. But unless you get everyone on board, you could face some unexpected challenges…

So, you’ve decided your agency needs an overhaul. Some more streamlined systems and more efficient processes. You’ve done your research and found the one. It’s going to change everything for the better. You get it installed, then tell your teams to ditch what’s familiar and start using something new. Something they didn’t even know could be happening until now, when it actually is.

It’s unlikely you’ll be met with the response you’re hoping for. In fact, you’re more likely to get a few blank looks and mumblings about adding more work into already busy schedules, changing things for no reason, not having anything better to do…

That’s because this is a big change for your agency and change needs management.

Really, it all comes down to communication. It’s about raising awareness that a new system is coming and being clear on the reasons why. Explain the business goals and what you’re hoping to achieve. But also, sharing what’s in it for them. How will it improve everybody’s day-to-day? You need buy-in from the whole team, otherwise you’ll have a half-heartedly used system that isn’t delivering the positive change you hoped for.

On the whole, choosing a system, or indeed whether to implement a new one, belongs to senior management and key decision makers. Consulting the whole agency will prove a headache of a task as, despite best intentions, you’ll face so many conflicting ideas and opinions. It’s really as simple as communicating that you’ve found a solution to ‘our current challenges’ and ‘here’s how this new system can resolve that’.

Take this as an opportunity to empower your teams. Give them an understanding of what will improve for them and explain how each department fits into each stage of the process. Gaining an initial buy-in will likely remove any potential friction or resistance further down the line, so you can ensure everyone’s getting the most out of the new system.

How to communicate change with your teams

The best way to do this will vary depending on your company culture. But most agencies aren’t particularly ‘corporate’ and prefer to keep things like this pretty informal. Some do say that pizza and beers go hand-in-hand the most productive sessions… Change can often feel daunting so the way you introduce/implement it really sets the tone for its success. Team day out anybody?!

Another good idea is to appoint ‘champions’ who are closer to those who will be using the system. Creatives might not want to go to an ops director to ask a question, but may feel more comfortable with their account director, for example.

Some agencies put together mini internal marketing campaigns with ‘coming soon’ materials to create a buzz that a new system is on the horizon. It doesn’t matter how you do it, just make sure everyone knows it’s happening. The absolute worst thing you can do is send people to a training session where they don’t know what the system is or why they’re doing the training. You’ll just end up with unhappy people and confused trainers.

Being open really is the key. Making everyone feel part of the decision and part of the process, not that you’re trying to sneak something in around the back.

Planning the change

Once you’ve laid the foundations for change, you need to create a realistic plan to bring all these changes to fruition. This really boils down to deliverables and deadlines, who’s involved and who’s accountable.

Share this information with everyone so they have access to a timeline that details where they fit in and when. Keep on reiterating why you’re doing this. It can seem repetitive, but it’s so important and will soon become second nature. Remember to keep homing in on the benefits it brings to each job role, what positive impacts they can expect to see and how it will help improve their working lives.

Having a communication channel that offers an open space to ask questions specific to this process or change is also something worth having. And when it’s time for implementation and roll out, you can use this platform for updates about training days, workshops or general knowledge sharing.

After rollout, the next step is adoption, and this is a really important phase. Just because the implementation phase is done, it doesn’t mean it’s over! Now it’s down to champions and senior managers to keep motivation high so people don’t run back to their old ways of working. Carry out weekly catch ups; see if people are having any challenges. Nine times out of ten these are a quick fix. But you need to actively ask about this, as it’s unlikely people will come to you.

Keep reviewing and analysing, so you can see what you’ve achieved, how successful things are, what KPIs you’ve met and what you still need to do, so you can tweak your system and processes accordingly. Share your findings and celebrate the wins. Don’t switch off communication now your system is switched on.

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