Communication – the Missing Link to Managing Change

This is a summary of an article recently published in the CIPD Ireland magazine, People Focus. For the full article, please click on the link below.

If organisations fail to engage their employees about the need to change, they may find that they are not in a position to take advantage of the upturn in the economic environment that will eventually  emerge. This is beyond survival; this is about businesses being in a position where they can anticipate the next economic upswing or miss it altogether.

Front line managers are the key to communicating with employees regarding the need for change.  While leadership from the top is vital, senior executives are too far removed from the front line for the message to have a lasting impact.  Employees will look to their direct manager for the real lead on change.  Organisations need to ask whether their front line managers understand their role in bringing about change let alone whether they have the skills to properly communicate a difficult message.


If front line managers are not fully engaged into both the communication and change processes, any momentum gained by senior management will stall.  For managers to properly communicate with their team, they need to be given an understanding of the change that they are expected to bring about including why the change is occurring, what will change and how will staff be affected.  How this message is transmitted is as important as what is transmitted.  Managers need to remember that people will hear what they expect to hear and that if it’s possible for something to be misunderstood, it will be.  Some simple steps that managers can follow to maximise the effectiveness of their communication are outlined in Anne Field’s artice in Harvard Management Communication Letter (Winter 2005):

1.    Adapt their communication style to the needs of the individual

2.    Read body language and pay attention to vocal dynamics

3.    Be sensitive to context

4.     Don’t ignore the details

5.     Listen

Change is not a 50-yard race; it is a marathon (Katter and Cohen, HBS, 2002).  It is not enough to announce that the change is taking place; organisations need to engage with their employees again and again to ensure that the momentum for change continues.  Employees will look to their own manager to determine the effect that the change will have on them; if the manager does not appear to act as if the change is important, the employees will not believe that it will impact upon them.  To bring about lasting change requires engagement by all levels of the organisation not just a series of announcements from the top.

If you would like to read the full article, click here:

One Response to Communication – the Missing Link to Managing Change

  1. […] manage, service their customers and are staffed in order to survive.   However, as I have written previously, how organisations manage this change with their employees is key to its success.  An additional […]

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