When undertaking a major initiative or a technical implementation, clear communication is critical at every step of the way. Proactive communication helps you build buy-in and ease staff fears.
At Heller Consulting, we’ve road-tested different project communication techniques during large-scale nonprofit technology implementations, and we’ve found that an effective communication plan addresses users’ needs, allays concerns of different audience segments, ensures a two-way flow of information, and consistently reiterates the vision behind the initiative.
For mission-driven leaders, messaging about new technology needs to be purposeful. It is vital to consider who is the right voice within the organization to deliver various messages at different junctures so that information resonates with stakeholders.
The objective for leaders is to help staff successfully adjust to the technology change. Your job during a technology implementation is complex, but there are communication best practices that make sure your staff is on board and supported along the way.
Humans have been communicating since the beginning of time, but make no mistake, communication is a sophisticated process of information exchange. The source disseminates information, and the recipient interprets or decodes the message, their mutual understanding is shaped by past experiences, informed via a feedback loop, and disrupted by noise and distractions.
In planning your communication around technology change, we encourage you to carefully consider the needs of your internal audiences. Determine who is likely to be the most effective voice delivering information to them at various phases, and continuously adapt to the ever-evolving context.
The change you are undertaking may be technical in nature, but users’ responses to it are very human. Employing not only your knowledge on the subject but also emotional intelligence will help develop communication that is attuned to staff members’ reactions and concerns.
At the onset of any major initiative, consider different groups that will be impacted by the change.
Use these insights to help shape your messaging to different staff members.
Proactive planning is extremely beneficial, but communication must remain nimble and responsive. Establish formal and informal feedback loops to monitor if messages are resonating and what concerns need to be addressed.
Reminder: Communication comes in many different forms. It can be formal or informal. Information is disseminated in organization-wide announcements and one-on-one conversations. Information sharing and exchange can take the form of coaching, building empathy and accountability, and at times having difficult conversations. Communicating is not just about broadcasting out your message, but also about deep listening to build understanding.
When it comes to communication through technology change, the voice matters. Even if the message itself is the same, people will internalize and interpret information differently, depending on the source. It’s a mistake to assume that the manager in charge of the project should be delivering all communications relating to change.
So, who is the right messenger to share information so that it is well received?
Different individuals within the organizational structure have different roles to play. Employees prefer to hear business messages from the top, executive director, or the head of their department. These messages lay out a clear vision and direction, the business case for change, an explanation of external contributing factors, and potential risks of not changing. Establish upfront who is the champion and spokesperson for change.
One caveat to keep in mind, if your organization has a history of change gone awry, that may taint messages from leadership and should be considered in planning.
What does the change mean for me and my job and day-to-day responsibilities? How is my team impacted? What are the possible benefits for me?
When it comes to specific changes that impact their jobs, employees prefer to receive information directly from their managers because they have established relationships and trust. There is also a perception that a direct supervisor has a better awareness of their direct reports’ responsibilities and how impending changes will impact their work while someone higher up the chain of command would not have the same understanding.
Change fatigue can lead to a lack of user adoption — one of the most common reasons new process and technology implementations fail. By supporting your staff with effective communication techniques, you can improve team satisfaction with your project and reduce risk involved with the change.
Learn more key concepts, tips, and real-life examples of nonprofit change successes in Project Communication Plan for Technology Change.
Author: Kaia Swift
Kaia is currently the marketing manager at Heller Consulting, a technology consulting firm that specializes in nonprofit strategy. She enjoys telling the inspiring stories of Heller’s clients, who find new ways to use technology to better serve the world.