Eximia — How Clear Communication Can Ease the Transition to New Software
When we think of change in the workplace, we often link it to big events like a merger with another company or a shift to hybrid working.
But introducing new software for compliance or share plan purposes can be just as much of an upheaval for people.
You know the new platform is great news. It will empower colleagues by allowing them to control and manage their share plans or insider obligations themselves. It has bigger and better features and promises more intuitive functionality for users.
So why do some people resist it? Why won’t they give it a chance and realise the benefits?
The people part: bring them along on the change journey
When companies migrate to new software, the focus often falls on the migration process, data integrity and timescales. One of the most important aspects — ensuring your people engage with it — can easily get overlooked.
Yet introducing a new admin portal for share plan participants or software for insider management involves asking people to change from a system or process they know and are comfortable with, to something new and different.
We humans are creatures of habit with a fear of the unknown. We don’t like change and prefer to stick with what’s familiar even if we’re promised something better. Any change, no matter how many benefits it might bring, can have a psychological impact on a person. How much, will depend on the individual’s personality and free mental space to absorb a new process.
Psychology underpins how people will respond to workplace change. Understanding this can help leaders predict how specific groups are likely to react to a new situation. They can then choose the right approach to smooth the journey from resistance to acceptance.
The psychology of change
The change curve is a model that can help us understand the psychology behind change. It’s based on the emotions of grief identified by psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler Ross in the 1960s. These are shock and denial, anger and fear, bargaining, acceptance and optimism.
When change takes place, people may go through some or all the above feelings, at different rates and levels of intensity. How they experience it depends on the impact it has on them personally — a positive change for one person might mean a loss of status or security for another — and how easily their personality adapts to change.
Leading people through the change curve is complex because different people need different support at different times.
It isn’t enough to name the emotions. You need to empathise with what your colleagues are feeling in order to help and support them through each stage.
Some people may be angry, and not convinced about the benefits the software can bring. They’re reluctant to part with the old way and ignore the communications and training in favour of the status quo. People in this phase need a meaningful message, promoting the positives the change will bring so they can appreciate how it will affect their lives directly. Doing this is likely to make them more receptive and willing to listen and engage.
Once a person has been supported to resolve any difficult emotions that may arise, they move into the acceptance phase. At this point, they’re usually more positive about the change and ready to accept it and engage.
Keeping the information flowing in a clear, logical way that addresses your colleagues’ journey through the change curve is imperative.
And this brings us to the next step in successful change management — good communication.
Don’t assume: it makes an ass of u and me
When playwright George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion it has taken place” he could have been talking about any area of modern business.
Strong communication is a fundamental factor underpinning the success of change programmes. And that starts by not making assumptions that people already know about it. When you know something back to front and inside out, it can be easy to forget what it’s like to not know it and have no context. Communicators call that “the curse of knowledge”.
Communication can be complex. It involves an exchange of ideas through various mediums according to what’s most suitable for each group you are targeting. You need to really know your audience and their challenges, so you can give the right people the right information, at the right time, in the right format.
Mapping the change curve and establishing the communications you need at each stage can help create certainty in the process. It’s important to acknowledge and address people’s concerns when they’re in the negative stages of the curve. Take the time to explain the thinking behind the new platform to help overcome resistance.
Providing clear, simple steps and timescales can reassure colleagues the changes are indeed tolerable and alleviate their anxiety over the unknown. It might help if you imagine you’re explaining it to a teenager — you know they’re smart enough to understand it, but you don’t expect them to have prior knowledge or even the enthusiasm necessary to embrace it.
Communications at the seed stage
To really bring your people on the journey, and help them navigate the change curve, you should develop your communications plan at the beginning of your software migration programme. Give equal weight to the human element of your project through effective communication, as that given to other matters like the technical side and costs. In doing so, you’ll significantly increase the likelihood of your people engaging with it.
It also helps to keep the communications and engagement going post-migration to monitor and build on its success. Check statistics and listen to colleague feedback. Then produce bitesize communications off the back of this learning and post these regularly so you keep momentum.
In all communications, try to keep the following in mind:
- Use simple words and short sentences that are easy to follow for people with a million other things on their mind.
- Set out the objectives of the software change and give context as to why it’s taking place.
- Provide opportunities for people to ask questions, seek clarification and share feedback. Using internal social channels can be an easy way to achieve this.
- The method(s) in which the message is delivered should be easily accessible to all and consistent — before, throughout and after the period of change.
- Ensure you use a mix of digital and offline communication methods — giving people the opportunity to read, listen and watch, whichever works best for them.
- Try to find early adopters to champion the software. This can positively influence and persuade people into a more open-minded approach.
- Consider employees’ mindset — they’ll only alter their behaviour once they’re at the acceptance stage of the change curve. You may wish to segment your audience, and communicate differently, depending on their stage in the change curve.
Do you have a change on the horizon and need some help?
Eximia is a creative employee communications consultancy founded by Fellow Chartered Company Secretary, Chrissie Davis. Her team specialises in simplifying the complex to ensure the messages about share plans and insider obligations are translated in an accessible way for anyone to understand, easily and effectively.
When you’ve spent time, energy and budget on new software, don’t miss a key piece of the puzzle. Good communications mean better value — fewer queries, greater empowerment and maximum colleague engagement.