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Communicating During an Organizational Change

Dr. Carol A. Beatty, Queen's University IRC
Publication date: November, 2015
Communicating During an Organizational Change

Most experts would agree that communication is a vital ingredient in successful change initiatives, and there is much research to support this assertion. My own research revealed a very high correlation between change success and communications efforts (Pearson correlation r = 0.567, significant at the 0.01 level). Furthermore, it has also been shown that ineffective internal communication is a major contributor to the failure of change initiatives.(1) For example, Sally Woodward and Chris Hendry surveyed 198 employees in U.K. financial services institutions undergoing change and asked them to specify the barriers to change.(2) Two of the six barriers identified were: lack of adequate communications (not being kept informed, receiving conflicting messages, wanting to understand but not being given explanations) and lack of consultation. In my view, expert communication is indispensable when persuading people to support change. Some researchers even claim that the essence of change is communication; that is, that communication produces change rather than merely serving as one tool in its implementation.(3)

Communication efforts during a large change project attempt to persuade stakeholders to adopt a new view of the future, but before they can arrive at this new conviction, three things must be absolutely clear to them: the “why,” “what” and “how” of the change.

The importance of answering the “why” questions is backed by much empirical research. For example, Paul Nutt, in his study of major change at a hospital setting, found that employees were more likely to accept the change if they felt it was justified.(4)

>> This paper is one chapter from Dr. Carol A. Beatty’s e-book, The Easy, Hard & Tough Work of Managing Change. The complete e-book is now available on our website at no charge: Download