A Communicator’s Role in Change Management

, , , October 26, 2017

Deepak Chopra said, “every great change is preceded by chaos”. While in many cases this can be true, imagine if there was a way to mitigate the confusion, resistance, and uncertainty of change. Well, there is. Through my company’s professional development program I was fortunate to attend the Prosci Change Management certification program, an immersive course which focuses on the people side of change. Whether it’s the implementation of a new technology or a corporate restructure – it was clear by the end of my three days that concentrating effort on the human side of organizational change addresses barriers at the onset and gets employees on board faster. This is not only good for morale; it also ensures businesses successfully realize objectives.

And the time is right for organizations to start looking at change differently. An emerging approach being used by organizations around the world (including one of our clients) is the joining of forces between communications and HR departments. The idea that these two functions should work hand in hand to effectively manage internal change is a ground-breaking and effective strategy that taps into employees – a company’s largest external advocacy group. These individuals are entrenched in every facet of a corporate culture and now have multiple platforms to use for both praise and criticism. If organizations don’t handle this communication well, employees can torpedo any change and impact external brand reputation.

So what’s the secret to change management? There is no golden ticket (people are people) but Jeffrey M. Hiatt, a pioneer in the industry, developed the ADKAR® Model and it comes pretty close. After decades of research and real-world application (who can argue with numbers?), Hiatt identified a framework of five building blocks that consistently deliver results, no matter what the organizational structure. This model reflects the natural order of how individuals experience change and works to mitigate the most common reaction to it – which is resistance.

AWARENESS of the need for change (business ROI, risks of not changing)

DESIRE to participate and support the change (What’s In It For Me?)

KNOWLEDGE on how to change (skills, training and education)

ABILITY to implement the required skills and behaviour (demonstrated capabilities, action)

REINFORCEMENT® to sustain the change

In his book ADKAR: A Model for Change in Business, Government and Our Community, Hiatt states that change will break down if an element of the framework is weak. So, using this model you can “assess and identify barrier points to change, and use a variety of methods to address it early on – and course correct in a way that leads to success earlier in the process.” In other words, you have an assessment of risks going into implementation to increase employee speed of adoption, utilization, and proficiency.

What does this mean for the modern communicator?

According to Prosci’s 2015 Best Practices in Change Management benchmarking study, which includes feedback from 1,120 participants from 56 countries, one of the most important activities at the beginning of engagement is to strategize for effective and efficient early communication and establish a communications plan quickly to develop common language.

My Top Three Takeaways
  1. Gain Senior Leadership Support – communicating change requires a visible, vocal and available executive sponsor.
  2. Develop Tailored Messaging – focus on the impact for employees (not just the business); ask the question of “what’s in it for me” for every level, department and even individual.
  3. Communicate Frequently – use the right channels at the right time; and keep the information flowing. Choose the right messenger for the message (senior sponsor / immediate supervisor).

With deep roots in brand strategy, reputation management, stakeholder relations and corporate leadership the modern communicator can play a strategic role in the management of organizational change. We have the natural ability to work closely with human resource teams to apply the principles of our trade in a very dynamic way. With the right approach and partners, change can be positive, exciting and lead to greater business and personal success and satisfaction.


  1. Catharine Heddle

    Congratulations on your certification, Stacey! I have done this program too, and have found it tremendously helpful in my work in employee communications.