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Communication vital in change management, study finds


Nine in ten HR professionals rate clear communication as the most important factor when managing change, according to research by FleishmanHillard and Bernard Hodes.

The report, Organisational change: what really counts, asked more than 150 HR professionals their views on the biggest contributors to successful change management. Communicating the 'why' behind the change (91%) and the 'how' (88%) were quoted as the most significant drivers. 

HR professionals also rated clarity of the desired outcomes highly as a measure for success, with 85% citing this as important. 

Sixty percent rated gaining buy-in and engagement from stakeholders as the most important factors. External perception (51%) also scored a lot lower than communication and 59% see managing cross-functional working and collaboration as key to driving change, leading to FleishmanHillard's London managing director Richard Kanareck to question HR professionals' handling of change management.

"Of course organisations need to be transparent when communicating and managing change," he said. "But unless the programme is connected, consistent and engaging across multiple groups, it’s unlikely to truly land.”

Martin Cook, principal consultant for organisational change at Bernard Hodes, called the belief that change programmes can succeed through clear communication alone an "anachronism".

“As organisations deal with increasingly complex change based on the globalised nature of customers and markets, the more traditional ways of managing change, based on rationality and control, will yield diminishing returns," he said.