Why The Spiral Hub Programme is different
The science of communication: How to assess and reinforce change

In a world bustling with information and interaction, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking we’ve said enough, only to find our messages lost in translation. As George Bernard Shaw once wisely said, “The biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

Now, in the ever-evolving world of change management, effective communication is the glue that holds successful transformations together. So, if you’ve ever wondered why it seems like your messages fall on deaf ears, even when you’ve repeated them tirelessly, think about these eye-opening statistics: only 3% of people grasp a message the first time, and even the brightest minds (6% of intelligent people) still need to hear a message twice before they truly “get it”. It’s no wonder we encounter confusion and resistance to change when our communication isn’t up to par.

To make sure our messages land and stay with our audience we need to understand the science behind why we need to repeat messages:

The forgetting curve

Our brains have a remarkable ability to forget information rapidly, a phenomenon that Hermann Ebbinghaus, a German psychologist, illustrated through the “Forgetting Curve.” Ebbinghaus discovered that forgetting is most rapid immediately after learning new information. The steepest part of the curve occurs during the first hour or so after acquisition. After that, forgetting continues, but at a decreasing rate. While some information remains in our memory for the long term, without reinforcement, important information can slip away. So, to ensure your change messages stick. Repeat. Repeat. And repeat again.

The mere-exposure effect

To grasp why repetition is vital, we must also explore the “mere-exposure effect”. A concept first introduced and extensively researched by social psychologist Robert Zajonc. This psychological phenomenon suggests that repeated exposure to a message enhances our familiarity and comfort with it. When it comes to change management, creating familiarity with new initiatives is pivotal for successful adoption. Repetition builds a sense of comfort.

Assessing your change communication 

Now, let’s switch gears to the practical aspect of ensuring your messages hit the mark. Effective communication is more than just sending information; it’s about making sure your audience receives and understands it. 

My six steps to success:

Step #1: Define your objectives 

Effective communication begins with clear objectives. What do you want to achieve during the change process? Are you looking to become more sustainable, facilitate a smooth transition from one piece of software to the next, or be more efficient? Clearly articulated objectives serve as the foundation for measuring success.

When you’re passionate about what you want to achieve, there is often a tendency to talk at length and in detail about the change programme. This can make it very difficult for people to understand what is expected of them. Keep your communication simple and be clear about what people need to know. 

Bring your key messages to life with examples and be confident in pausing to allow space for people to ask questions.

Step #2: Audience analysis

Effective communication begins with understanding your audience. Different people have varying preferences and needs when it comes to information. Conduct a comprehensive audience analysis to tailor your messages to their expectations. Consider factors like preferred communication styles, channels of choice, and the specific concerns or questions they may have.

We all absorb information in different ways – through reading, listening, and watching. Bear this in mind when planning how you will communicate with the people in your business.  

Utilise face-to-face communication, such as daily stand-up meetings and all-staff briefings, and the written word, including newsletters and email. Bonus tip, consider video – a medium that gained popularity during the pandemic. Record short videos or staff briefings to turn a one-off communication into one that can be reused.

Step #3: Choose Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) 

Selecting the right Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) is essential to evaluate your change communication efforts. Examples of KPIs might include engagement rates, feedback volume, or observable behavioural changes. These metrics will guide your evaluation.

Step #4: Monitor and collect data 

Gathering real-time data is essential to gauge the effectiveness of your communication. Use tools, surveys, and feedback mechanisms to monitor how your audience reacts to your messages during the change journey.

Step #5: Analyse and interpret data 

Data is only as valuable as the insights you draw from it. Are engagement rates increasing? Is feedback predominantly positive, or are there recurring concerns? In this step, analyse and interpret the data you’ve collected to assess the impact of your communication efforts.

Step #6: Feedback loop and adjustment 

Remember that assessing change communication is not a one-off task but an ongoing process. 

Bear in mind not everyone is comfortable speaking in front of others, and many may need to digest and process the information before they can provide feedback. Use smaller team meetings and one-to-ones to ask people for their thoughts and to address their questions.  

It’s through feedback that you’ll discover whether your message has truly landed.

Incorporate feedback loops into your communication strategy. Allow space for audience input and use this feedback to adjust your communication approach. A continuous improvement cycle ensures that your messages remain relevant, and effective throughout the change journey.

Creating a communication plan

By following our six steps you will create a communications plan. Alternatively, feel free to use this plan to effectively map out communication with your internal and external stakeholders, enabling them to align with and contribute to achieving your vision.

Like what you’ve read and want more? Keep following our blog for more change management guidance and support.

You may also like …

Why The Spiral Hub Programme is different
The science of communication: How to assess and reinforce change
The power of the pause: How to supercharge your change journey 
Why business leaders must adapt their businesses for sustainability before it’s too late