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Preparing employees for technological change

STUDENT PAPER

An investigation into what communication content employees want and how they want to receive it in the face of technological upheaval

By Charlotte Wallis

London, UK

 


 

  1. Introduction

Technological change is one of the biggest challenges faced by organisations as new technologies present new ways for companies to serve their clients. It is understood as the introduction of new software or processes that transform how employees work to increase efficiency and productivity in order to meet increasingly high customer expectations (Nordveng et al., 2008). Technological change involves transformation at the organisational and individual level and requires individuals to make changes to their behaviour (Law, 2009). Organisation X, a financial advisory firm, is considering introducing a new customer relationship management system (CRM) to achieve greater efficiency and productivity, despite perceived widespread scepticism among staff. This reluctance towards the proposed programme could be interpreted as a lack of readiness, and understanding of, the need for change. As readiness is ‘arguably one of the most important factors involved in employees’ initial support for change initiatives’ (Holt et al., 2007, p. 234), it is interesting to consider how internal communication could contribute towards preparing staff for technological change.

Welch and Jackson (2007) argue that research into employee preferences for channel and content of internal corporate communication is required to ensure it meets employees’ needs. While considerable literature assesses change implementation from a management perspective, very little research considers what information employees’ want during times of change (Harrison,2015, p. 63). According to Ruck and Welch (2012), internal communication assessment currently focuses on the channels used, or the volume of information generated, rather than assessing the content of the communication itself.

This paper seeks to evaluate the literature that does exist on content in order to identify subject areas that employees want to hear about when preparing for technological change. It will also critically discuss the use of channels for delivering key messages. Before addressing these topics, the paper will consider the relevance of internal communication to change management. Specifically, how change management models can be applied to communication strategies to prepare employees for change.

  1. Literature review

2.1 Change management

When considering change management within an organisation, the role of internal communication is important. The literature on change management acknowledges the link between successful change projects and effective internal communication (Harrison, 2015). Change projects present a huge undertaking for those involved, as the likelihood of succeeding is low. For example, research into the success rate of change initiatives reveals that around 70%fail (Salem, 2008, p. 334). The reasons for this vary but the literature cites poor internal communication as a contributing factor (Quirke 2008, Johansson and Heide, 2008). Conversely, a study by Barrett (2006) revealed that strategic employee communication is essential to the success of any organisation. Following Barrett’s research into high-performing companies and success in employee communication Barrett concludes that when internal communication is used effectively, it can act as the glue that binds the change process together (2006, p. 231). Evidently, internal communication plays a key role in the successful implementation of change, but how can it be used to prepare employees who may be resistant towards a proposed technological change?

The introduction of new technology is not necessarily always viewed negatively. However, due to its constant evolution, employees could resist the introduction of certain new technological processes due to a fear of the unknown. Proctor and Doukakis (2003, p. 274) argue that a fear of the unknown could develop if awareness and understanding for the change are not achieved during the early stages of the project. Similarly, Quirke (2008) estimates that when employees resist change implementation, it is often a symptom of a lack of understanding about the ‘why’. In his research Salem (2008) identifies seven communication behaviours that accompany change failure, including not communicating enough information. In support of this, Nordveng et al., explain that employee support for change initiatives ‘increases as they become more familiar with what the proposed changes involve and as they develop a better understanding of how they will be personally affected’ (Nordveng et al., 2008, p. 222). From examining these publications, it is reasonable to assume that internal communication can help prepare employees successfully for technological change is by increasing awareness and understanding about the need for change, thereby overcoming potential resistance. Arguably, effective internal communication will significantly influence employees’ support for the proposed change if they understand the reasons behind it (Welch and Jackson, 2007).

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To read entire paper, click here

 

This paper was the result of a research project in partial satisfaction of requirements for a Chartered Institute of Public Relations Internal Communication Diploma, course taught by Dr. Kevin Ruck, PR Academy, Kent, United Kingdom.

 


 

About the Author

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Charlotte Wallis

London, UK

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Charlotte Wallis
is a London-based Marketing Communications Executive working in the professional services sector. A First Class honours graduate from the University of Manchester she has been working in marketing and communications for over three years. You can find her on Twitter (@WallisCL) or LinkedIn.

Charlotte can also be contacted by email at [email protected].