A How many of us have tried to lose weight
or quit smoking, go to the gym more or
drink less coffee? We all know from experi
ence that changing our own behaviour isn’t
easy, even when we know it’s good for us. Or
ganisational change usually involves getting
large numbers of people to change their be
haviour. Therefore, it’s not surprising that re
search shows most change projects fail.
However, you can increase your chances
of success if your change project: is designed
to elicit the behavioural changes needed to
create the desired organisational change; uses
an effective communication strategy; and in
cludes plans to embed the changes into the
organisational DNA so that it becomes “the
way we do it around here’”.
Organisational change and employee behaviour
Most change projects directly affect at least
some people in the organisation, and usual
ly require employees to change their behav
iour in some way. For example, a change proj
ect focusing on customer service may require
front-line staff to provide a better level of cus
tomer service or to cross-sell other prod
ucts to existing customers.
A big IT-based change project may require
employees to learn new software and to use
the system in a different way from the previ
Behavioural change is an area of psy
chology in which there has been a great deal of research. As HR or employee communi
cation professionals we should be using the
findings of this research to improve the suc
cess of any change projects that require sig
nificant changes in employee behaviour.
The role of communication
There are many tools that can be used to fa
cilitate and reinforce organisational change.
They include training, incentive programs,
KPIs, feedback etc.
Communication is both a key tool and an
enabler of most other tools. That is, for mech
anisms such as KPIs, incentives etc to be ef
fective they need to be well communicated
and explained. Employees need to clearly un
derstand what is expected of them, what re
sources exist to assist them, and what con
sequences there are for not complying. The
diagram below demonstrates the critical and
dual role that communication plays in organ
We have seen some organisations ap
proach a change project as if it was a com
munication project; which is expecting too
much of communication. Communication
plays an important role, but it does not play
the only role.
Integrating change into organisational DNA
As with most behavioural change, the new
behaviours required in an organisational
change project won’t just happen overnight.
In most cases you will need to repeat mes
sages, reinforce expectations, remind em
ployees of what to do, how to do it and the
consequences (both positive and negative).
There needs to be consistency in all mes
sages and motivators. For example, if KPIs
or incentives that reinforce the old behaviours
are left in place, any communication telling
people what is expected of them now won’t
be very successful.
Behavioural change needs to become
second nature for change to be long-term
and integrated into the organisational DNA.
Repetition and consistency are critical for
Poorly handled change projects may re
sult in both a failed project and other prob
lems for the organisation, such as poor morale
and decreased productivity.
For more information contact Ingrid Selene on 02 9253 7738 or firstname.lastname@example.org