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Failing strategy? Maybe it’s a Communication Problem

You have a bold new strategy to get your company not only on the road to recovery, but to come out of the current crisis in a stronger market position. You’ve shared your vision with your leadership team and staff. But despite your step-by-step plan, your initiative hasn’t gained much momentum and the lack of progress has you wondering if your plan was flawed from the beginning.

Before you put the plan on the shelf, consider that your communication was the problem. Communication is a complex process that is often overly simplified as merely information exchange. Strategic communication goes beyond simply sharing information and seeks to change employee behavior to achieve desired outcomes.

What behaviors do your employees need to adopt in order to achieve expected outcomes? What is preventing them from adoption?

At Collective Insights, our key to designing effective communication starts with applying communication science to:

  • Understand audiences’ current beliefs and behaviors
  • Predict their reaction to pending initiatives and plan for them
  • Design effective communication plans that change behavior to achieve desired outcomes

Science-driven communication surpasses often used common sense notions: “If the company succeeds, we all succeed.” Or, working theories: “Two-way communication channels are the best way to communicate.” It uses research-backed theories to explain the complexities of the communication process and to guide you on how to best communicate given your current situation and audiences’ needs.

A common mistake in workplace communication is assuming your audience is homogenous, one set of employees under a common brand and mission. Or, for those companies that do audience segmentation, they rely solely on demographics: Department, job title, tenure, to name a few. Within each of these demographic segments are deeply held beliefs and biases that will likely have more influence on adoption than where they sit on an organizational chart. For example, social science research explains that people often rely on past experience and identity groups rather than seeking new information to make decisions. For those already stressed or too busy, this serves as a mental shortcut common in everyday decision making.

Adoption decisions may also be based on perceptions of loss or gain. While your initiative, if successful, will benefit the entire company, adoption is a deeply personal decision. People react more strongly to a sense of loss than they do to gain, even if the gain benefits the entire organization. Further, present impact – additional workload, abandonment of current priorities, or having to navigate re-organization – has a greater influence on adoption than potential gains realized in the future.

Just as science reveals barriers, it also offers insight into audience reactions you can expect, even predict. If there is one lesson to be learned as you consider how to effectively communicate, it’s this: Expect irrational decision making. The good news is that irrational behavior is predictable and there are strategies to overcome them. These insights require audience research to uncover beliefs and biases that aren’t in plain view but influence the choice to adopt or not. Conducting quantitative and qualitative analyses provides evidence to support audience segmentation, channels selection, messaging, and engagement strategies.

Translating research into a communication strategy and plan is the culmination of art and science. The same principles of choosing the right channels, targeting messages to specific audience segments, and nurturing engagement still hold true. Armed with research that points the way to changing behavior, this communication will sway employees to act and adopt your initiative as their own.