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The technology dilemma in change communications

Updated: Apr 30

In one sense we're now more connected than ever. People we met while working or studying overseas can stay top of mind in our feeds. We can follow organisations we like, comment on their products, service and social responsibility. We can forward our own updates to our chosen contacts - an unlimited number - within seconds.

People standing in line at a coffee shop

We have more technology, on more devices. We're able to work to our own personalised style on virtually any human task with the aid of technology. At work we have the intranet, collaboration platforms - probably several - collaborative capabilities within our digital tools, workplace tools for doing our job and reporting on our job, human resource management systems, enterprise systems, even an app to order our morning coffee so we don't have to wait in line!

When we leave work, we can turn on the lights, set the thermostat level, find the fastest bus route home, and even talk to our home appliances - on a digital interface.

We're spending more time on screens both at work and outside of work. But so far, most of these interactions have been one-way.

Digital two-way communications are prevalent too. Collaborative tools are amazing at getting the task done quickly. But while we're able to drop notes on a slide or in a cell, and have someone know exactly what we're referring to really easily, we're not actually talking to them. Conversations on collaborative tools can rapidly become frustrating if someone slightly misses your point, or doesn't come back with what you need and appears to be stalling or holding out on information.

The coffee order app is equally amazing at getting caffeine into our veins in the shortest possible timeframe. But while we're ordering coffee online, we're not standing in the queue chatting to people, complaining about someone cutting in line, or entertaining each other with office gossip. We're not connecting.

The online video conference has been revolutionary. While rising in use and creating true connectivity between sites, the video conference as an enabler of working at a distance truly came into its full power during the Covid-19 Pandemic.

A chart shows a dramatic rise in Zoom's profit over the 3 years from $7m in 2018, to $21m in 2019 and $671m in 2020

Sourced from

We work on video conference, we call our friends and family on video conference, we've even started talking to our doctors on video conference.

When we're not at work our entertainment involves screens, our household chores involve screens, our scrapbooking, journalling, reflection time, game play, recipe swapping: all screens.

It seems like the easier technology makes our lives, the more we're interacting with the technology instead of with other humans. This broader technology dilemma is why we're having challenges in change communication. We need to stop and consider whether we have sufficient balance more generally: whether we're staying connected with other people and if not whether that's the way we truly want to spend our time on this planet.

Given the technology dilemma, how do people follow your change communication?

Given the proliferation of digital channels, and the reduced potential for in-person engagement, how do people follow your change communications? Which channels do you choose, how do you know you've achieved your reach, how do you decipher the online world to determine whether you actually communicated to your key audience? What time of the day should you post to your channels to reach the majority of people? What do you say to people who tell you 'this hasn't been communicated'?

Keep it Simple

In my experience, the answer is relatively simple. Communication and engagement are separate plans. For communication, have a hub and spoke model. Determine your one 'source of truth', keep it religiously up to date, and have all your comms and channels feed the information outward, but have your messaging point people to come and consult the source of truth.

In other words, determine what channels you're using, determine your messaging, plan out your cadence and schedule. And then when you release comms and assets into the wild, ensure you link back to your source of truth. For advice on messaging, have a look at: Craft successful change communications.

Engagement planning is a separate exercise, and it needs to take into account not only the technology dilemma in change communication, but also the drivers for your organisation to work across distances. The reality is that you simply will not get the same sense of interpersonal connection if you're not sharing physical space with people. However, that might not be a problem for you, it depends on a number of factors including the nature of the change you're managing or leading, the desired outcome, the organisational schedule, the amount of change going on and so on. To help you determine what kinds of engagement might be needed, have a look at Go Slow to Go Fast: Slowing down to build relationships makes change faster and Support for People Leaders during change: designing an effective Engagement Plan.

A word about links

Companies that have felt the pain of cybersecurity breaches will generally not send customer communications with links. Whether your organisation has been subject to this risk or not, industry best practice compels us to consider designing our external communications in such a way that we encourage customers to log in to the source, rather than follow a link in an email.

For more assistance on communication strategies, or change management coaching and consulting, book a free introductory session with Agencia Change.

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