School-Family communication has been a critical issue in these dynamic times. Here are five communication problems and solutions between schools and...
Change Management for School Leaders - How To Prep Your Staff For Change
Communicating change to your school staff, families and community is always hard, especially if you’re changing to a new CMS or new parent communication tools. Here are five tips to help communicate change.
A friend of mine worked for a popular insurance company. The company said there was a big change coming that would affect the agent’s compensation. They would be flying everyone to their hub in Oklahoma to talk about the change. The agents started to panic and be worried. If it was a good change they would have sent it in an email—this was going to be a big deal!
The trip was three nights and two days of dinners and meetings, and on the morning everyone was supposed to fly home, the insurance company was going to announce the big change. My friend reported that every night was a cocktail hour with an open bar (this was the early 2000’s) followed by a dinner with unlimited wine. When it came time for the big announcement, none of the agents were nervous, no one was upset. The big announcement was that the company was taking away the base salary and paying everyone full commission. One might think that losing the security of a base salary would make the agents upset, but instead they were subdued and hungover. Silently, they all signed their new compensation packages.
Even though this method of communicating change management worked for the insurance company, it’s not entirely realistic—or legal—that companies, and school districts can provide an open bar to their staff anytime they want to communicate a big or small change. There needs to be a communication strategy.
There are five outcomes that an individual needs to achieve for the change to be successful. In order for someone to achieve these five outcomes, the change needs to be communicated effectively. There is an acronym to help remember what people need to change:
Awareness of the change
Desire to participate or support the change
Knowledge on how to change
Ability to implement the change
Reinforcement to sustain the change
If we follow these five communication tips, we can help our families, and school communities achieve change because they will have all the information for ADKAR (awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and reinforcement).
Build your argument
It’s never great to just tell everyone the change first. Build your argument with sequenced communication. First, share the problem, then that there’s a change coming, and who will be involved from the change etc. The more you build your argument, the more awareness you create about the problem and why there needs to be a change. Build a communication release plan for the information.
Don’t delay, start today!
Think of the weather on the news. They tell us a week in advance there may be potential showers, then a couple days, they say it’s going to be a lot of rain showers. The day before, we are reminded to bring an umbrella with us tomorrow. By the time the rain comes, they’ve talked about it so much, we are usually like, “that was the rain you were talking about?” The more we talk about the change, or talk about when we are going to talk about it, the more it will desensitize people to the impact of the change, and they will be more open to it.
Deliver an abundance of communication
How many emails do we get from a company telling us there’s going to be a sale? Many, many emails. A teacher can remind the class they only accept final work in blue ink all semester, but someone will still submit it in black ink because they didn’t hear the message. There has never been a problem over communicating the change. The more it’s discussed, the more people understand why there needs to be a change.
There are no dumb questions
People will have questions. This is a good sign! Asking a question is much better than someone just saying nothing. It means they are thinking about the change. People will want to know how this will affect them? When will it affect them? What happens if we don’t change? How do we change?
Find the perfect spokesperson
Pick the person who has a way with the parents, or students to communicate the change. Maybe you’re the new superintendent this year, and let’s face it, it’s always hard to be the new person with the new ideas. If you need a change announced, maybe pick a district favorite who’s been around for a while and who people are open to listening to.
With a new year in front of us, new contracts, new vendors, new COVID policies, there’s inevitable change, and it will all need to be communicated to our families, and school communities. Since having an open bar like the insurance company did is not an option, remember these five techniques for a smoother change process.