Constructing a program communication plan with your key stakeholders keeps everyone engaged with the future success.
Why a Communication Plan?
Employee engagement and satisfaction surveys consistently report poor communications as a leading cause of employee disenchantment. The lack of quality communication is also a major reason for project failure. If your training program is a key component of an organizational change or improvement initiative, getting the communications right will save you a lot of heartache further down the track.
A large program will involve multiple stakeholders over a considerable period of time. People who need to be involved may span departments, buildings, provinces or even countries. The duration of your program may be many weeks, months or even years. Planning for the what, where, who, when and why of your communications up front will achieve two key objectives. Communicating effectively will:
keep the relevant people informed at appropriate times of the key information that they will use to further the aims of the program, and
keep people onside during difficult periods by conveying the feeling that you are considering their interests
An all too common example of communications neglect occurs when human resources or training personnel invite employees to a training program without a prior discussion about why their attendance is required. In these cases, neither the employee’s manager nor the trainer nor anyone else engages the employee in a dialogue about the upcoming program. The employee turns up to the session already frustrated and disenchanted. This is a sure-fire way to guarantee the program’s failure.
My PRACTICE Approach™ to creating high impact training programs shines a spotlight on a number of communications that need to be disseminated throughout the life of your program. Information that will require distribution includes:
- changes in policies, processes and procedures and the location of the relevant documents
- new and modified employee’ roles and responsibilities and the location of relevant documents
- training course objectives and schedule
- purpose, instructions for use and location of on-the-job aids
- availability and contact details of on-the-job coaches
- expected organizational outcomes and performance targets
- performance results
- formal and informal employee performance feedback
- availability and description of employee incentives
As the program coordinator, organize communications so that all program information is disseminated from a central point. If you are to avoid harmful communication gaps, your first step is to construct a communication plan. The plan that you construct during the early stages of your program design will help you structure your thinking, ensuring that you do not leave out any important communications. It will also serve to guide you in your communications throughout your project.
To construct your plan, think about the various stakeholders and their communication requirements. Stakeholders will typically include:
- instructional designers
- trainers and facilitators
- training participants
- participants’ supervisors and managers
- administration staff
- external vendors and consultants
- program sponsors
- the executive
Ask each stakeholder or stakeholder representative what information they need during each phase of your program. Distinguish between “needs” and “wants”. Satisfying all wants may make you a lot of friends; however, this could also stretch your budget to breaking point. Going over budget or failing to deliver on promises will, in the end, lose you valuable support for next time. Ask stakeholders how they would prefer to receive this information. The transmission modes available to you will depend on the facilities available in your organization. Your options may include:
- SMS (Short Message Service)
- MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service)
- Instant Messaging (IM)
- web conference
- face-to-face meeting
- cloud-based meeting (such as Google Hangouts)
- bulletin board
The transmission mode you use will also depend upon what a particular stakeholder needs to do with the information. Is the information for interest only, or is it to be used as the basis for discussion or decision? If it is the latter, one-way modes of communication, such as email, SMS and intranet, are poorly suited. Methods that allow questioning and clarification are a better choice here. These methods include teleconference and face-to-face meetings.
Creating a Program Communication Plan Template
Some stakeholders may require different information at different times or in different phases of the program. Some stakeholders may require information at the beginning or at the end of a project phase. Others may require regular updates; weekly or monthly for example. To save time and effort, try to standardize on a format for a particular kind of communication.
For example, if you are sending out status reports or schedules, create a proforma document using your word processor or spreadsheet software or email client that you can reuse by simply putting in the new data. Once you have collected all of the information you require for your Program Communication Plan, organize the information in your plan into a table. Figure 1 below illustrates an example of how you could categorize the information.
My comprehensive guide, From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance, includes a customizable Program Communication Plan template with guidance notes. You can use this template to tailor a communication plan for your particular program.
If yours is a large program, you will need to create your communication plan at a relatively high-level. Leave out the details while concentrating on the communications that will emanate from the program coordinator or the program office. This is not the place to list every internal project communication between project team members.
A successful program depends on the support and actions from a number of key stakeholder groups. The purpose of the plan is to get right the communication with these key stakeholders. For detailed communication requirements, either construct separate in depth communication plans for each phase of the program or for each department involved in the project.
Keep your Program Communication Plan up to date by getting your project team members involved in a regular review. Your plan is only as useful as the extent to which you put it into action. Don’t fall into the trap of writing up the plan and then letting it sit in your bottom drawer. Pin it up on your project board, include it as an agenda item at key project team meetings and set up automated task list reminders for each scheduled communication event. Give your program the best chances of success by putting your communication plan into action.