From early human cave paintings to today’s billboards and digital pop-ups, visuals have always been powerful communication tools.
Visuals have an important role to play in communication because they provide simplified representations of complex things—kind of like CliffNotes for your brain.
While modern business leaders have no use for cave paintings per se, the truth is, effective leadership in change management requires more than just management skills.
You must know how to motivate, educate, and communicate with precision and clarity.
Here’s what you need to know today about using visuals for leading a team through change.
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Why is change management so difficult?
Change can be scary. Organizational change depends on buy-in from all stakeholders, but managers are perhaps the most important. When change is happening in the workplace, employees look to managers to help them decide how to feel about the change and for guidance and reassurance.
Providing clear guidelines and metrics for promoting and measuring the change effort’s success empowers your managers to provide exceptional leadership to those they work with every day.
In fact, communications regarding your change initiative are best delivered by your management team members directly to their subordinates. That way, your employees are receiving the necessary information from a familiar face in the organization rather than some faceless executive.
The what and why of organizational change
If you want people to be invested in your change initiative, you must be able to explain what you are doing and why it is important for the future of your organization. Are you going to try to sell them on your big idea with a sterile email or some long-winded press release? We hope not.
If you are trying to build a coalition around your idea, the enthusiasm you have for it should be reflected in how you present it.
Making organizational change easier for employees: WIIFM (What’s In It For Me)
Your change initiative will succeed or fail based on the enthusiasm, investment, and engagement of all stakeholders. Taking the time to explicitly communicate how the change will benefit those stakeholders is critical to building consensus.
Now that you’ve told people what you are planning to do and why the change is necessary and important for the organization, you must go further. Investment in change at the individual level requires a level of personal connection with the goals, also known as the “What’s In It For Me” factor.
The graphic shown here provides an example of a document that lists the reasons why employees should use an email signature.
Instead of asking employees to dig through notes from the last meeting or ask a colleague for clarification, why not provide them with a colorful graphic?
When the driving motivations for the change are succinctly laid out in an easy-to-read format, there is no excuse for not knowing what is going on or why. A graphic such as this could be very effective displayed near common employee traffic areas.
Using a communication plan to lead a team through change
Effective leaders know how important it is to keep lines of communication open. By establishing a communication plan, leaders can streamline the way that their teams share information. This graphic provides an example that is colorful, well-organized, and easy to understand.
Have you ever had a question but had no idea who to ask?
Don’t waste precious time. By establishing a communication plan that clearly defines where communication about the change initiative will be coming from and whom stakeholders should communicate, you answer critical questions before they are even asked.
While in the midst of change management team building, a communication plan becomes even more valuable. Employees need to know who to go to when they want to share ideas, ask questions, express ethical concerns, file complaints, or share or receive feedback.
Efficiency at an organizational level comes from careful planning. Save yourself time and put your communication plan in writing.
Change management communication examples
Effective leadership in change management is supported by comprehensive, explicit documentation. By creating detailed guidelines, policies, and procedures, leaders set clear expectations for their employees to follow.
The truth is that the documentation produced by most companies is boring. Nobody wants to spend their time scrolling (or worse, flipping) through pages of text to find that one critical piece of information they need to do their job.
Using visuals to communicate the critical elements of your change management strategy gives your employees the ability to locate and understand the information they need quickly.
What’s more, because visual learning is “stickier,” you make it easier for employees to recall that vital information later on.
Communicating change with email
Organizational change is usually preceded by an email. That said, increase your changes staff engage with your message by also posting the message on your company’s intranet and/or messaging platforms like Microsoft Teams or Slack.
You can also use infographics as emails to make them more engaging and easier to digest. Here’s an example of video conferencing guidelines with clear dos and don’ts.
Checklists to communicate change management
The graphic below shows a simple procedural checklist, color-coded for ease of use.
Communicating change with timelines
Communicating the timeline for your change management strategy can go a long way towards easing the anxiety that goes with change.
A well-designed roadmap for change will let stakeholders see at a glance where they have come from and where they are going.
By presenting this information in graphical form, your change management team gets a snapshot of the plan from end to end. At a glance, your teams can see every step of the change management plan.
The infographic shown here exemplifies a simple project timeline that is easy to read and visually engaging.
Making it stick with posters, job aids and more
Repetition may not be the sexiest part of communication, but repeated exposure to new concepts is a fundamental element of learning retention. Visual communication methods are particularly good at harnessing this “sticky” aspect of learning since visual stimuli imprint on the brain in unique ways.
Your change initiative should be well-supported by a variety of documents. One-pagers reinforcing the fundamentals can be prominently displayed in places frequented by your employees, such as the watercooler or breakroom.
Or you can make job aids that employees can print out, save to their hard drive, and so on. Here’s an example of a job aid that seeks to increase adoption of a new customer onboarding process.
Is simply displaying the information enough? Maybe not, but you would be surprised to learn just how much passive learning goes on when you see the same billboard, poster, road sign, or other stimuli again and again.
For example, most of us could draw a stop sign if asked. We can do this, to the extent that our artistic skills allow, not because someone explicitly taught us how to draw a stop sign, but because we have had repeated, conscious, and subconscious exposure to the same visual over time.
Using visuals to inspire your change management team
Once we master a concept or idea, it can be harder to grab our attention. To save time and cognitive resources, we tend to ignore what we think we already know. New visuals can help people “unstick” their attitudes and beliefs and prepare them to think in different ways.
The power of repetition is further amplified when you find multiple ways to share the same information. That’s because humans learn by scaffolding new knowledge on the foundation of their lived experiences.
Want to encourage people to rethink how they do their work? Want to inspire innovation and growth in your workplace? Disrupt the habits of mind that are stifling growth by finding more compelling ways to share what may seem like old ideas.
Why leaders need infographics as part of their change management toolkit
Using infographics to reinforce key elements of your strategy can yield huge benefits over time.
That said, infographics are more than just colors and pictures. To be effective in their messaging, the infographics supporting your change initiative must be well-organized, explicit, based on shared language, and easy to understand.
Let’s take a look at some examples so we can see how it’s done.
This graphic is colorful, well-structured, and eye-catching. The pictures used strengthen visual associations with the categories being discussed, improving information retention and recall.
This graphic is used by the U.S. Government’s National Institutes of Health. It has a lot of information to share, which is organized by a series of questions. Creating an infographic such as this is a great way to address frequently asked questions.
This infographic gets bonus points for the use of iconography. Consistent use of icons is a visual way to contribute to that common language we talked about earlier. These icons can be utilized across documents and media to reinforce consistent messaging and lessen the cognitive lift.
Raw data is a) hard to read, b) difficult to interpret, and c) super boring. Data visualizations are a powerful tool for helping people understand what the data is telling us about our business. This graphic is a great example because of its simple design and ease of use.
At a glance, you can identify the different types of data described in the graph, helping you read the graphic’s key points at a glance. In a change effort, these data-driven graphics can be a great way to show your employees how the changes you are implementing are improving efficiency or profits.
Decision trees can help your employees cut through the noise and make informed decisions. These job aids are useful for reinforcing processes and empowering employees to make their own decisions.
Creating a simple decision-making structure based on yes or no questions gives employees a framework to guide them through ambiguity, improve their performance, and enhance productivity.
Speaking of job aids, brief explainers, worksheets, checklists, and other documents make everybody’s job easier. Here you have a meta-example of a fantastic job aid. Why is it meta? Because it’s a job aid that explains how to make job aids.
Not only that, it’s a beautiful example of an infographic that is sequential, well-organized, and narrow in focus. In the real world, job aids have to be limited in focus to be useful. These graphics are intended to capture the most important points, in the fewest words, for maximum impact.
In summary: change management depends on strong leadership and communication
If there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that change is an inevitable part of life and business. Leaders guiding others through organizational change need a solid communication plan and a very special set of skills—change management leadership skills. Having degrees and accolades is great, but your people have to be able to trust you and your leadership.
Making an effort to meet your employees where they are and building the capacity to support them through your change initiative will set you on the path for success. Infographics are powerful tools for leaders looking to create and maintain lasting change.
Start creating your own infographic today with Venngage’s easy-to-edit templates and drag-and-drop online editor—even if you’re not a designer.