Change is inevitable in business and sometimes it’s relentless. Whether it’s implementing new strategies, revamping old policies or having to do the unenviable task of laying-off staff, it’s not easy to announce yet another change in your business.
Just when you start to think that things have settled down in your company, another round of changes rears its (often ugly) head.
The challenge on your hands is to manage the changes effectively while keeping your employees engaged in the process – no mean feat.
Here’s how to ensure your staff are ready for any changes that are thrown at them.
Five-point plan for effective change communication
Communicating change can be uncomfortable, but is absolutely necessary to keep your staff satisfied. Here’s a five-step approach to communicating change.
1.Keep your message plain and simple
When you’re about to spill the beans on another change in your firm, there’s precious little time for ‘repackaging’.
When trying to engage sceptical staff, you should aim to be as direct as possible in language that all your employees understand, regardless of what they do or where they work. Use corporate speak, clichés and slogans at your peril.
Encourage departmental heads and project leads to reinforce your message in their own words, so that there’s a natural ebb and flow in what they’re saying.
2.Answer the ‘so what?’ test
Anecdotal evidence suggests that when employees are asked about how change is introduced where they work, their biggest bugbear is that the communication doesn’t make clear how the changes will affect them directly and what they need to do differently in future (if anything). More often than not, the emphasis is on the ‘big picture’ – the impact on a firm-wide level.
So, before sounding the bell announcing change, be sure that what you have to say passes the ‘so what?’ test.
3.Choose your comms channel carefully
Whilst sending an email may be the default method of communication, this doesn’t necessarily qualify it as the most appropriate channel in all circumstances.
Staff often complain of ‘email overload’ where, just by virtue of the sheer number of emails received on a daily basis, they inadvertently delete critical messages. Your announcement could be one of them.
Perhaps one of the best ways to convey significant change in your business is by being open to having dialogue. This can be via various different forums (depending on numbers):
- Conference room
- Town hall
- ‘Virtual’ meeting (on the web)
4.Set the bar high for middle managers
If your business has already undergone significant change, it’s likely that your employees will be weary of further change.
This is where middle managers can really come into their own. Their job is to help translate what the change will mean to members of their team and help support the change. To do this, middle managers need three things:
- A clear set of expectations regarding their role
- A chance to learn about the proposed changes, preferably via interactive meetings
- Assistance with communication through skills development and FAQs
5.Avoid premature disclosure
In the area of change management, there is such a thing as too much, too soon.
Whilst it’s important to give employees a heads-up that change is on the way, it’s a mistake to say too much about the change before it actually happens. This may desensitise them, leading them to tune-out when they should be standing to attention. It’s probably best to hold fire on disclosing critical info until the time for staff action is nigh.
Announcing and rolling out seemingly endless changes in your business isn’t easy, but change rarely is. With any luck, our guide has helped to ease the winds of change.