Communicating workplace change
Communicating workplace change is not easy in practice, as it frequently involves engaging a large number of people within an organisation. Even if you manage to achieve consistency with the initial communication message, clarity of understanding and application can become distorted over time.
Naturally when communicating, some people will be comfortable with a broad overview and race off to implement the concept of the change. Whilst others will want to wait until they gain real depth and detail of the change before moving ahead.
However, getting your key staff to follow these communication tips, could enhance your effectiveness of implementing change:
- Plan consistent timely communication
If more than one person is conveying a change across an organisation, ensure consistency of message and timing. For example, find the best time and place and allow sufficient time and opportunities for questions to be answered. Also explain how evolving changes and plans will be conveyed.
- Provide some context and scale to the change
Clarify the situation, provide some background and history. Compare the change with previous large or small changes which have happened, to give a sense of scale and perspective to the potential impact.
- Share the vision and objectives
Articulate what the future will look and feel like, particularly for the team, customers and suppliers. Think about how you can get the team involved in building on the detail of the vision. Facilitating groups to capture their thoughts and ideas of how the change could be implemented will help create engagement.
- Explain the benefits of the change
Consider these from your audience’s perspective and give examples of previous successes where possible, either internally or externally.
- Give the compelling reasons for the change
Explain what happens if the change doesn’t take place – such as loss of competitive edge, less customers, reduction in profitability, changes to working hours. Alternatively, ask the team what they think the consequences may be if things stay as they are.
- Acknowledge the potential impact on the people and the business
Be transparent and honest about the things you know for certain and highlight that you will keep them updated on the change as it takes place.
- Anticipate and respond to everyone’s questions and concerns
Plan for the questions you are likely to be asked by your audience and respond constructively to concerns that are raised. Acknowledge that rumours travel fast when not all the facts are clear. In addition, encourage them to let you know when this is happening, or if they have questions or concerns until the implementation of the change.
- Get the timing right at different stages of the change
Consider how the change should best be implemented and communicated e.g. all at once or staged? This may be easier said than done, of course. Keeping up with any media intervention or shareholder announcements, means you need to be aware of external communication before it takes place so you can brief the team.
- Provide easy access to updated written, visual and audio information
Use your normal communication channels such as intranets, notice boards, emails, podcasts etc, up to date with changes as they occur. Also encourage two way dialogue so that people feel involved and you minimise rumours and concerns.
- Ensure regular ongoing communication and feedback
Make available regular face to face and/or telephone communication with one-to-one review meetings, coaching sessions, and support team meetings. Constructively respond to the feedback and provide the most appropriate support. Leading people through change is a vital part of your implementation plan, as team members travel through the different range of emotional response to the change.
Communicating workplace change can prove challenging, particularly as team members show resistance to the change and speculation is sparked as people consider the potential impact.
However, it’s worth remembering that resistance can be helpful in identifying the aspects of the change that have not yet been considered. In addition, this gives you the opportunity to show your team members that you do care about their concerns.
I’ve found that it can be helpful to get your likely ‘resistors’ on board at the very early stages of change, especially those who are highly analytical or emotional. Sometimes of course, we don’t have that luxury, which is where the ‘compelling reasons’ for the change are vital in conveying.
What other communication tips and strategies have you found helpful in the past? Contact us with your thoughts and experiences.
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