Thursday 23rd Apr 2020
Change is an inevitability for businesses of all sizes. Sometimes it is for good, sometimes for worse, and often with a mixture of both. How you communicate this change to your employees is of critical importance, and one of the main ways in which success or failure will be determined when you come through the other side. This is especially true when the changes are unprecedented and triggered by external events. With that in mind, there are a few things that you should consider to make sure that your communications are effective.
It can be tempting to mask the real reasons, motivations and impacts of change, particularly when negative. Often this is done in belief that it will keep things steadier as alterations are made. But in reality, being less than honest simply doesn’t work, and information will come out sooner or later. Take for example a business that needs to cut hours because of a dwindling market. If these hours are cut for ‘productivity’ or ‘streamlining’ reasons, it can often come off as insincere, which has a knock-on effect on the loyalty of employees. Be honest about why change is happening and treat your employees as adults.
Leading on from the previous point, it’s really important to be clear in your communications. Vagueness can often cause uncertainty, which is something that will seriously reduce commitment to the business. Be clear about what triggered the change and what will happen next. Don’t use business-speak and stay away from the usual buzzwords.
Large changes can sometimes take time to work through and can bring negative consequences even if the move is generally positive. Be clear from the outset what any challenges will be, so people can prepare for and accept them. Similarly, timescales are hugely beneficial for keeping people motivated to work through the change. Uncertainty is never a good thing for employee loyalty and productivity.
Explain the benefits
Good communicators know that it’s important to appeal to their audience, and explicitly explaining the benefits of change. From the outset, explain where any benefits will lie. Will there be pay rises? More jobs? More opportunity for promotion? Better recognition? This can be the case even in negative change. If we go back to the example of a company that’s cutting hours, the leadership team will want to reassure employees that the cutting of hours now will steady the ship and ensure a more secure future.
Give employees guidance
What is often forgotten is communicating clearly what employees need to do, given the changes. It’s all too common for changes to be announced, but with only top level information. Ensure that everyone knows exactly what they need to do or explain clearly that no action from them is needed. Explaining that this will be communicated by line managers is fine, but this must happen in a timely manner.
Our final point leads on from the last, and is really important. Company-wide emails about change are absolutely necessary, but clear communication to individuals is also really important and should not be forgotten. All of the above points need to be tailored and delivered to every member of the business, no matter their seniority. If the change affects them, they need to fully understand the situation.