Whenever any organizational change is occurring, be it strategy, leadership or technology, employees tend to be skeptical. Employees can be apprehensive about any impending shift. They are comfortable with the status quo, and major changes usually don’t include communication about challenges or concerns before they happen.
When a company makes a significant shift, it is transformational for the enterprise, as well as the individuals. Here are three of the most important aspects of communicating about change to keep the individuals at the center of your organization happy and involved as you evolve.
Create Plan Awareness and Buy-In
The most critical communication element of any organizational change is to develop a plan that you will follow. Leadership must be part of its development. You’ll want buy-in for the person responsible for delivering what messages and when. Be as clear as possible.
“Having a communication plan and executing on it is the most important thing you can do to keep stakeholders involved and up-to-date,” says Deepak Lalwani, principal at Deepak Lalwani & Associates
. “Today there are a variety of robust delivery mechanisms to use, from email to the company intranet and everything in between.”
Match your plan to how your teams already communicate, including presentations, meetings, blogs, and chat or project management tools.
Don’t Put Messaging Above People
“Change is hard to implement and even harder to hear,” says Rob Volpe, CEO of Ignite 360
. “Tone-deaf communication can break the bonds with your employees, minimizing the quality of adoption, and can have longer-lasting negative effects.”
Your goal is to be transparent about how the people and the organization are going to be affected. The more honest and compassionate you are to those who are facing the change, the more content they’ll be with the outcome.
“One of the key things to keep in mind during organizational change is to stay people-focused and not message-focused,” says Heather Stagl, founder and change facilitator at Enclaria
. “Don’t focus on what you want to say. Focus more on what people need to hear, the conversations they need to start, and their experience.”
Keep the Dialogue Going
People worry most when the communication stops.
“In terms of communication, I don’t think you can communicate enough,” says Sandi Knight, senior vice president and CHRO at HealthMarkets
. “Communication must be timely, even if you don’t have a very specific update. The longer no communication takes place, the more likely people are to surmise their own stories and start rumors.”
Your communication plan should include multiple outreach avenues for each stage or organizational change. Stay consistent in your tone and in the ways that you communicate.
And, remember that you can’t over-engage with your employees. They need to hear the good and bad news. Trust is earned and easily lost, especially if employees feel like you’re lying to or hiding things from them. Change can be scary, but clear communication can chase those fears away.