As an entrepreneur or leader, you know that in order to advance your business, you often need to implement changes.
The world is changing quickly. Markets, technology, and the workforce have seen tremendous shake-ups within the past 5 years. Businesses need to be proactive and adaptable to stay competitive and survive. That is why change is necessary. However, change can come in many forms. It can come by way of technological advancements, shifts in consumer behavior, new regulations, or economic downturns.
Regardless of the form, businesses that fail to adapt and embrace change are likely to be left behind. However, managing change can be a daunting task, especially when it comes to communicating it to employees.
Change often brings new ideas and opportunities for growth, allowing businesses to evolve and better serve their customers. For this reason, it is crucial to communicate changes effectively to employees to minimize confusion, resistance, and stress. In this article, we will discuss some essential tips for communicating change to employees.
Choose the Best Communication Channels
How employees respond to change is often influenced by how they received the news of change. For example, although there is no federal law prohibiting employers from firing an employee by email, doing so never goes well. And, communicating such an important message in the most unempathetic manner tends to hurt a brand’s reputation. In 2023, tech companies such as Twitter and Amazon issued mass layoff emails to their workforce. The move was seen by the public as a cruel way to dismiss long-time employees.
So how do you avoid being labeled as an unfeeling employer? One of the ways is to utilize the best communication channels for announcing change. The channel you choose will depend on the type of organizational change you’re announcing and how much it will impact your business and its employees. Here are a few options for you to consider:
- Meetings and presentations: Hold informational sessions, town hall meetings, or webinars to share updates and details about the change.
- Email and newsletters: Use email and company newsletters to distribute written updates, resources, and important dates related to the change.
- Intranet and internal websites: Create a dedicated section on your company’s intranet or internal website to house all relevant information and resources related to the change.
- Collaboration tools: Utilize collaboration tools, such as Slack or Microsoft Teams, to share updates, encourage discussion, and provide an informal space for employees to ask questions.
- One-on-one and small group conversations: Encourage managers and supervisors to hold one-on-one or small group conversations with their team members to discuss the change, address concerns, and offer support.
Clearly Explain the Reason for Change
Author Philip Crosby was once quoted as saying, “slowness to change is usually the fear of the new”. Oftentimes, employees are afraid of change simply because it is something new that is happening.
Explaining the reasons behind workplace changes enables employees to adapt more effectively. When employees understand the rationale for the changes, they can see the bigger picture. Humans, in general, are more likely to embrace new ways of working and proactively contribute to success if they understand the “why” behind it all. So, as a leader, it is important that you do not skip this step.
Also, providing clear explanations for workplace changes helps to maintain employee morale during periods of transition. Change can be a source of stress and uncertainty for employees. All of which can lead to decreased job satisfaction, increased turnover, and reduced overall performance. By openly communicating the reasons behind the changes, leaders can alleviate some of the concerns and anxieties that employees may experience.
When employees understand the benefits that the changes bring, they are more likely to feel a sense of ownership and commitment to the process. This can further enhance morale and engagement.
Tell Employees What’s In It For Them
At some point, your employees are going to wonder, “what’s in this for me?” This is a natural response for anyone. When we hear changes are happening, we tend to wonder how those changes are going to affect us. We want to know if those changes will help or hurt our careers and our lives.
After explaining the reasons for the change, a good next step is to tell your employees the benefits, even if those benefits are minor. For example, you could decide to change the type of software you are using with your team. Your employees may resist this change if they’ve grown accustomed to using the same programs on a daily basis.
But, if you can communicate to them how the new software will make their jobs easier, minimize mistakes, and help them succeed, they will be more likely to view the change positively. Whether it is a company acquisition or introducing a new leader, let your team know that ultimately, there are going to be benefits on the horizon for them.
Get Specific about What They Need to Do
A logical next step for your employees is to wonder what they need to do before, during, and after changes have been made. They may be wondering if there is additional training required or if they will be working additional hours or weekends.
This is where you, as a leader, need to be very specific about your employees’ role in the changes. For example, during a transition after a merger, many employees need to work longer hours so that the transition does not impact customers. As a leader, you may not know exactly how many hours are needed to make the transition as seamless as possible.
However, telling your employees that they may be asked to work an occasional weekend or overtime is a good idea. You may also want to follow that up with what they will be doing during those hours and if any employee cross-trainingis necessary. Giving your employees the ‘heads up’ will help them better prepare for the future.
Providing Opportunities for Feedback and Dialogue
Once you’ve laid out the changes and what is expected from your employees, now it’s their turn to speak. Effective change communication is not a one-way street. The best way to implement a smooth change process is to allow your team to ask questions, voice concerns, and share feedback.
You want to allow your employees to deliver feedback so that you can increase buy-in. The change process will come much easier if your team is on board with the direction you are heading in. By giving them a voice, you are including them in the process. Employees want to know that their opinions matter. When giving them the opportunity to provide feedback and participate in the dialogue, they will be much more likely to view the changes as positive.
Consider implementing the following strategies:
- Q&A sessions: Host regular question-and-answer sessions.
- Surveys and polls: Distribute anonymous surveys or polls to gauge employee understanding, sentiment, and concerns regarding the change.
- Open-door policy: Encourage leaders to maintain an open-door policy. Invite employees to discuss their thoughts and concerns about the change in a safe and supportive environment.
- Feedback channels: Create dedicated channels, such as email addresses or online forms, where employees can submit feedback, questions, or concerns about the change.
- Check-Ins: Schedule follow-up conversations with managers and supervisors.
Addressing Employee Concerns and Resistance
Office rumors often start among employees due to issues not being clearly addressed by management. When fear is prevalent in the workplace, rumors and gossip tend to grow as the lack of verifiable information is available. That is why you, as the leader, want to address those knowledge gaps directly.
Resistance to change is a natural human response, particularly when the change is perceived as disruptive or threatening. It’s important to acknowledge and address employee concerns and resistance, both individually and collectively, in order to build trust and facilitate a smoother transition. Take the time to address each employee concerns and their resistance reasons. Keep in mind that there are a lot of reasons why employees resist change. Provide clear, honest answers to their questions. And, if necessary, direct them to additional resources or support services.
Monitoring and Adjusting Your Communication Strategy
As the change process unfolds, it’s essential to monitor the effectiveness of your communication efforts. How is your team responding to the change? Did they freak out at first and now are settling in? Or were they fine at first and now everyone is panicking?
Regularly assess employee understanding, engagement, and satisfaction. You can do this by providing polls and surveys, as previously mentioned. However, you can also monitor the overall mood of your workplace. Have you seen signs of employee morale drop? How productive have your employees been since the announcement of the changes? All of these factors will help you determine if your change communication is working well or if you need to tweak your strategy.
Celebrating Milestones and Successes
Finally, it’s important to recognize and celebrate milestones and any successes you’ve experienced. By acknowledging progress and achievements, you can help maintain morale, motivation, and engagement among employees. When you let them know how well they’re doing, it reinforces their commitment to the change.
Consider hosting celebratory events or recognizing individual and team accomplishments. Or, do something simple like shout-outs in company communications and on company social media profiles. Consistently highlight the positive outcomes and progress achieved through the change. This will help create a more optimistic and resilient organizational culture.
Communicating change to your employees doesn’t have to be hard. Your employees have valid concerns about their jobs, lives, and futures. As a leader, you can ease their fears with the right change communication plan. Take the time to implement the strategies mentioned above. Commit to the communication process, and you will help your team adapt more effectively to change, ultimately creating a stronger, more resilient organization. And, it the process, improve overall communication with your employees.