Communicating change with employees is a common challenge for business owners and senior management. It’s something we come across on almost a daily basis and it poses a number of questions.
What should you tell your employees? When do you tell them? How much do you tell them? It doesn’t matter how big or small the change is, announcing this to employees and keeping them updated can be challenging even for the most experienced!
Whilst I’m confident the intention of such announcements is never to upset or cause stress for their employees, we often find the communication around change does exactly this.
There are a number of reasons why:
1. Often the details and language used is too complex and while it may be exciting and important to high level management, for most employees it is meaningless.
2. In some cases, the announcement comes across as a sales pitch. Depending on the nature of the change, you may need to help your employees understand why this change is a good idea but there are more genuine and effective ways of doing this. A sales pitch isn’t likely to instil confidence in your employees, instead it is likely to raise more questions than answers!
3. The message doesn’t clearly outline what the change will mean for individuals and how this affects them. Job security is one of the biggest stressors for employee change is one thing that immediately creates insecurity amongst employees.
4. The initial announcement is made then little or no information is passed on to employees.
So how should you communicate change to your team?
1. Put yourself in your employees shoes. What would you want to know if this announcement was being made to you?
2. For most employees, their first concern is what does this mean for them. Are they still going to have a job? Is their role changing? Will there be restructures and redundancies? How will they be affected? Whilst you may not have all the answers immediately, it’s important to think about these points before you make the announcement. It’s likely you may get asked these questions so you need to be prepared!
3. Get your senior management team on board before you make the announcement to the rest of the team. Often employees will go to their managers with questions so it’s important they’re giving the same message as you!
4. Compile a handout that employees can take away that highlights the key points i.e. what the change is, timeframes, how it will affect employees etc. It is common, particularly with big announcements, for employees to feel overwhelmed and not take in all of the information you are giving them. A takeaway allows an employee to read and digest this information in their own time and when they’re in the headspace to do so!
5. Always have a point of contact for questions. It is important employees have someone they can go to if they have questions – this might be yourself or your senior managers.
6. Allow and encourage employees to ask questions. They might raise questions around areas you hadn’t thought of which gives you an opportunity to consider this before the change happens. There might also be question you can’t answer but it is important that you involve your team otherwise you risk them leaving at a time when you most likely need them most!
7. Finally, the communication with employees shouldn’t stop after you have made the announcement. It is important that you keep the communication flowing and that it is regular! It is fine if you don’t have any further updates, but it is important you communicate this. Often no update causes more damage, stress and unnecessary workplace gossip.