You know what they say: the only constant is change. It’s especially true now, when employees are having to adjust to everything from leadership transitions and restructurings to mergers and acquisitions, layoffs, and remote and hybrid workplace arrangements. Changes like these are usually decided by the top brass and then communicated to the rest of the organization.
One survey, however, found that out of half a million U.S. employees, about 33% don’t have a clear understanding of why these changes take place. And because they don’t understand why things are changing, it can lead to resistance or even a lack of ownership and commitment.
Executives and leaders should not expect employees to intuitively understand the reasoning behind major company decisions. You must take the time out to explain these changes, why they’re important, and how they might impact employees.
To help you do this and communicate change more effectively, we’ve rounded up the following 10 approaches.
1. Inspire your people and show them a compelling vision for the future
When times are uncertain, people want clarity on what’s changing, when, and how. By creating a story about the big picture, you set a strong foundation for communicating change. Your story needs to link your company’s core mission with an inspiring vision of the future. You also need to be able to answer how your strategic decision today will help the organization achieve your vision for tomorrow.
2. Maintain clarity and consistency
You can’t just have a one-and-done event. Keeping your employees informed in every step of the change is a continual process. All your communications should tie back to the narrative you created and reiterate the need for change. Make sure to answer your employees’ questions and when you don’t have an answer, be candid about it and say so - and follow up as soon as you know more. Your employees should realize that you’re committed to communicating openly and transparently. Also, most importantly, answer the question, ‘What’s in it for me?’
3. Use visual tools
Explaining something with images and graphics helps people retain that information better. Feel free to depict timelines, countdowns or graphics answering frequently asked questions. Repurpose them via digital signage, on screensavers or in newsletter content.
4. Plan the medium and timing
Depending on the level of change, you may have to consider the medium for communicating organizational changes. For instance, if it’s a change that directly impacts people, perhaps a one-on-one meeting would be ideal. If it’s something that pertains to a wider audience, a company town hall meeting might be the way to go. Also, consider writing memos that give employees time to carefully review details and digest the information. Put some thought into the content of your message, its timing, and the medium.
5. Empower leaders and managers to lead
How your leadership responds to change will trickle down and impact managers, which in turn will impact other employees with the organization. To truly empower leaders, help them understand the fundamentals behind the change. Let them know how to be an effective leader at this point and how best to address roadblocks or resistance. When leaders and managers are equipped with information and resources, they feel more confident to provide answers and better support their teams.
6. Consider involving employees in the change
If it’s a major change, it could be useful to solicit feedback and engage people in the process. Not only does this help build ownership during the change, but it also makes employees champion your cause. It will also help build engagement and push your employees to be your most powerful ambassadors.
7. Reiterate job security
In case the major change doesn’t involve downsizing, take the time out to assure employees about job security—this will allow them to be more receptive to change and reduce their anxiety levels.
8. Let people know what won’t change
Knowing what will remain the way it has always been (such as values) will help employees weather changes as they happen. Communicate consistently and be transparent—this helps people understand why these changes are happening and empowers them to pivot smoothly.
9. Measure results and celebrate successes
Once the change is starting to take place, don’t forget to regularly survey people to gauge what’s working and track trends. Encourage people to document and share success stories. Celebrate small wins and milestones so that it validates the positive impact of the change.
Leading your organization effectively in times of change is crucial. If done well, it impacts your culture positively. The next time you’re working on a change project, take the time out to think about how you can inspire, communicate, and engage your people – and successfully lead your company into the future.