Tips for Communicating to Employees During Change

We often work with companies who are going through a state of change, and I’ve experienced many of these projects during my management consulting days. Organizational change is tricky, and very few companies are successful at it. In fact, a study done by Towers Watson found that only 25% of companies see long-term success from a change. The study cites communication as part of this failure – about two-thirds of senior managers and only about half of middle managers say they receive the messages.

In so many of the projects we work on, it always comes down to communication. And this makes sense – it’s such a part of human relationships. How many times have you found yourself in an argument with a significant other because of a break in communication? Or how many times have you left a meeting and thought you were all on the same page only to find out everyone had very different takeaways?

Here are 5 tips to help ensure effective communication throughout a period of change in your company. These can be used by companies of any size – big or small – the same rules apply.

1)   Map out a plan: Communicating change should not be done haphazardly. You should think through the key audiences, what messages are important to them, and the cadence for communicating (weekly, monthly, etc.). Also think through what communications channels exist that you could leverage. Then stick to the plan.

2)   Crafting Your First Message: You should acknowledge the bumpy road ahead and your commitment to keep them informed throughout the process. Your employees will feel uneasy because they don’t have control in the situation, but if you can provide some semblance of reliable communication, it will put them somewhat at ease.

3)   Communicate. A lot.: Take what you normally think is enough communication and multiply that by ten. During change, people talk and make assumptions if they don’t know the answers. The narrative can get out of control this way, so stay ahead and on top of it by communicating frequently with good content.

4)   Include the “Why”: As a kid, remember asking why after your parents told you to do something and their response was always, “Because I told you so”? That never seemed to suffice as a child, and it certainly doesn’t as an adult. Your employees are a lot more perceptive than you think, so give them the reasoning behind the decisions being made.

5)   Hold “Open Office Hours”: What social media did for brands was it made communication a two-way street. Big brands can no longer just push a message out with little to no feedback. They actually have to listen to their customers. This applies to employees in change. Leadership should understand what the sentiment is on the ground level – it will help with the overall success of the change. By holding “open office hours” you can create a two-way conversation. Of course, there will always be information you can’t share and you may not have all the answers, and be up front with that. Sometimes, your employees just want to be heard.

Lexi Gordon is a Lead Consultant for exaqueo, a workforce consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact exaqueo to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to scale the right way. 

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