The most common mistakes in change management communications

What’s the biggest mistake you could possibly make in communicating change?  The absolute worst would be to tell employees something that would make them feel better, but might not be true. For instance, saying there will be no layoffs with an impending merger, before management knows for certain that there won’t be. In the midst of change, there are many moving parts, and some early assumptions may be revised as more details and numbers are fleshed out.

On the other hand, it’s also a  mistake is to say nothing because the details haven’t yet been finalized. Employees can accept the fact that you can’t tell them everything right now. What causes them more stress is the sneaking suspicion that something’s afoot and management isn’t telling them anything. We advise clients that it’s perfectly fine to say, “We don’t know yet, but we’ll tell you when we do,” or “We can’t share that information, but what I can tell you is such and such.” In any case, you certainly want to avoid having your employees hear the news from someone outside the company, whether it’s a neighbor who’s related to top management or the business section of the newspaper.

You can also minimize stress for employees by acknowledging what we call the Two Big Fears. In the face of any major change in the workplace, employees worry about two major questions: “Will I lose my job?” If the answer to that is no, then the next concern is “Will this make my job more difficult?” Acknowledging those two issues can take some of the heat off them.

It’s human nature to imagine the worst. So in the absence of communication regarding the change, employees’ imaginations will fill in the gaps and rumours will begin seeping through your organization. Setting realistic expectations can be a relief. Most people would rather know what to expect, even if it’s not good news, than to be left in the dark.

The most important key to successfully communicating change is to begin with a foundation of respect for the employees. That means treating employees like the intelligent adults they are, as well as putting yourself in their shoes. We often talk about the Golden Rule of Change: If you were an employee impacted by this change, how would you want to be treated?

Interested in communicating change more effectively at your company? Tribe can help.

Make company values real to employees

Your company’s values are an integral part of your business. But they also need to extend outside day-to-day operations. They need to be engrained in your culture. They need to guide your decisions and your people. In short, they need to be something more dimensional than words on a page.

Show your employees how values impact them directly. They may not realize how connected their work is to your company values. Even if they’re living them everyday, if the connection isn’t clear, they may not see how they tie-in to the overall culture and the bigger picture of the company.

It’s up to you to create opportunities for conversations around your values. If your values are stagnate, they won’t resonate with employees. They’ll remain an idea, perhaps a good idea, but if they aren’t consciously in the daily dialogue, it will be hard for them to gain traction.

Here are three ideas from Tribe about how to make your company values real to employees, so that they not only embrace them but apply them in and outside the office.

1) Spotlight employees in an internal magazine

In Tribe’s experience, we’ve found employee spotlights to be one of the most highly read features in any company publication. Focus the spotlight articles on how employees have used one or more of the values in their individual jobs. This not only serves as recognition for those employees being featured, it also models that behavior for other employees and helps them understand what it looks like to use those values at work.

2) Provide conversation guides for managers

If your company holds pre-shift meetings, that’s a great opportunity to start some discussions about the values, particularly with any frontline or other non-desk employees who have less access to other channels of internal communications. Managers, however, often feel awkward about starting these sorts of conversations, or just don’t know where to start. Prepare them by developing talking points or conversation guides that explore a range of real-work situations where the values can be applied. For instance, you might create weekly discussion topics that illustrate various ways employees might use the values in their jobs.

3) Create recognition programs based on the values

Employees need to know the company is paying attention to those who are upholding the values. By recognizing employees who are living the values on the intranet, at an annual conference, or just in a departmental meeting, management communicates the message that they’re serious about the values being important. Including values in performance reviews As Peter Drucker and many other management gurus have reportedly said, “What gets measured gets managed.” If employees know they’ll be evaluated on how well they apply the values in their jobs, they’re more likely to use to those values in day-to-day situations.

TRIBE TRIVIA: Reimbursing employees for using their personal mobile devices

Question: When employees send internal communications to employees’ personal phones, do they somehow pay for that usage?

Answer: In Tribe’s global research with companies using mobile for internal communications, only 10 percent said they provide financial compensation for the use of employees’ personal phones. Most, at 78 percent, simply offer mobile as an option for receiving company communications.

For more information about this and other studies, see Tribe’s white papers and internal communications resources on the expertise page of, or shoot us an email.