Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Change Management Communications: What’s the Worst That Can Happen?

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.

Communicating Culture of New Management

Changes in a company can be difficult. Even more so when the change revolves around a switch up in a management position. Processes change, new people come in, other people move on — it can be a bit of a whirlwind. That’s why when your company begins to feel it’s the right time to make a change in management, that’s also the right time to develop a plan for how to introduce this to your employees.

It should start with a discovery session. It should review the history and current culture of the company and ask the incoming manager what changes (if any) they want for the company moving forward. Available internal communications vehicles and how they’re currently being used should be examined at this point as well.

Based off of the discovery session, a change management strategy should be developed. The strategy should provide specific goals and objectives and summarize the demographic and psychographic needs of each audience. It should also put a timeframe in place that clearly outlines the communication resources that will be needed. New channels and programs can be introduced to help connect the new manager with their employees. This could involve the development of a blog or webcast that employees turn to for information directly from the new manager.

Then comes the time to put the wheels in motion. Once all the homework has been done and the path has been laid out, the execution portion of the plan should go into effect. Timelines should be adhered to, but not so strictly that they ignore new developments or unforeseen outcomes from communications. Although change can make for scary times for employees, it also has the potential to be a real positive force that helps the company reach much higher levels than ever before.