Dealing with the demands of change is often the biggest challenge facing businesses. Given the increasing pace of change it’s never been more important to have a resilient and mentally healthy workforce to cope and adapt with the challenges and uncertainty that constant change brings. Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer or one size fits all approach to building a resilient team however good communication can have a positive impact.
Communication during times of change and transformation helps people to develop understanding, gives people a level of certainty and control in what often feels like a very unsettling time, and ultimately it can provide a sense of purpose.
Here are 5 best practice tips for good communications during times of change:
1. DEVELOP A COMMUNICATION PLAN.
This sounds obvious but it’s important to really consider the business outcomes you require, the audiences you need to connect with and the channels you have available to reach them. These are the critical foundations of creating a considered plan, against which you can measure success.
Plans are also important because change doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time and is made up of stages. Every change campaign should have 3 stages – pre-announcement, announcement and embedding.
Many organisations focus on ‘the announcement’ but don’t be afraid to start communicating early – it can reduce risk by allowing key people such as People Leaders to process what’s happening, feel involved and responsible.
With planning and preparation, early communication enables you to gain trust and credibility, it can also help prevent alternative sources of information becoming established!
It’s also vital to realise that the announcement is in many ways just the start of when the real work begins! The embedding stage is when people move from knowing what’s happening to gaining understanding of what is happening, how it will affect them and their role in the change. This is important if organisations want people to come on board and ultimately carry the change.
2. CRAFT APPROPRIATE MESSAGES
As humans we tend to naturally focus on what we want to say but best practice communication involves thinking about what our audience want to hear about!
We need to really understand the things that are important to the people we want to connect with…for an employee when they think about change they’re likely to be concerned about changes to their work environment, job opportunities and security so while a change might be all about greater customer choice, responding to competitive pressures or returns to shareholders the messages to employees need to be framed in the context of things that matter to them.
Don’t be afraid of shining a light on the difficult issues or questions. Doing this addresses those important characteristics of best practice communications – trust, honesty and authenticity. Just make sure you’ve got the answers!
3. INVOLVE LEADERS AT ALL LEVELS
Change and transformation is most often driven by the Executive Leadership Team but it’s also important to consider involving your middle managers and People Leaders.
The most trusted person in an organisation is an employee’s immediate manager, so ensuring middle managers and supervisors are informed, onboard and are well supported to explain and talk with employees about change can really assist in ensuring the success of your transformation initiatives.
4. COMMUNICATE REGULARLY & OFTEN
Remember good communication is not only being told what’s happening, in the case of best practice communication it involves opportunities for 2 way conversations.
If communication is sporadic or only one way, vacuums can arise that provide space for rumour and alternative conversations to proliferate – then you find yourself in reaction mode. Best practice communication is about controlling the communication and continuing the communication.
Which leads us into channels…
5. UTILSE ALL CHANNELS
Traditional and emerging channels all have a role to play. We have diverse workplaces that are intergenerational. People have various communication preferences, so it is important to cater to everyone, so that everyone is included. And don’t underestimate the power of F2F. It’s personal, authentic and enables 2 way conversations.
It’s important to prepare your leaders and supervisors with the tools to answer the questions when they come, such as Leaders and Supervisor Kits. Portals, Employee Kits and videos are also all good supporting tools to help people get access to the information they need and have the conversations that matter.
So if you want to promote a healthy culture where employees feel supported, and stress is reduced during times of ongoing change, a good place to start is improving your communication! Loulaki have many years experience in creating and executing successful communication campaigns – see some case studies here.