Best practice communication through change

Most employees can sense when change is coming, and if they don’t hear about it from you, uncertainty will give way to fear, and speculation will give way to rumour. Before long, your employees will create their own narrative, trust will erode, anxiety will increase, and engagement will plummet, impacting your profit and productivity further.

Good communication, however, brings clarity to uncertainty, fact to rumour and calm to fear. While change may have consequences for your organisation and result in restructure and redundancy, poor communication of that change is like allowing poison to run through the veins of your organisation, damaging your company’s culture and impacting the wellbeing of your employees.

To show true leadership through change, your communication needs to be clear, concise, confident and consistent. And there’s just one more thing – it should be in writing. So, what should you communicate and when? Here’s a guide to best practice communication through change.

Pre-change communication

Your pre-change communication should acknowledge (and in some cases announce) that changes are occurring in and around your business. So, it’s not that this communication should happen before any business changes. Instead, it should happen before any significant changes like restructure, or redundancy occur.

At this time, you want to make it clear that you intend to secure the future of the business and navigate these changes with minimal impact. Mention that you are currently reviewing all aspects of the business and that you will communicate any changes as soon as you can. Assure your team that it is still business as usual and recognise their ongoing contribution to the organisation.

Most importantly, let your team know that they are welcome to come to you with any questions. You may not be able answer them, but this simple act can help you minimise office speculation and gossip. It also strongly reinforces your positioning as an open and authentic leader.

The separation conversation

Some changes will require a restructure and redundancies. In this case, the next point of communication will be the separation conversation. While this is a difficult conversation, you can make this conversation easier on both the exiting employee and the person delivering the news with preparation and planning.

For more guidance around handling the separation conversation, you might like to read our articles four steps for a smoother separation conversation and planning the separation conversation.

Post-change communication

This communication is done to your wider team, alerting them to the changes once you have informed impacted employees. This should inform employees that changes to the organisational structure have occurred today to put the company in a better position for the future. As a result, some people will be leaving the business.

It’s important to acknowledge that this is an unsettling and challenging time as they say goodbye to colleagues. It should also reassure everyone that the wellbeing of your employees is of the utmost importance to your organisation and that outplacement services have been organised for exiting employees.

Also, remind your remaining team that there are support services available through your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or another method organised and that they are welcome to speak to you too should they need or want to.

For more guidance around managing your surviving team post-change, you might like to read our articles on overcoming survivor’s guilt to get back to business as usual and re-engaging the survivors of change.

Alerting customers and vendors

In some cases, if the change is significant enough, you may need to alert your customers and vendors, particularly if they had a strong relationship with any of your exiting employees.

This communication should reassure customers and vendors that you are making these changes to continue to be in the best position to serve them. Assure them that it is business as usual and that you are working hard to ensure changes have a minimal impact on them. It is far better your customers and vendors hear it from you than to hear it through the rumour mill.

Need to communicate changes to your team? Download the TPP HR Manager’s Toolkit to get template emails for each of these situations and access to the HR Manager’s Redundancy Toolkit, eight costly outplacement mistakes and more!

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