We all know what it’s like when we don’t feel considered during periods of change, so it’s no surprise to hear sloppy communication can affect motivation and wellbeing. Investing in empathetic and thoughtful communications are worth their weight in gold.
Communications consultant, Julie Sykes has expertly and generously shared her five top tips for communicating change in your business.
These five tips are designed to help you communicate change in your business
Restructures, mergers, going digital, or changes to ways of working can be a huge adjustment for everyone. In times of Covid-19, businesses are going through a lot of change.
Communicating change badly can impact negatively on employee motivation, wellbeing and performance. That’s backed up by research too. Towers Watson found that organisations who were effective in managing change and communications outperformed those that weren’t by a factor of 3.5.
1 Have a clear vision for the change
To give employees a chance to get on board with change they need to understand the rationale behind it. Set the scene by being clear on why the change is needed, what it means for them, how you’ll know if you’ve succeeded, and how it fits into the business strategy and its long-term plans.
Employees can sense a kneejerk reaction from a mile off, so the latter is really important for employee confidence in the business and its leaders.
2 Get input from employees
Employee knowledge is a powerful thing. Employees understand the detail of what could or would happen if changes are made to systems and ways of working – for themselves and for customers. They live and breathe this stuff every day.
They can help make sure you get the change right. For example, groups of employees can be given a brief (including costs/timeframes etc) to help define new ways of working, or help you plan how and if to communicate changes to customers.
3 Create a plan for the change
If you know what you’re trying to achieve and have expert employee input, you’ve already got a sound basis for creating a plan.
Implementation plans will vary massively depending on what the change is (an office move will look very different to a digital transformation), but employee communications plans usually consider things like:
> Key messages and how to keep them simple.
> Ensuring employees know what the change means for them and that they’re ready for it, eg awareness, support, training needs.
> Overcoming resistance to change, eg making some elements fun, reward.
> Contingency plans for if something goes wrong.
> Who is responsible for each part of the plan, including resources and costs.
> Impact on other stakeholders, eg customers, suppliers.
4 Embed the change
So many companies launch their business change / company strategy / vision / best widget ever, not mention it again for a year and then magically expect employees to remember all about it and carry out their work in a new way to support it. Don’t do that.
If you want a change to become the new reality it needs to be embedded. You can:
> Keep talking about what it means for the business and employees, and regularly show the progress being made.
> Make employees part of the embedding process: change ambassadors, Super Users and employee incentives are just a few options.
> Embed the change in ways of working and people’s objectives to make it “Business as Usual”.
> Acknowledge that not everyone will embrace the change at the same pace, and that’s ok. You don’t have to shy away from the fact it might not be a good change for everyone.
5 Evaluate and adapt
How you will know if you’ve succeeded? If you’ve outlined measures up-front when making the case for change, that’s a great start.
Success measures vary massively depending on the change: a 20% increase online orders over a six-month period, a 5% annual improvement in employee retention rates, an annual 10% reduction in costs to serve customers … the list could go on.
Sense-checking what is and isn’t working as you go can save a lot of wasted effort. If you find some parts of the change aren’t working early on, it means you can understand why and adapt.
Employees can also provide invaluable feedback. They know how new ways of working are working (or not!) for them, in ways that might be hidden. For example, you might have increased sales, but you could also have increased overheads that might not show up on a spreadsheet if it’s taking employees twice as long to complete tasks. Being proactive in asking for feedback, and making it easy for employees to give feedback, means you’re less likely to miss a trick.
Julie Sykes has an aim of helping businesses communicate change better. She offers communications consultancy and online resources through The Comms Guide.