Might be you have already heard a lot of the necessity of communications during times of organizational change or – might be not. There is tons of literature on change communication out in the market, and in this article you will find an executive summary for when there is a situation that requires you as the CEO or member of the senior leadership team to communicate changes in your company.
When we talk about change communications in an organization, we focus on unexpected and involuntary changes for the company and/or for individuals, which very often result in unpleasant and painful consequences. Organizational change is very often linked to restructuring of the firm, a merger, a downsizing or move of a business unit. On rare occasions, communicating change is about sharing hooray messages, but very often relaying though messages in an appropriate way while keeping everyone aligned with the company’s goals.
What makes communicating change so tough?
As for the staff, your message very often comes unexpectedly and the required change is not voluntary. This can lead to individuals’ perception of crisis and can end up in organizational chaos. Employees, who were told that they would be made redundant, or have to accept lower salaries or should change roles and move into another department are under high pressure and negative stress. Recent brain research shows that negative stress activates the same area of our brains as acute physical threat!
So, please bear in mind that most of the affected staff is in a state of shock after they have learned about the news for the first time. Consequently, they have concerns, feel a lack of confidence in themselves and their environment and need some time to cope with the news. Under physiological and emotional pressure, it is quite difficult for human beings to stay calm, continuously focused on their deliverables and act appropriately.
If you hold the expectation that staff will adapt to the changes quickly, while they continue being loyal, motivated and energized to deliver innovation for the whole organization upon being introduced to the change, think again and be empathetic.
Exactly here, adequate and regular communication is imperative and can be a differentiator between failure and success of the entire change process. Underpinned by a behavior based on respect to everybody, the communication strategy should be used as a bridge between all emotional conditions.
Now what are the key components of an adequate change communication?
- Communicate, communicate, communicate! Communicate as much as early, as precisely and as often as you can. You cannot over-communicate when addressing your employees.
- Be respectful and empathetic. Treat all your staff with respect. Try to figure what your staff thinks and feels about the change.
- Manage the process. Give employees who struggle with the change impact on them some time to adjust and cope with the situation.
- Keep going. When you have the impression that your staff is ready for the next step, give them more insights into the background of the change and the rationales of the senior leadership team’s decisions.
- Cheerlead and coach. Support your audience in strengthening their positive attitude. Lead the conversations in a direction that they are in the position to see the situation from a different angle and to realize possibilities and alternatives they have not considered yet.
Even though you applied to all communication best practices, and treated everybody with respect, have also used all communication channels and possibilities you have, you might still have to realize that you have not reached every employee. You cannot force human beings to change or to get into a better mood. That is neither your role nor your responsibility. With a positive regard and behavior, and sticking to some communication rules, you will have the chance to optimally guide your teams through a phase of change.
Contact Annette or myself for some consultation on creating your effective change communication strategy, managing the various communication channels, and crafting the messages throughout your organizational change venture.
Wishing you all the best for your upcoming change projects.