Every organization, at some point, will need to undergo a transformation or series of changes. This is rarely an easy task, largely because people are generally somewhat resistant to change. Employees tend to be most comfortable with what they know, and may fear what the change process will look like. Of course, this fear can be lessened with effective communication. In fact, many employees state that a lack of clear communication is the most frustrating aspect of organizational change. For this reason, organizational leaders and managers need to consider learning and implementing varying types of communication so that their employees feel more at ease with the process.
This can be difficult, which is why we have compiled a list of recommendations for more effective communication while implementing a change management process.
1. Communicate clearly.
The person communicating needs to be certain that what he or she states is conveyed in the most honest and authentic manner possible. Managers should avoid convoluted terms and “jargon”, and they should not make the listeners feel as though they are being denied certain pieces of information. In this case, clarity is equivalent to transparency. Trust is crucial.
2. Consider your listeners.
The message must be formulated with the audience in mind. In order to make sure that an audience is receptive, the speaker should work within the knowledge and beliefs of the listeners. Managers should also think ahead and anticipate what types of questions they are most likely to encounter and do his or her best to be prepared with answers.
3. Use multiple modes of communication.
Not only is it important to communicate consistently, but it is also important to communicate utilizing multiple mediums. Incorporating spoken communication as well as videos, writing, training sessions, and focus groups are a good way to provide a multifaceted approach to the change management process. This keeps people engaged while allowing for the various ways in which people best receive information.
4. Allow space for people to ask questions.
In order for employees to be satisfied with the changes taking place, they need to feel involved. This won’t happen if they feel they have neither the time nor the appropriate space to ask questions. They should be given an opportunity to process the information and respond. They should also feel as though their questions are welcome and appreciated. Making people feel like their opinions are vital is crucial towards creating a sense of stability and commitment in the changes being implemented.
5. Make sure employees know why certain changes are being implemented.
It’s not enough to simply know what changes are being implemented. Employees want to know why. It is important for managers to clearly articulate the intent behind the changes, as well as the mission and any overall goals that exist with the change process. The speaker should let them know how the changes will not only impact the company as a whole, but on an individual level as well.
6. Treat the process like a conversation.
While the change manager may need to relay some of the information in the form of a presentation, he or she should be mindful not to create too much “space” between themselves and the listeners. It is important to demonstrate that the change process represents a conversation between individuals and groups. This means taking the time to have those conversations, and actually listening to the input. Genuinely effective change comes from discussion.
7. Allow employees to explore the changes together.
Holding forums or workshops in which both in-house as well as any remote or telecommuting employees can ask questions, learn about the changes implemented, and experiment with the new ideas within the change, is an excellent way to encourage support and participation. It allows employees to feel more comfortable with the changes that will be, or that have been, implemented.
8. Be thoughtful.
It’s important to take time to think before answering. A manager should not provide an answer if he or she is not secure in its accuracy. One should heed advice, listening to what others have to say without acting at all defensive or condescending. This also means that leaders need to make their presence known in the workplace. They should be a stable and trusted presence, mingling with employees and getting to know them.
9. Make each successful implementation known, and celebrate it.
Make sure that all progress is not only measured and recorded, but that employees are privy to it. If an organization experiences a major success, then you should make this known and aptly reward and/or acknowledge all those who have made a positive impact.
Effective communication is one of the most challenging, but important factors in implementing a successful change management strategy. With varying communication styles, it can be hard to ensure that you are catering to each one.
In summary, change-implementing mangers should:
- Remain open-minded.
- Communicate your ideas clearly.
- Be welcoming of questions and comments regarding the changes taking place.
We at Stewart Cooper & Coon deem that by applying these specific communication strategies, companies are increasing the odds that their changes will be more effective and likely to receive large-scale support.
At SC&C we offer Career Analysis to help senior decision-makers from all walks of life identify strategies and tactics to increase their value-add employment potential.