Communicating change to your staff

I don’t have time to see everyone.

Don’t ignore the people side of change. Change management is usually studied from a technical viewpoint. For example, how can the changes be implemented and what processes, procedures or approaches are required. Buzz words such as process re-engineering and corporate re-structuring appear to deny human involvement. But change affects staff and the effect on staff cannot be ignored. Managers need to hone their communications skills so they communicate with tact and diplomacy.

Work as a team and plan alliances that will help you smooth the path to change. Note that ‘data from 25,000 employees, in diverse industries, consistently rank front-line managers No 1 in credibility. Employees are also more comfortable speaking up with questions and ideas to their immediate manager than with any other management level’. If senior management does not have time to see everyone, maybe they should delegate some communications to their front line managers. Train managers to deliver the right message to their unique audience. Their role is to provide context around key messages in a way that suits their team’s style and emotions.

You may need to train managers to play an active role in planning and delivering messages about change initiatives. This training could include motivational techniques, team building, negotiation, delegation or dealing with conflict. Managers need to understand that resistance is part of the normal reaction to change. Anticipating this through proactive planning enables management to prepare their staff for change, so that they move quickly along the change curve, from Denial and Resistance, to Exploration, Hope and Commitment. Managers, who are movers and shakers in the change management process, may need a reminder that many staff need time to come to terms with change. Planning some ‘being patient’ time could save time in the long run.

Contrary to popular belief, management often find it very time-consuming to write reports to staff, or even if they find time, you, as internal communications, may feel that their language or approach makes their report inaccessible. Support them and make it easy for them. Having a variety of communication channels available is very helpful, especially if you select approaches and tools that make everything as quick and intuitive as possible.

If your CEO is not able to meet face to face to deliver a sensitive message, then maybe a video presentation would be an effective alternative for conveying the message. Staff will still be able to hear the emotion and see the passion. Good communicators can instill confidence and enthusiasm, and in so doing they still the rumor mill and quell unfounded anxieties.

If writing a report seems too formal or time-consuming, then consider submitting a short article in your company newsletter of magazine. A slightly less formal format may assist management to use a more ‘user-friendly’ and ‘human’ approach.

Success can be enhanced if managers play an active role in both planning and delivering messages about change initiatives.

This is part 10 in the 11 part Series: Tips to Communicate Change Effectively to Staff

This series is based on an article by Communications specialist Sarah Perry. Sarah is a Director of Snap Communications,, a company which provides specialist Internal Communications tools and Employee Communications Solutions.

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