Communicating Change

Every organization at some point in time will have to announce some type of change in the workplace. It may be changes to technology; changes in leadership (a new supervisor hired in a department); or changes in policies for one reason or another.

The way in which changes are communicated will determine how successful the changes are understood and adopted by the employee group.

Having been involved in a number of change initiatives in various organizations; this truth has been proven over and over again.  You can never over-communicate a planned change – and in particular – to those most impacted.

 Simple steps to think about in your communications:

  • Leadership must support the change (even if in fact, they may not agree)
  • Rationale for the change must also be communicated clearly – help make it make sense
  • Be sure to ask for questions from those impacted and listen to what is said – dialogue with the impacted parties is very important – otherwise your employee buy in is hampered
  • Communicate consistently and frequently
  • Use a number of ways to communicate – speaking, writing, video, training, focus groups, bulletin boards, Intranets
  • Communicate what you know, when you know it – you may not know everything up front – that’s O.K. – tell what you do know and be honest about what you don’t yet know – do not make things up – you will destroy trust
  • While I know this has been mentioned above already; I am going to repeat that you need to encourage dialogue – allow people to ask questions – you don’t just want to present information – you want the employees to accept the changes, so they must feel involved
  • Even though a change may impact one group of employee more than another; it is still advisable to keep everyone in the loop – this will avoid gossip and fear mongering – and will also provide an opportunity for people to safely explore new behaviours and ideas about changes

While I realize this list is rather simplistic (change management typically requires a well thought out communication plan and will take time to develop) the idea here is to think about making an actual communication plan and having distinct steps to take toward successfully implementing change.


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4 Responses to Communicating Change

  1. Helen says:

    Your comment “You can never over-communicate a planned change – and in particular – to those most impacted” is so right on. It sounds so obvious, even easy, but I’ve seen this piece fail to understand this. Oerhaps to them it feels like it’s redundant, perhaps even insulting, to repeat a message time and again to employees.

  2. Pat Meehan says:

    Hi Kellie,

    You’ve really hit the target here. When change occurs, especially in areas involving things like downsizing, plant closings, etc., the announcements may be very loud and clear, however the first stage of the grief cycle (denial) sets in quickly and the message becomes unheard. Repetition is critical. People will ask the question that they’ve already been given the answer to when they are ready to hear the answer. Enjoyed your article very much!

  3. Kellie,
    I couldn’t agree more. I have seen some managers and executives hold on to bad news that needed to be communicated to employees immediately like it were some sort of company secret that was to be closely guarded. All that does is make it worse in the long run. We need open communication, so we can all trust each other!

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