Communicating change in the workplace

Wed, 25 Apr 2018

It’s a well-known fact that, in life, change is natural and good, and that if we don’t accept change we stagnate and we don’t grow. It’s also true that change can be upsetting until we come to terms with it.

The same goes in business where people's reaction to change can be unpredictable and irrational so that change has the potential to cause failures, loss of production or falling quality. Yet change is vital to the survival of an organisation and, if well managed, the benefits can be huge. The secret to successfully managing change, from the perspective of your employees, is to clearly define the proposed change(s) and the reasons for it, to explain it succinctly and thoroughly so that everyone understands it and to make sure that, as far as possible, everyone is on board. In other words, the key to managing change is communication.

The what, why and when of change

The change you are contemplating might be a big one such as a complete restructuring or a smaller one such as the introduction of a staff loyalty scheme. In every case, resistance to change comes from a fear of the unknown or an expectation of loss. What you have to concentrate on is ensuring that your workers perceive the change in as positive a light as possible.

Your employees will want to know what the change will be and when it will happen, but they will also want to know why. Why is it happening now? Why can't things stay like they have always been? Why is it happening to us?

For example, if you rearrange your open-plan office to fit in some extra desks for new staff, there may be high resistance to the change if your original employees feel the additional hiring is a threat to their jobs, or perceive the hiring as unnecessary. If the change happens without any consultation or warning, they may feel upset and worried. What’s important here is the need to fully explain the change and the reason for it in as much detail and as early as you can.

You can emphasise the positive reasons for the change, such as a need to meet extra demand from increased sales which can’t be met by existing staff even with overtime. You can ask the existing staff for their ideas on how the space could be rearranged so that they feel involved in the process and at the same time you can give them an opportunity to voice any concerns.

Communication outsourced to professionals

The basis of the process is communication at every stage and at every level. How can management go about defining the change for their employees to emphasise the positive aspects and to minimise opposition? With the help of professional writers and communicators.

Cavalry can help with this, whether it’s preparing a compelling presentation explaining change, an e-newsletter, or hand-outs for employees to take away to process the changes at leisure. At every stage, it’s vital to allow your employees the opportunity to define and voice any reasons behind resistance so that you can answer their concerns in an open way. This could be achieved by way of a FAQ column in your staff bulletin. Above all, don’t be tempted to ignore these concerns, because if you do, you could be setting yourself up to fail. It’s important to ensure that you achieve mutual understanding.

Even if the changes proposed might result in redundancies or loss of jobs, you can mitigate worry and distress by setting out clearly in writing what redundancy packages will be available and what help you propose to offer staff to find other employment. As professional writers with business expertise, we can take on the task of your change management communication package so that you can get on with the day to day running of your business.

By focussing in this way on opening and maintaining clear channels of communication with your employees so that they understand what is proposed and what it will mean for them, you are more likely to gain their appreciation and support. What flows from that is that they will cope better with the change and will be more productive both before and after its introduction.