3 Change Management Communication Tips from the Trenches

a cartoon character is confused by too many megaphones blaring at him

Change is challenging enough on its own. Don’t make change more difficult by communicating it poorly.

The word “change” alone can make some employees wince. They know change can mean more work, require learning new skills, threaten their job security, involve new co-workers and shift their currently comfortable job role. Why should they eagerly accept it? Only you as a leader can present the rationale for change in a way that persuades them that change will be worth the effort—for their sake and for the sake of the company’s future good health.

What leaders forget is that they have had plenty of time to get used to the change they propose. They have contemplated what needs to happen, discussed with the senior team how to go about it, and analyzed the different steps required. All that time typically behind closed doors! Now that it’s time to share the plan with the general workforce, leaders are apt to cover things too quickly. They assume the change will be easily understood and neglect the fact that it comes as a surprise to their employees.

Avoid the disconnect that can alienate your employees to the concept of change. Give them time to reflect upon your reasons for the change and encourage their questions so you can fill in any blanks. Trying to force change upon them too abruptly will backfire. Based upon over two decades of change management consulting experience, it is better to over-communicate and take the time to garner their support.

  1. Give employees as much information as you can and as clearly as you can.
    Tell your employees why you feel the organizational change is necessary. Paint a clear picture of what could happen if the change does not occur and what you expect will happen when it does. Tell them how it will affect them as teams and individuals.
  2. Accentuate the positive.
    Major change takes time. Inspire your troops to the cause. When they sign on to the better future you describe, they will consider the required extra effort as worth it. How will the change improve the status quo or better prepare the organization for the future? Perhaps their work will be simplified and they can be more productive with less effort. Or maybe the team as a whole will benefit. The more specific you can be, the better your chances of winning employees over from the start.
  3. Invite employee feedback and participation as you work out the details.
    Give employees some control over the mechanics of the change. With their manager’s help, they can figure out how the change should be implemented at the individual and team level. With a sense of ownership over the process, they will feel as if they are part of a major initiative that will set the company up for long-term success.

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