Riding the Cs of Change – Communication
Change.” It is often a well-known word in business, and it’s not hard to see why. Change can create a sense of fear, anxiety and resentment – all caused by the uncertainty of the unknown.
It’s during times of change that organizations most need a lighthouse – a guide to help them navigate the turbulent waters. Whether facing mergers, market expansions, leadership changes, downsizes or acquisitions, you need to be equipped to align your company culture, your people and values to your new objectives.
Communicate is everything; don’t assume anything
The apprehension caused by change can make it difficult for employees to buy into the need for the transition. One of the biggest mistakes leaders make is assuming employees understand the change, vision and direction– they don’t.1
Create a communications plan that outlines the company’s core message, objectives, roadmap, and timing - write it down, share it, and repeat it often. Honest communications can help share your vision, motivate employees and foster a human connection to the transformation.
Help employees become agents of the change by focusing on three foundational elements of change management: acceptance, transparency and engagement.
Only 30 percent of organizational change programs are successful.
McKinsey and Company
Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist, said “We cannot change anything until we accept it.” While people may not necessarily embrace the change, they must accept its inevitability.
In order to gain that acceptance, company heads, including HR leadership, need to convey the reasons for the change and outline how it will benefit the company and its people2. Help calm fears and uncertainties by offering multiple opportunities for discussions, including company-wide meetings, town halls and one-on-one conversations with managers.
Focus on the positive to help employees accept what is coming and understand how their individual contributions will help ensure the success of the transformation.
Surprises are great…at birthday parties. They aren’t so great when it comes to business operations. Avoid the “No one told me that!” or the “Why am I just now being pulled into this?” by creating transparency from the very beginning.
One way to do this is to appoint an executive sponsor who will be the “face” of the change. His/her actions and behaviors should be an example for those across the organization2. This, in turn, helps build trust by demonstrating that the leadership team is committed to walking the walk and talking the talk.
Building out a project plan with timelines can also foster transparency. There’s less chance of surprises if people are kept abreast of updates and milestones associated with organizational change. Do not fear over-communicating; people appreciate frequent, consistent communication during times of change. Try different channels (i.e. emails, town halls, one-on-one meetings) to bring clarity to the situation and to ensure that everyone has the necessary support.
As a company takes a new direction, it is imperative to make sure everyone – at all levels within the organization – feel like they are a part of this process3. Encourage participation at the individual, team/departmental and company level to spur dialog and interaction.
Providing tools is essential to help people get through the change management process. Frequently publish project plans, updates, flow charts, roadmaps, measurements and other useful documents in a place that people can easily access. Don’t consider these activities and resources frivolous. By taking the time to engage and share information, you’ll nurture a sense of teamwork, ownership and even accountability of the change objectives.
Getting through the currents of change
Chances are your organization will be going through some type of change in the future. It may be big; it may be small. Regardless, the key to navigating these changes is being prepared. Having a change management process in place and key players to manage it is crucial to surviving challenging times and being able to right your company’s ship with whatever change comes its way.
1Project Smart: Change Management in Practice: Why Does Change Fail?
2Harvard Business Review: Disruptive Innovation “What do you Really Mean by “Business Transformation?” by Scott Anthony; February 29, 2016