Layoffs, reassignments, new management, and relocation of offices—these are some of the changes in the workplace that can happen to any organization. As the old adage goes, change is the only constant in life. Despite this, employees will naturally resist changes in the workplace for various reasons such as fear of loss of job, fear of failure, loss of control, and unwillingness to learn.
Communicating changes in the workplace is one of the toughest tasks that an internal communication specialist or unit has to do. Humans are, after all, creatures of habit. It can be very difficult for them to move outside of their comfort zone. But with a good internal communications plan for communicating change, it is possible for a business to make its employees understand what’s going on in the organization.
Whether your company is undergoing a massive restructuring program, hiring new employees, or about to relocate to a new headquarters, here are some pointers to guide your internal communications plan for communicating changes in the workplace:
1. Start immediately.
Don’t wait for the employees to learn about changes like a layoff or merger from the media. They need to learn right away before they hear it from other sources. Management has to be honest about issues affecting the employees, and it all starts by implementing an internal communications campaign.
2. Establish key, consistent messages.
In crafting an internal communications plan, you need to decide what the employees need to know. Is it about an impending merger with another institution? Or is it regarding the layoff of certain personnel? Whatever the issue is, you or your team must build a set of consistent messages based from it.
3. Determine spokespersons.
The company CEO is often tapped to speak in behalf of the company in communicating changes in the company, particularly issues that have a huge impact on operations like mergers and acquisitions. In HR-related concerns, the HR head may be given the responsibility to communicate with the employees to be affected.
Although the position in the company is usually the basis in selecting spokespersons, some PR practitioners also suggest looking into other factors. For instance, qualities like a history of being trustworthy and forthright should be factored in as well in choosing a spokesperson. The chosen spokesperson should also be a natural communicator; one who understands communication.
4. Identify communication channels/methods.
There are many communication tools available in the workplace, but not every channel may be appropriate in communicating changes to the rest of the organization. For example, email may not exactly be the best channel to inform employees that they will among those affected by layoffs. In this case, one-on-one meetings between supervisors and the affected employees is the most suitable way.
It’s also practical to try town hall-style conversations to better explain to the rest of the organization about the changes that the organization is undergoing. For companies with multiple offices or remote employees, videotaped messages from the management explaining the marketplace context and why the company is implementing certain changes should be adapted.
5. Give employees a chance to be heard.
An internal communications plan to communicate changes in the workplace should also give a chance for the employees to be heard. Employees should be encouraged to air their concerns, ask questions and offer ideas. That’s why communication channels like townhall meetings and one-on-one meetings are better suited for this plan instead of emails and newsletter articles.
It is really difficult to communicate changes to employees, particularly if the change directly affects their jobs. But by following these tips, you and your team can have a better chance of making your colleagues understand why certain changes have to happen, and more importantly, learn to accept them.