Regardless of the type of changes – whether it is a restructure, downsizing, new systems being implemented, business diversifying, a merger or acquisition or a change in leadership – it’s important to communicate effectively with employees throughout the process.
According to McKinsey, around 70 per cent of change programs fail to achieve their goals. The fallout from this can range from embarrassment (a PR issue) through to being downright disastrous for a company – it can mean the difference between long-term survival and going out of business completely.
A Towers Watson study found that companies that had good change management practices in place are three-and-a-half times more likely to outperform peer organizations, showing that when change is done right it can really pay dividends.
If your employees don’t understand the reason for change and the implications for the future of your company if change isn’t executed effectively, it can result in a lack of commitment to change implementation and even worse, resistance. When employees understand the reason for change and are willing to go along on the journey with you, they’ll do what needs to be done to make it a success.
When communication about change initiative fails, it’s most often because of one or more of these common issues:
Not being clear
Your messaging needs to be straight to the point and easy to understand. If it’s not easy to comprehend then there’s no point saying it.
Communicating too late
When you spring change on your employees at the last minute, they haven’t had the time to prepare be it emotionally or physically to adjust to the change. The earlier you can begin the communication process in your change initiative, the better. This way you can build a communications schedule and plan your messaging, and allow yourself a buffer if anything goes pear-shaped and needs to be addressed differently.
Not being honest
People fear change because, sometimes, change is painful. Whatever aspect of your organization is changing might not be a positive experience for everyone – particularly if it causes stress, financial problems, job loss, demotion, forced relocation or other negative experiences for employees.
If the news isn’t all good, don’t pretend otherwise. You will only erode trust from employees who may already be jaded and cynical. Communicate the truth, but with empathy.
Communication is only one-way
When employees are facing change, they’re going to have questions and concerns. When your communication is one-way, your employees don’t have an opportunity to contribute or be heard. Two-way communication is a much more inclusive and collaborative approach that can help to win over your employees so they are committed to the success of your change project.
How often and how you communicate
You can’t just send one email and expect that is the end of it. Communication needs to be ongoing and often repetitive – you can expect to have to say the same thing several times before it sinks in, so make sure you are consistent. Communicate across a variety of different channels to ensure your messaging cuts through.