Last night I had dinner with eight other senior communicators charged with communicating change to employees in their organizations. Here are some simple truths that emerged from our conversation:
Communicating change is not primarily about:
- Repeating key messages, especially in slides embedded in emails
- Cascading messages down for project leaders to deliver
- Using the latest and greatest tech tools, like yammer, jive, and slack
Communicating change is about:
- Relationships and trust-building between company leaders and employees
- Listening, and understanding how employees respond to change. Though some may be anxious about change, not everyone resists change!
- Understanding what motivates people. Remember that employees in various positions and places within a company may have differing perspectives. Tell employees what’s in it for them. Give them – especially those in conceptual or creative jobs — the freedom and autonomy to do their best work vs. relying on incentives (like money) to do the work.
Build into your communications plan:
- Executive involvement, first and foremost: Train executives how to communicate change – they’ll be grateful, because they may be anxious about change, and about being in the “catbird seat” in communicating it.
- Face-to-face communication
- Two-way communication: Make room for feedback.
- A focus on “them,” not on “us”. Are you actively listening and answering employees’ concerns vs. telling them what you think they need to know?
- Assessment tools to check on the effectiveness of your communications
Managing change doesn’t have to be a slog. Understanding relationships, trust, motivation, and the power of listening, resilience, and flexibility can make all the difference.