Change, good or bad, is often a bumpy ride. For the employees of a company in transition, this can be especially true. Uncertainty easily spawns rumors, resentment, and stress, making it critical for managers to keep the lines of communication open with their staff during times of significant change.
A recent Robert Half Management Resources survey of senior managers in the United States found a solid majority (65%) of these business leaders believe clear and frequent communication is the most important success factor for guiding their team through change.
Here are six communication tactics managers should employ to help their employees not only understand the change and the reasons for it, but also, how they can contribute to and benefit from it:
- Communicate early
Priority number one: Involve employees as soon as goals are set. Even if you don’t have all the particulars, share as much information as you can. Then, ask for your team’s opinions and get their input on how best to implement the change.
- Be selective when sharing information
While you don’t want to keep your staff in the dark, you don’t want to overwhelm them with details either. So, before communicating with your employees about a major change, ask yourself: Will this information be meaningful to my team? Do they really need to know all of these specifics?
- Manage expectations
Be honest about the impact of the change. Sugarcoating issues or setting unrealistic goals or timelines will almost certainly work against successful execution of the change. It also can erode your employees’ trust and their confidence in your leadership.
- Accentuate the positives
If the change is intended to lead to good things for your staff, make sure they know that up front. This will help them feel more invested in and accepting of the change. For example, if your company is implementing a new business system, explain how it will enhance team efficiency and productivity by reducing manual tasks.
- Acknowledge success
Successful change hinges on teamwork. So be quick to celebrate successes throughout the change process, and reward employees who go above and beyond to help ensure a seamless transition.
- Keep on communicating
Our recent survey of senior managers found that respondents at the largest companies (1,000 or more employees) said they experience change management failures most commonly after implementation. Once a major change is in place — whether it’s the completion of a merger or the adoption of a new business model — more than likely you’ll need to begin a whole new chapter of communication with your employees. You may also need to offer training or bring in extra support, such as project professionals to ensure staff can adapt to the change while maintaining peak performance.
Communication is, without question, a critical element in successful change management. To realize positive outcomes during and after a major change event, it is imperative for managers to be proactive, thoughtful, and strategic in their approach to sharing information with their employees.
Connecting with your team is essential for a smooth transition during challenging times. Build your communication skills with AMA's resources and seminars.