Effective organizational change requires buy-in and support from all employees. To be adequately prepared for change, employees need to know what to expect and how to react to change. Otherwise, change can be overwhelming and unnerving.
Strong communication can help employees prepare for change, and it can make all the difference in the success of any change effort. In a survey conducted by Robert Half, 65 percent of company managers said that clear and frequent communication with employees was the most important factor in leading change. Here are some useful tips for talking to your team about upcoming organizational changes:
Share Your Vision
Employees react to announcements of organizational change in a variety of ways. Some are open to change, while others may respond with fear, anxiety, or resistance. The earliest communications about change should give employees the big picture—the vision for change, why it’s necessary, and how the change will affect individual roles. All subsequent conversations about change should point back to the earlier vision, which will help employees build a foundation for understanding.
Accentuate the Positive
Some employees may resist organizational change or be slow to embrace it for many reasons. They may fear their jobs will become harder or that they’ll be weighted down with more work, or they may have had negative experiences with change in the past. For certain individuals, the idea of change leads them to a “glass half empty” conclusion. You can help your team prepare for change by honestly discussing the effects of change, but also by accentuating the positive. This doesn’t mean glossing over the challenges associated with change, but helping employees see more clearly the upside of change and the benefits for them personally and the organization as a whole. If you don’t highlight the positive effects of change, they can quickly become overlooked or forgotten.
It’s not difficult to imagine what certain individuals on a team will say or think about upcoming change. Highly engaged members of the team will want to know what they can do to help make change a success, while others may be skeptical and resistant at the outset. To address concerns and fears before they take hold, you can stop them in their tracks. By proactively addressing fears, concerns, or rumors before they become a reality, you can ease worries and anxiety. Effective vehicles for taking a proactive approach can include simulations, town halls, or sessions where individuals have the chance to consider “what-if” scenarios related to change.
Some people need to see and hear information many times to accept change and recognize how it will impact them. Therefore, frequent updates and opportunities for discussion will be necessary to help employees understand and prepare for change. In addition to one-on-one discussions and team meetings, employees can also benefit from discussing their fears, concerns, and questions about change in more informal settings. Some examples of ways to talk to employees about organizational change in a more casual, social setting include:
- An informal team lunch dedicated to brainstorming ideas for managing upcoming change
- In-person or online focus groups or chat rooms where employees can
comment, ask questions, and discuss shared experiences
- Anonymous surveys that give employees the room to express their ideas and concerns freely
Organizational change will inevitably impact employee mindsets and behaviors, which means that effective leadership in transitional times requires clear, frequent communication before, during, and after change occurs. You can help your team prepare for organizational change by talking with them about the vision for change and how it impacts individual roles, and by addressing concerns and fears before they have a chance to fester. People can sometimes get more comfortable with change just by talking about it, which is why a variety of in-person and virtual discussions can help employees not just understand the change that is coming, but ultimately embrace it.