The times they are a changin’ (and employees are watching and listening)

by | Jun 7, 2018


When changes are happening within an organization, whether it’s replacing a CEO, changing healthcare benefits, or revising your Flip-Flop Friday’s dress code policy, employees are paying attention. Perhaps they’re not all paying attention. And perhaps the segments that you intended to reach aren’t paying attention. But people are paying attention and trying to figure out the reasons behind the change.

The communication and connectivity of today’s world means that our actions – no matter how large or small – can find an audience. This is just as true inside a company as it is on CNN, Fox News or Facebook. So when management announces change, as communicators, we have to be ever more careful about who is going to notice or care.

Over the years at Tribe, we’ve been told by company leaders that since the changes would only affect the top few layers of management. That there was no need to develop specific communications for frontline sales and factory workers. Another client was surprised to learn that changes in the senior management ranks over an extended period had caused a significant level of concern about the company’s future among frontline staff.

When there is an absence of factual information surrounding change, our human brains are wired to fill in the gaps. The vivid imagination of employees feeds the rumor mill, and suddenly, we have a communications issue on our hands that’s spreading like wildfire.

So when changes are being announced, let’s be mindful that our communications plans consider a broader group than those who are directly affected by that message. If a job function or department is being eliminated or consolidated into another, let’s consider who else will be impacted or might care about that change. It isn’t just the affected department. There’s a group of employees out there wondering if their department is next.

It’s important to think about how change affects non-desk – and especially – front line workers. These employees tend to be the most difficult to reach with communications, and they are often in face-to-face contact with customers. It can be bad for business if these employees are confronted with questions about change that they can’t answer. It can also be demoralizing for employees if people outside the company are aware of things that they haven’t heard from their own management.

We’re not suggesting a need to custom-tailor messages for every employee segment. However, there are times when it makes sense to develop messaging based on who will be directly and indirectly impacted by the change.

And make it easy for the curious to find answers. Regardless of how they’re affected, every company has a percentage of inquisitive employees who want to understand the details and reasoning behind change. Whether it’s through the company intranet, a Q&A platform or well-informed managers, when your employees have questions or concerns about a change, it’s important that they have an easy-to-find, easy-to-use channel for understanding what’s going on.

Because somewhere out there, somebody’s watching and listening.

Is your company in the midst of change? Tribe can help.

Subscribe to our internal communications blog