Our approach is to start from a place of respect for employees. People want to know what’s going on, why it’s happening and how it will affect them. The goal is to communicate the change in a way that reduces employee stress.
Consider incorporating one or more of these ideas into your change communications:
Just because corporate isn’t talking about the change doesn’t mean that employees aren’t. Without clear communication, employees will fill the information vacuum with speculation and rumor. That can undermine morale, build anxiety and derail engagement. Tell them as much as you can, as soon as you can, so they can prepare themselves mentally.
Try to create a dialogue with employees so it’s a two-way street. Provide at least one channel for them to express questions or concerns and ensure that you have someone in leadership lined up to respond. You might invite questions in a town hall, on the intranet or via email. Employees want to be heard, but it’s also helpful for corporate to hear what they have to say.
Let them vent
Not everyone is going to be happy about every change, or even accept that there are business reasons why that change needs to occur. Provide some way for employees to blow off steam and share their frustrations. This could be an employee survey or a one-question pulse survey, or the ability to share feedback on any of your internal channels.
If you have employees on manufacturing lines, in retail locations or in other positions that don’t involve sitting in front of a computer, be sure you’re communicating the change through channels that reach them. Try to include at least one channel directly from corporate to these frontline employees, rather than relying solely on managers to cascade information.
At the same time, make it as easy as possible for your managers to share a consistent message — with toolkits that include several different types of communication, from face-to-face to digital and posters to presentation decks. Both desk and non-desk employees will turn to their immediate managers with questions and reactions, so help them respond with confidence.