What’s Your Plan for Communicating Change?

BY Kathy Crosett
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Without change, the chances for your company’s growth are limited. The problem with change is the way it can disrupt the established culture and working systems in an organization. If you fail to properly plan for and communicate upcoming changes to your employees, you can expect turmoil, lost productivity, and in some cases, subversion.

If, for example, your goal is to reduce operating expenses this year, you may decide to outsource noncritical functions to a service provider. This kind of CHANGE will impact employees who will be laid off. The remaining employees will also be impacted – worried about the longevity of the organization and their own jobs.

Before you communicate the big change to everyone, review the details to be sure it’s exactly what you want to do. An article on Paychex​.com suggests you may want to go one step further. Consider holding formal discussions with a small but trusted group of employees about the dilemma facing the company. Ask them how they would handle the situation. Ask for feedback on issues you may have missed while developing your plan. If you replace the payroll department with an outsourced service, will there be negative outcomes you haven’t considered? This kind of feedback loop will help you build support internally for the change and reduce the changes of key players who might take deliberate action to subvert the plan.

Once you make a decision, commit to the plan. Share the information with managers first. They need to be prepared to handle the questions that will come their way after your make your formal announcement.

And speaking of the announcement, try to inform everyone at the same time. Assemble employees in a central location and ask remote workers to call in. During your announcement, be clear and specific. Acknowledge the difficulty of the change, emphasize your commitment to the future and stay positive.

Your employees will have questions immediately following a big announcement. They’ll also likely want to talk to someone in the days and weeks that follow. In the example of shifting to an outsourced payroll vendor, make sure your employees have contact information for the person who will handle their questions. Your team members may be accustomed to talking with a trusted employee about their paychecks. Remind the new provider that they will have to exert extra effort and customer service to win the trust of your employees.

Change is never easy. If you fumble your opportunity to communicate the positive aspects of your plan, it will take that much longer for everyone to feel comfortable in the new environment and it will slow down the transition you are leading. Take the time you need to work out the details and to properly announce what's going to be different going forward.