Part 2: The art of communicating change to employees

Explore how leaders should be communicating change to employees during operating model design changes to ensure effectiveness.

Part 2- The art of communicating change to employees, featured image, Clarasys

Part 2: The art of communicating change to employees

Explore how leaders should be communicating change to employees during operating model design changes to ensure effectiveness.

Part 2- The art of communicating change to employees, featured image, Clarasys

Meet the author

Bisha Chakravorty

Principal Consultant

The way we communicate change can have a lasting impact on the success of any transformation. Whether it’s the way the change team communicates with the leadership team, as we explored in a previous blog or the way leaders and employees communicate with one another, it’s important to have a considered communication plan that swings into action long before the project gets underway. Comms should never be an afterthought.

In this blog, we consider the comms strategy from the employees’ point of view. We will consider what they need and expect from their leaders during op model design. We will also explore how they will be feeling during this time of uncertainty, the type of communication they need as they continue to work in the business, and the kind of services that employees benefit from, such as counselling or careers advice.

The importance of operating model design in business transformation

An operating model defines a business’s tasks and systems, providing the foundation for the organisation and the framework it operates within. But, because the economic environment is constantly changing, op models need to change periodically too. The end goal in an op model design might be to increase efficiency and productivity, reduce costs, or streamline systems. Whatever the reason is, periods of change can understandably raise concerns among employees.  

It’s important to remember that employees are at the centre of any op model design – they’re the people who are going to have to make the new design work. Here, we detail four important points that we believe will help businesses communicate change to their employees.

Four key points for effective change communication to employees

1.  Honesty and transparency: Setting the stage for change

Honesty and transparency are vital parts of any communication strategy. Be honest about why it is happening. Perhaps it’s being driven by a need to cut costs, or the company is embarking on a growth journey, or maybe a competitor is applying pressure.

Whatever the reason, by being transparent and honest, you are giving advance warning about what is going to happen. As we mentioned in the first blog, it takes people time to adjust to new things. Start communicating six months before the project gets underway to give people time to get used to the idea that change is coming and avoid the shock factor. Some of the comms from leaders must be scripted so that every member of the C-suite says the same thing. But there should also be elements that aren’t scripted to give leaders space to be authentic.

Do not be intentionally vague; all information should be clear and accurate. If there are still many unknowns, tell people this is the case and let them know you are working on a solution. Make sure people know how they can communicate ideas with you (more on this in the next point) and offer a sequence and timeline of events. 

2. Employee feedback channels: Bridging communication gaps 

Feedback channels allow for communication to be both ways. Channels such as drop-in sessions, Q&As, and/or a sharepoint site, are important because they allow people to ask questions and share their experiences – good and bad. These channels also give people a voice, allowing them to be part of the change rather than the victims of it. Key themes can be collated and sent to the change team to refine and tweak communication strategies and activities accordingly. These channels also help leaders understand current workforce sentiment. Advice here is to listen and act on whatever you are being told, which brings us on to the next point.

3. Building psychological safety and morale: Post-design impacts 

After the design is complete, there will be changes which may positively or negatively impact your workforce. Either way, morale and psychological safety will have been impacted and there needs to be communication that filters from the top down to rebuild psychological safety. Some people and teams may be happy about the results, others less so. Building psychological safety will help all teams collectively and will allow any teams that feel they have been negatively impacted some time and space to readjust to the “new norm”. This is where setting and communicating the right organisation culture and values is essential to help build psychological safety.

4. Building teams with a positive mindset: Nurturing collaboration 

How can we ensure we are building teams with a positive mindset? Building on a positive organisation culture and values is essential to foster a positive mindset for employees. 

This positive mindset allows employees to feel ownership and commitment to the organisation, and therefore foster the main reason behind the op model change, for example, productivity, efficiency, or cost reduction purposes. Communication can really help engagement, ownership, and innovation. The right level of communication will also help to boost morale and allow people to work as a team to achieve the ultimate goal of the design change.

Conclusion: Putting employees at the core of communication strategy

By placing employees front and centre of a communication strategy, giving them a voice, and providing feedback loops, you will have a stronger, healthier business that is ready to take on any challenge beyond the design completion date.  

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