Pat Brill asked:
(c) 2008 Pat Brill
Do you ever find yourself confused on how to best communicate changes to your employees? Here is where you need to do some serious brainstorming. Why? Because it takes a lot of communication to make a change successful.
As soon as you know that you will be creating change in your department, you must communicate to your employees so they know what is happening. You are probably thinking…why get them anxious about the change when you don’t know all the details yet. They sense it already…as if the walls in the conference rooms have ears. It’s much better to hear from you and not from someone outside the department or company.
Your communication plan needs to start right alongside the strategic planning. Aligned your communication plan along with all the steps of the project. Even if the change is relatively small, communicate throughout the whole process.
You will make changes as your receive feedback from employees and others, but if you have a solid communication plan in place already, making minor changes is easier. You and your employees have to feel as much in control as possible…so no surprises if possible. This plan will not guarantee there are no surprises but will reduce the possibility.
What you need to do is create a communication template and use it diligently in all of your significant changes. Here are some ideas to creating your communication plan
-What is the goal of the change?
-Who are the stakeholders? (who is driving the change and/or benefiting from it?)
-Who is the project leader for your communication plan?
-What changes will need to occur in the department in order for you to meet your objective(s)?
-How long will it take to implement the change?
-What are the tangible results you would like to see from the communication plan?
-Who will need to change in order to insure the results will occur? Critical to know who will be most impacted as they are the individuals who you will need to insure fully understands the change.
When planning your communication events you need a solid foundation for all messages to your employees. Your communication must include clarity, consistency of messaging, continuous communications, and a forum for feedback. You want to insure that the information is received correctly and you are providing the necessary details for the employees to understand and accept the change.
Note: Before you send out your messages, test the message with a few people to get their feedback. You probably have worked on the message numerous times and can’t see the more obvious missing points. You need to provide information in a language that people will understand. A fresh pair of eyes will be helpful.
Build a master list of communication activities that make up your plan. Here are some sample headings.
-Create a list of communication events organizing them in the order that you will distribute. Include date and how you will communicate the message. These communication events will be aligned with milestones of the project.
-For each communication event, create a list of details. For example, who will write it, what is the topic, how will it be distributed, and how will you follow up.
-Create a Calendar with Planned Events – you can visually see all of your communication events and plan accordingly.
-How will you communicate the message? (verbal and written)
-Who is responsible to communicate the message
-Actual Delivered Date
Note: Communication Calendar – have one on the wall or close by so you can see visually all of your planned communication events.
Make sure you mix verbal as well as written communication so that the employee gets an opportunity to ask you questions and come away with more clarity around the change. Create a script for your verbal messaging so you are consistent with the written message.
Create several ways to receive feedback and let the employees know how they can share their thoughts, concerns or suggestions. People handle their concerns differently, some more outspoken, others more reluctant to speak in a large group. If you have several venues for them to give you feedback, you will have more information and fewer surprises. Here are some ideas to use for gathering feedback:
-1:1 meetings with managers
-Create a separate website for employees to ask their questions.
Note: A separate website can also hold past communications and FAQs for repetitive questions.
Employees feel more comfortable when a manager informs them throughout the process. They may still feel anxious about the upcoming change, and yet if you are open, you build a lot of trust with them. When an employee trusts their manager, they are more open to the change.