Communicating During Times of Change

Effective communication is vital to successful organisational change. When companies bring in new technologies, change processes, or face crises, leaders need the support of employees to succeed. They need to inspire confidence through their words, motivating the workforce and getting their buy-in with the project, mission, or crisis management plan. But how exactly can leaders do this, and what should organisations consider when building a communication strategy?

During change, employees want to know what is happening and what is expected of them. Communicating frequently and being transparent are key. Without regular information from decision-makers, employees could talk between themselves and draw the wrong conclusions, which could create confusion and harm the communication strategy. Additionally, failing to be transparent, like minimising or sugar-coating bad news, could be seen as lying and create mistrust. On the other hand, being honest with employees through purposeful communication shows trust and respect in the workforce.

It is important that organisations deliver consistent messages. This helps to ensure objectives are synchronised and work is efficient. It is thus integral that leaders are aligned with the communication strategy. Holding cross-functional meetings can help to avoid contradictions and divergencies.

Depending on the nature of the situation, meetings may need to be held more frequently. For instance, during the current health crisis, the ability to act swiftly has been important for the survival of businesses, due to the extreme levels of uncertainty and the fast pace of external developments.

Conveying an inspiring vision is a great way to gain commitment and get the workforce onboard. Indeed, major change often requires additional effort and resilience, and a convincing vision can help raise morale in challenging times, uniting teams behind a shared goal. It can be a good idea to delineate the role that the workforce will play, since having clarity on how their work makes an impact and its place in the wider mission has been linked to higher motivation and engagement.

Providing support for and showing awareness of the difficulties that are often involved in transitions can help employees to process emotional challenges. It is important that organisations and leaders show empathy by understanding how staff feel and acknowledging concerns clearly and directly. Take, for example, a switch to a new digital system. Staff may worry about how easily they will adapt and how it might affect their day-to-day routines or job security. Taking time to address these concerns thoroughly and honestly could help allay fears among staff and induce more optimistic thinking around the change.

References:

  1. Leadership Communication During Times Of Change: 10 Ways To Move Forward Together, Aric Wood, April 2019,
  2. How to Communicate Organisational Change: 4 Steps, Angela Fisher Ricks, June, Harvard Business Review Online.