We have all experienced the affect of good and bad communication, how it makes us feel and the positive and negative consequences it can have. When something is changing the stakes are much higher. We experience change continuously throughout our daily lives. Changes can take place internally and can be our choice to make, but they can also come from external sources and be completely out of our control. Some are inconsequential but other incidents have a massive effect on our lives, how we feel and how we act.
Most humans dislike and distrust external change, we like to know where we are, what we are doing, and to feel in control of our environment. Change in our personal lives is expected, and accepted, as a part of life, we live we grow, we change. But in a business setting it seems to be a bit trickier.
Why is change at work different?
When an employee signs a contract for a job and accepts a role in an organisation a business will try hard to engage with the employee, to make them feel like they have some ownership and feel valued. Many have social development schemes to help individuals learn and interact with their colleagues, and most people make friendships in work environments.
The tricky bit is that a business belongs to someone (or a group of someone’s) and that someone must make decisions to ensure the business succeeds, survives, and thrives. These decisions can affect every aspect of the business, and can have a positive or negative effect on relationships inside the business as well as personal relationships and behaviours at home.
When a business leader makes a decision for the business that they run they are usually trying to make the best decision for the situation, with the best result for as many people as possible. This may mean a change in circumstances, more work or different procedures for employees which can lead to uncertainty; some may feel disengaged and others that their life has been taken out of their control.
How can you mitigate change?
The good news is that how you manage change, big or small, and whether you communicate effectively can help you to navigate the feelings and behaviours of others and set you, and the business, up for success. Most people have heard of the stages you go through when change is taking place, well, communication can help or hinder at each stage.
What are the stakes?
Unsuccessful internal communication (including no communication) can lead to confusion, frustration, and negativity. This will give you disengaged employees who are nervous and feel like they are in the dark. In this mindset rumours are rife, and people are not going to enjoy working for you, leading (in the least) to an uncomfortable working environment. In the extreme it can have a detrimental effect on your business’s relationships with customers, can decrease productivity, quality and finally sales.
Communication managed successfully can help you empower your workforce, provide them with new opportunities and give them the tools they need to work successfully in their roles. Well informed employees will be able to act as business ambassadors with an understanding of what is happening in the business they work for and why. If customers notice a change (not everyone will know about every change) they will also see a positive and engaged team who is able to continue to supply the services or products that they have grown accustomed to.
When communicating change with customers and providers there is always a juggling act between the amount of information you provide and when. Ensuring your internal team is well informed will help this transition and will encourage the perception of a well-planned and capable team.
How do you make sure you communicate effectively?
You have just experienced a period of significant change.
What did you notice about:
• how you felt when you received information?
• where you got the information from?
• and how easy it was to find?
When you think about it, what influenced how you thought about the situation? Did you know what you could and couldn’t do and what the new information meant for you? Communicating about a business change is just the same. You must always think about how it affects others, and what they would want and need to know. Nothing is too simple to be included.
The key is:
- Putting the information in the context of those that are receiving it,
- in a format that people have access to
- and is easy to understand.
If you think of each of the questions above as a person, putting yourself in the shoes of the people who will be affected by the change, you will be able to communicate with them successfully.
If you need help with communicating about change in your organisation with either your internal team, partners or your customers, please get in touch to find out how we can help you succeed.