My colleagues and I have been busy the past six months working on communication and training programs to support large change initiatives for two clients. Both clients are big companies with thousands of employees who will be impacted by new ways of doing their jobs. The good news is the changes will ultimately improve daily work and make their jobs easier. The bad news is most employees don’t like change, even if it’s for the better.

A workforce undergoing change can ultimately arrive at two destinations when the dust has settled:

  1. Energized, renewed, and eager to take on the future.
  2. Broken down, unmotivated, cynical, and ready to throw the company under the proverbial bus.

Consistent Communication is Key

The way that leaders communicate will make a world of difference in whether employees embrace or resist a transition. First of all, the leaders must communicate, and they must put forth an aligned message. This is not optional. Even if your leadership team is fully aligned behind the scenes, if your workforce doesn’t hear you and have tangible proof that you’re marching in lockstep, they will immediately become suspicious.

It’s crucial for the leadership team to acknowledge what it’s like to go through a transition when it’s inflicted upon you and not something you’re part of managing. Senior level employees tend to move through the change curve quickly. They can easily grasp the urgency, business rationale and logic behind an impending change and transition to the new normal quite rapidly.

Allow Employees to Voice Concerns

When your workforce consists of thousands of mid and lower-level associates, leaders need to mindful of the many different levels of being able to relate to and accept change. Employees will want to voice their concerns, and channels should be created where they can be heard. Then leaders should let employees know they are being heard. Acknowledge their concerns, and tell them when you will provide answers, even if you can’t answer all of their questions today.

It may feel like you’re over-communicating during a change initiative, but it’s essential that every layer of the business involved with the change has some insight into what’s coming, when, and the ultimate destination when the change is complete.

About Alice Wright

As Director of Client Services, Alice directs projects while also designing program strategy and instructional content. She has more than 22 years of experience managing integrated strategic marketing, communication and training programs for globally recognized brands. Some of her current and past clients include Nike, Sunglass Hut, Safeway, Banfield Pet Hospital, Office Depot, Unilever, LensCrafters, EMC, Intel, Microsoft, Dell, adidas, Joann Stores and others.

Alice earned her bachelor’s degree from the School of Journalism and Communication at University of Oregon. She lives with her husband and teenage son in Portland, Oregon where she loves exploring the outdoors and being a soccer/band mom.

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