An organization is a system that connects people through complex relationships. These work best when employees understand what their jobs are and how to communicate according to the organization's written and unwritten rules. Leaders are the ones who help employees understand those expectations, and their efforts become particularly important during change. Employees want - but more importantly, NEED - to understand major shifts in business activities if leaders expect them to continue to drive results through the change process. Let's examine how managers can lead employees successfully through change.
Plan Your Communication Strategy
Before we discuss what does work in change management, let's talk about what doesn't work. One reason that change management fails, according to Forbes contributor Mark Murphy, is that leaders do a poor job of explaining the challenges that an organization faces. Every change has a history. At some point, an employee, a customer, or another stakeholder identified a problem. Next, senior leadership discussed the problem and decided that it was important enough to necessitate a change of business strategy, a cultural shift, or a reorganization of operating units. Leaders adopted a solution that would either solve the problem or at least reduce negative impact on the organization.
Whether you're reinventing the business model or changing the workforce to a flexible workweek, leadership needs an action plan. A critical component of the action plan is the communication plan. Mark Murphy offers the questions you need to be prepared to answer. First, explain why employees should implement the desired change. Second, explain where the proposed change will take the company. Third, describe how the company will get to the desired end state. Keep in mind that the end state your company reaches may differ from what was first imagined.
Include Employees in the Planning Process
Another reason change management fails is because the senior leaders of an organization do not include employees during the change management planning process. They plan everything behind the doors of the executive conference room and then use a company meeting, an email, or another tactic to roll out their plan. Employees feel mixed emotions because they don't see it coming. Involving employees includes asking them how the change will impact them and what they can do to help. If some workers participate in the development of the action plan, they can assist other employees in adjusting to change. A thoroughly researched and implemented plan for change has a better chance of success. Senior leaders cannot plan for every contingency, but they can show that they have considered how employees must rise to new performance expectations in order for the plan to succeed.
Proceed with Caution
Leaders should act upon their strategy for change management with a bit of caution. It's possible that a change management plan does not give enough direction to managers at all levels of the company. Senior leaders should meet with all managers to discuss the plan. They should provide strategies to middle and lower level managers on how to communicate the change management process. Any process of change management calls for specific actions from different employees and business units. When leaders communicate roles to individuals and units, they can describe the expectations for each role. Middle and lower level managers can also schedule additional meetings with employees to clarify roles and expectations. Some employees will have more questions than others and may need a little coaching to succeed in their role. We don't have to write people off who don't get on board at the very beginning. We should be a little patient and give people a chance to adjust - and the tools they need to adjust - successfully.
We want to help organizations like yours understand how to implement change through well-planned communication with all employees. For more ideas on the importance of communication during periods of transition, please contact us today.