No one likes change. But change is necessary and proper communication can mean the difference between a successful outcome and disastrous results.
Productivity almost always suffers in times of great change because employee stress dramatically increases due to the universal fear of the unknown. Often senior executives genuinely believe they are communicating with employees when it comes to matters that affect them. Unfortunately, they often underestimate the number of matters that includes the employees directly.
Can you say with certainty that you know what is important to employees and what to tell them? The only way to know is to put yourself in their shoes and see things from their perspective and mindset. Think to yourself, “If I were hearing this information what would I be worried about right now in the current situation?” If you were that employee what would be important for you to know? What is the worst thing that could happen, and would you want to know about it in advance? How would you want to be told?
How would you be answering these questions? You can’t answer the questions without the input from your staff, the people which are directly impacted by these changes. Depending on how much you can discuss, or how much is already known, you might ask a few individuals what the grapevine is saying, and what people are worrying and wondering about. Trust me when I say, the grapevine is usually very fertile and news that you and other senior management think that only you know about, will have normally travelled fast already. The only downside to this is that people tend to poison the grapevine with their own ideas and alas, the news would have reached the employees distorted and thus creating more stress.
Now, armed with this information, draft the answers to the questions. Of course they must be truthful answers, for insincerity is easily recognised and bulls*** can easily be smelled from a mile away and will deal a deathblow to your communication efforts. Then they must be couched in terms that are clear and uncompromising, but also considerate and compassionate. It’s worth spending some time on this part. Lack of commitment to your message is also easily read and will automatically raise the cynicism level among employees.
You should carefully consider the media used to communicate your message. The way a person receives news can dramatically affect how he or she feels about it, so you need to choose the medium very carefully. E-mail can be perceived as cold and unfeeling in many cases, although it is useful for routine updates that don’t have emotional overtones. Some messages are better spoken, either by managers to their groups or by the CEO/General Manager to the whole company. Most importantly; the message must remain honest, clear, and compassionate.
And above all, follow through on your commitments and promises. Nothing turns employees off more than empty words. Sincere, caring, ongoing communication can form the basis for building employee engagement when the present time of turmoil ends.