Employees don’t like change. It’s disruptive and unsettling. They stop focusing on the business and start worrying about the “me” questions. Will my benefits change? Will my job change? Will I still have a job?
Meeting the distinct, but connected needs of employees requires a firm understanding of what drives them and how they may react to new challenges. Without employee involvement and engagement, the chances of successfully managing change are low and the risk to business performance high.
1. Address the “me” questions first
Employees won’t be able to assimilate the benefits of change, or why it’s important to the company’s future success, until you’ve got the “me” questions out the way. Be straight with them, honest and transparent.
2. Understand your audiences
Identify where the differences and similarities lie among employee groups, and the most effective channels and messages to reach them. What do they think now? What do you want them to think?
Employees can be easily overwhelmed by information. It’s critical to focus on communicating only what’s relevant to them and in language they can relate to. Everything you say and do, and everything you ask employees to say and do, needs to be simple, straightforward and clear.
3. Senior leadership visibility
Senior leaders need to actively support the initiative and seen to be personally committed to its success. Employees take their cues from what senior leaders do rather than what they say. From modeling new behaviors and understanding how to support their teams, senior leaders have a significant impact on managing change.
4. Employees, not corporate, need to be at the center
Employees need to feel their voice matters – and feel they’re playing an active role in shaping the initiative. Create a true dialogue through interactive town halls, digital social networks, ambassador programs and employee advisory councils.
5. Recognize & Reward
Leverage every opportunity to recognize employee behavior that supports the new business model – and reward those who go beyond expectations. And the incentives don’t have to be financial. A recent McKinsey report concluded that “for most people nonfinancial motivators are more effective than extra cash in building employee engagement”.
Paul Vosloo is a senior vice president at Fleishman-Hillard and leads the firm’s employee communications capabilities in the New York office.
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