Ten tips for effective communication at a time of corporate change
Turmoil in the world economy has accelerated change management programmes at many corporations. These changes have frequently brought bad news for employees in terms of closures, relocations or job losses. Effective internal communication at a time of intense anxiety is essential if the change process is to be successfully effected, and employees treated with the dignity and respect to which they are entitled.
Here are ten lessons I’ve learned in the art of change communication.
1) Be realistic – change always means uncertainty and this leads to anxiety. Good communication can help alleviate this, but until the uncertainty is over, there’s no miracle cure – however brilliant the change communication is.
2) Start as you mean to go on – plan meticulously for the very first announcement: mixed messages and confusion at this stage mean unnecessary remedial work to recover lost ground, as well as eroding management credibility when you need it most.
3) Set a pattern – establish regular communication channels – newsletters, briefings, teleconferences – so that people know when to expect the latest information.
4) Segment and tailor – at a time of corporate change, the principle of communicating to answer the question “what does this mean for me?” is more important than ever.
5) Support your front-line managers – face to face communication, especially with trusted line managers, is the most effective communication of all. So support your team with an investment in communication training.
6) Avoid wasted communication – don’t waste people’s time or attention by giving them information they don’t really need: focus all effort on communicating the messages and developments that really matter.
7) Mix your media – utilise the potential of electronic communication to the full, but don’t assume that everyone likes to receive information in this way. Noticeboards, posters and newsletters still have a role to play to reach some audiences.
8) Speak their language – US or UK-owned companies with English as the language of the business should nevertheless translate key communication materials. You owe it to your people to reduce anxiety by communicating information in a way they will understand.
9) Keep talking – whilst you can’t provide immediate reassurance on job security, communicate early, clearly and often about the process and timescale for reaching this point.
10) Listen and learn – take regular feedback on the effectiveness of your communication – and make enhancements based on what you find out.
Corporate communicators are spending large amounts of time on change communication at the current time. It’s never easy, but applying some core principles can help keep employees well informed, ease the change process and protect the corporate reputation.
- Jonathan Hemus, Insignia Communications
- Follow Jonathan on Twitter @jhemusinsignia