In business, change is constant. But the level of change we’re seeing as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic is nothing short of hyper-drive. Individuals and entire workforces have been thrust essentially overnight into new ways of working as they simultaneously juggle the demands of home.
Change may be constant, but it’s also hard. Most people react to change emotionally. Individuals want to understand what’s happening, why, and what it means to them. Information gaps lead to uncertainty, speculation, and dips in productivity.
As communications leaders, we’re often asked to support businesses as they go through operational change. And having a clear plan and path forward is crucial to success during times of change.
Here are a few key elements to consider:
Put people first
When you put people at the centre of what you’re trying to achieve in your business the outcome of success increases exponentially.
One size does not fit all
Adoption of change looks and feels different for everyone. Understanding the different personas within your organization, their barriers to change, and how to set up the required support is paramount.
Have a team
Change isn’t a one-person job in an organization. It requires many hands to both plan and implement. Set up a team of leaders from across your business to provide input and to be visible with staff throughout the entire process. Create a plan that maps out the change happening and defines what success looks like.
Communicate clearly and frequently
Provide clear direction on what’s happening in your business and why. Be honest about what you know and don’t know about the short and long-term implications for your business. Use clear, simple language and help people understand what it all means to them and the expectations for their roles and responsibilities.
Lead by example
The role of visible leaders throughout a large change initiative is paramount. Their commitment to the efforts demonstrates the importance of the change to the business and they will gain the trust of colleagues and employees as a result.
With a clear plan and an understanding of what success looks like, taking the time to check in with employees and make adjustments where possible helps ensure full adoption as you work toward a common goal.
This is a marathon, not a sprint. Organizations that gain perspective and insight early into how best to move through change with creativity, compassion, commitment, and communication will be the most successful and adaptive. They’ll also be the organizations that build productivity and reinforce a strong culture and trust of employees.
If you’re not sure where to get started with your change management communications plans, we have an experienced team who can help, or provide training for your internal communications team.
——— Ronalda Walsh is a former Associate Vice-President at NATIONAL Public Relations
——— Kathryn Tector is a former Senior Vice-President and Chief Client Officer, Atlantic at NATIONAL Public Relations