Change-related stress at work can take an enormous toll on an employees performance. A recent study indicates that those suffering from change-related stress perform 5% worse than the average employee. Five percent may not seem like much, but consider that any kind of stress can manifest in a number of ways at work or at home. It can even spill into his or her personal relationships and overall health.
Today our workforce faces change events today than they did three years ago. And when it comes to major organizational changes, these events doubled. Can your communications strategy impact employee commitment, morale, and retention? You bet!
Here are five keys to keep in mind when planning, implementing, and communicating a change initiative from Gartner Corp:
1. Understand what is changing and why: At the very beginning, set up the business context of the change, the change objectives, and the desired outcome. Sometimes, there can be misalignment among business leaders on the primary objective of the change. In these cases, it’s important for Communications to drive conversations and help expose the misalignment, and bring everyone on the same page, before proceeding to building a communication plan.
2. Identify who will be affected and how: Once you’ve figured out the change objectives and desired business outcomes, invest in better understanding the cumulative impact of change on the employee groups most likely to be impacted (directly and indirectly), and the nature and degree of the impact.
3. Examine likely barriers to change: Even though organizations may desire employees to adopt certain behaviors that support the change, actually getting them to change may be hard. Identify potential barriers and gather resources that can help them overcome those, or identify areas where new resources need to be created. For instance, a change in company strategy may confuse employees, reducing their willingness to participate in the change implementation. Planning activities to help employees self-discover the value of this change may result in better participation.
4. Customize resources: Instead of creating a “one-size-fits-all” communication plan, tailor your communication to the needs of different employee groups and for different stages of the change implementation process. This helps personalize communication messages, which in turn fortifies employees’ commitment to the change and rebuilds the capabilities disrupted by the change.
5. Keep refining the communication: The process of communicating a change initiative does not end with just conveying a few key messages to employees. It requires a continuous review of the change’s success metrics, gathering feedback from both leaders and employees, and devising strategies to overcome disruptions to work and productivity.