With organizational change, employees at all levels can feel nervous or threatened by the introduction of a new way of doing things. It is natural for humans to resist change, especially if they don’t know or understand what those changes mean for them individually. Instead of jumping for joy at all of the time and trouble these new changes afford, individuals may openly or passive aggressively resist change, essentially sabotaging new initiatives before they can prove their value.
Not surprisingly then, all successful organizational changes have one thing in common – clear, compelling, confident communication that runs from the top down, but also allows for feedback to travel from the bottom up.
How Important is Communication?
According to a report written by Above the Standard Procurement Group, effective communication is the key to an organization’s success. “Successful organizational communications brings success in many ways, from the company vision and mission accomplished, growth seen, greater compliance, Standard Operating Procedures followed, enjoyment in the work place, and financial objectives met.”
While organizational changes begin with the CEO and leadership team, managers have a key role to play in the communication and facilitation of change. Here are my recommendations for how managers can champion change in their organizations:
Talk the Talk
Successful communications start with a solid plan. The CEO is ultimately accountable for, and needs to approve, the communications plan, but would likely delegate the accountability for developing, managing, and monitoring its effectiveness to a communications leader. In larger organizations, this person might be head of Human Resources or an internal communications specialist. There may be support from an external consultant. The communications leader will help to set the context for the plan—including messaging, key words, phrases, and the company-wide position, with approval from the CEO.
The communications plan should answer the following questions from the perspective of both the organization and its employees:
- Why is the change important?
- Why is it a?
- What are the benefits?
Managers must both understand the who, what, when, why, and how behind the changes being implemented and be able to communicate this information to their teams. Employees need to know how changes will impact them and their departments. As such, managers need to deliver the information in a way that is compelling and relevant to their individual teams, including providing context and setting boundaries. Employees should have a clear picture of why organizational life will be better post-change that it would be without the change.
Walk the Walk
Once the plan is created, it’s time to put it into action. Above and beyond communicating the key benefits and reasoning behind all changes to their teams, managers must also clearly and consistently model the new desired behaviours. If the team doesn’t see their manager supporting the initiative, team members will jump on the opportunity to keep the status quo. It is of the utmost importance that managers understand new processes, receive proper training on new protocols, and are not seen taking short cuts or working around the organizational changes.
Be Friendly to Feedback
While change initiatives are cascaded from the top down, front-line and mid-level employees can provide a wealth of insights on the business realities of implementing the new changes – if someone is ready and willing to listen.
Questions, challenges, suggestions and success stories are all invaluable feedback that could help the organization better implement changes that stick. This feedback needs to be collected, critically assessed (are these real, constructive suggestions? or is someone trying to protect the “old ways” of doing things? what are the legitimate issues that need to be addressed? what are success stories that can be celebrated?), and shared with the senior leadership team.