Communicating through change

By Angela Bensemann, Director Halo Communications

Running an organisational restructure change process can be fraught.

People may stand to lose their jobs, so it becomes about more than making sure you get the best outcome for your business and that you’re running a fair legal process.

It’s about minimising the affect on the lives of people who need their jobs to support their families.

A good HR process will alleviate the risk of legal challenge by disgruntled employees, communicating well will enhance your reputation as a good employer that respects its staff.

Sometimes the most you can hope for is that people understand why the change is being proposed and what their options are – it doesn’t mean they’re going to like it, but this can help to minimise the risks associated with change.

For the best result communications planning needs to be integrated into the HR process from the start.

Top tips for communicating change:

  • Plan your communications making sure you identify who needs to be told first and then cascading the information down from those most affected to those least impacted.
  • Timing is everything – make sure you organise meetings and announcements in a way that impacted people can only hear about it from you first (not through the grapevine).
  • Get your messages right – be clear about why the proposed change is happening, what the impacts are and how people can have a say on the proposal.
  • Respect that those impacted most could be upset – talk to them in private first and give them the opportunity to attend larger group meetings if they want to.
  • Make sure everyone knows how they can find out more and how you’ll let them know any changes you’ve made as a result of feedback.
  • Don’t assume that everyone will react to the news in the same way.
  • Make sure any key stakeholders/customers or clients are also told of the changes, so they can be mindful that some staff may be under pressure.
  • Set up a dedicated email channel for people to provide feedback and make sure you respond to that promptly.
  • Make sure you keep a good record of all the feedback and the changes made as a result.
  • Close the loop by going back to everyone with the outcome and next steps – follow the same process in terms of timing and delivery of the message.
  • Provide employee support. This could be counselling, access to training so they can up-skill or careers advice. Let people know that a support person is welcome at one-on-one meetings.