Part 2 in a five-part blog series
Amid company change, employees are often unclear about what their jobs will become. Many fear the worst: uncertainty, loss of control, job redundancy or unwanted moves. But consistent messaging and clear leadership can quell fears and even lead to optimism.
It’s understandable that most people’s first instinct is to resist change. We tend to fear losses more than we value gains, with some studies suggesting that psychologically, losses are twice as powerful. Instead of welcoming potential benefits, our tendency is to fear the unknown and perceive the unpredictable as a threat to security. Resistance to change can be compounded when employees perceive it as being forced upon them. A primary cause of this perception is lack of proper communication.
Winning employee support — and cooperation — in difficult and ambiguous change situations is a daunting task. Almost every change leader underestimates the frequency, variety and amount of communication required to bring about successful change. Leaders shouldn’t assume their employees will accept change simply because they’re told to, and should communicate as frequently as possible.
While you can’t eliminate discomfort during times of change, the right change management strategy can help ensure that implementation is smooth and goals are achieved.
Adequately informing your team means:
- Knowing what success looks like in terms of the change and telling that story clearly, consistently and with integrity.
- Communicating the specifics of a situation, while also being prepared to admit when you don’t have all the details.
- Displaying self-awareness and transparency when you communicate (which requires an understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses so you can better respond to challenges).
- Communicating beyond the core corporate messages with language that’s distinctly your own.
- Repeating, listening and updating messages regularly.
Employees need to clearly understand what, when and, most importantly, why changes are being made. A good change communication strategy doesn’t stop there. To be effective, you need to anticipate resistance and listen to the reasoning behind it. Treat resistance as intelligence that informs your change strategy, rather than an obstacle to be overcome.
Through good communication, a change leader can engage people in the transition and help them through the journey. And when someone feels involved, they’re more inclined to buy into change.
Next week: Embracing change, part three: Engaging employees for sustainable change
Phil Merrell is the Director of Change Consulting, EMEA and Global Change Management Lead at Willis Towers Watson.
Gaby Joyner is the Director of Willis Towers Watson’s Change Consulting practice in Great Britain.