Effective communication in times of change
26 November 2020
It’s been quite a year…
It’s hard to imagine change on the size and scale we’ve seen since the Coronavirus pandemic took hold. Since March we’ve witnessed radical changes in the way we socialise and interact with each other. We’ve evaluated our colleagues’ grasp (or otherwise) of interior design, we know who our neighbours are and what the postman looks like. A lot of us are on first name terms with local couriers and others would like to be on first name terms with Joe Wicks. We’ve thrown ourselves into gardening, crafting, home improvements and cookery. The world has never seen so much banana bread!
But as our home and work lives blur into one, what’s the best way for us as employers to continue to create a buzz, an excitement and a connection with our people in times of change? How do we make sure we’re authentic, that we take advantage of available technology to reach new employees, embed culture, ways of working and identity?
Change across all aspects of the employee experience needs to be communicated and our people engaged, reassured and supported. How best should we communicate say, a new flexible working policy or updated cyber security and safety protocols? How should we effectively introduce new mental health or wellbeing initiatives, or announce changes to pay and reward programmes?
Know your audience
A good place to start is putting yourself in your employees’ shoes – consider the questions they’re likely to want answered. Think about what really matters to them and how you want them to feel once they’ve heard what it is you have to tell them. Should they feel reassured? Inspired? Or maybe motivated to make change.
Consider the behaviours you’re trying to change. Do attitudes or perceptions require transformation? People feel and react differently to different stimuli so it’s important to get under the skin of your audience – make sure you open a two-way dialogue and ask lots of questions.
Think about the type of communications that will land well with your employees. We’re all used to being spoilt with outstanding marketing content on a daily basis – material that inspires, that engages with something inside us and drives us to behave a certain way. Of course we’re not all blessed with multi-million pound budgets, but that shouldn’t stop us planning and crafting content that will make people sit up, take notice and respond.
Employees want to know they can trust in their leaders, so visibility and openness are critical, especially during times of change or transition.
Of course whatever communications campaign you employ, you’re going to want to ensure it does the job you want it to. To make that happen, there are a few things to consider up front:
- Check your messaging is clear and consistent. While content will vary across media, it’s important your core message never changes.
- Keep it simple. There’s a temptation to add in lots of detail and be too technical. Try to avoid this. Information overload can obscure the very thing you want to say.
- Get your leaders involved. Without senior ownership your communications can lack credibility. Use those leaders as a figurehead for your campaign – this will help your employees buy into your message.
- Be transparent. Employees value honesty during upheaval. Talking about the challenges and risks ahead will help to build trust.
- Make your communications memorable. Particularly during times of change, there is so much email traffic and ‘noise’. So to really stand out, your communications need to be creative, striking and have a strong idea behind them.
You’re not alone!
While we might sometimes feel that everything is changing too fast and beyond our control, it’s important to remember we’re all in this together. No one knows what’s around the corner and, as we’ve seen, sometimes things happen that require us to make significant reassessments about the way we work, the way we perform, the way we interact.
But if we continue to communicate with each other openly, honestly and effectively then perhaps we don’t need to think of change as a difficult or a bad thing, but rather an opportunity for us all to become more flexible, more personable and more honest with each other.