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By Denise Le

Effective communication is a key driver in successfully carrying out change in any organization. When it comes to communicating change to employees, executives and managers tend to focus on promoting the benefits for the company. What your employees really want to hear is “What’s in it for me?” Keeping the handy acronym WHIM front and center will assist in the development of your communications. That’s not to suggest that most people are selfish. It’s simply a fact that personal context is usually the first filter we use to evaluate our environment.

Employees want to know how the changes will affect their work, what will be expected of them throughout the process and how they will be trained and supported by management. How you choose to communicate with your employees can have a significant impact on how receptive they will be to change. Once you have successfully crafted the WHIM content you should also consider the following when delivering your message:

  1. Use the right medium.

Determine which communication channel to use based on the level of employee involvement required to implement your changes. If you require a high level of involvement, face-to-face communication allows you to be more personal and build trust by listening to their concerns and answering their questions. E-mail communication should be reserved for situations where you need to reach a mass audience quickly or there is low involvement required by staff.

  1. Communicate early.

Start communication early to build a common understanding of the business strategy and goals. Employees tend to have preferences on who they want to hear from for certain types of changes being implemented. Generally, employees like to hear from an executive for companywide changes and a senior manager for departmental changes.

  1. Keep it simple and relevant.

Try to avoid using too many technical terms and make it relevant to employees by focusing on information that they want to know. One of the biggest concerns employees have is in regards to their job security. Instilling a culture of open communication can help to alleviate feelings of uncertainty and fear among employees. However, sharing too much information at one time can confuse or overwhelm employees. Channelling in on key ideas will make it easier for them to understand the need and benefits of the change. Developing a communication plan can help you determine when to roll out information so that your employees have time to adjust to the changes.

  1. Be inclusive.

Create opportunities for employees early on to offer ideas, provide feedback and ask questions. Try to provide different avenues for employees to share their thoughts publicly, privately and anonymously. Providing different avenues can help people feel more open, comfortable and safe while encouraging them to give feedback. Group discussions are great for brainstorming and sharing insight between multiple departments, whereas comment forms, interviews and surveys can be helpful in gathering information and feedback on more sensitive topics.

Effective communication is imperative for employees to accept change. Talking with your employees allows them to voice their concerns and ask questions to develop a deeper understanding of the need for the change. Since people process information in different ways and at varying speeds, it may be beneficial to communicate with your employees multiple times through various channels to build acceptance for change. Continuing the conversation through the development and implementation of the changes will make your employees feel included, heard and appreciated.