The critical aspect of any change management program is face to face communication. The role of leaders during change is very different from business as usual. It requires a greater physical presence amongst employees to reassure them that their concerns are being heard at the top of the organisation and conversely that the CEO has the opportunity to find out what is really going on.
This is why leadership competency in communication is so important, because from the top down people model behaviours including leaders on executive teams and right down to team leaders. If the CEO doesn’t communicate then it is likely others will follow their lead. There are two types of change in organisations, the first is the downsizing change, the other is about organisational transformation, and sometimes one follows the other.
Here are two scenarios of how leaders can communicate change and demonstrate their change management skills.
Scenario One: In a downsizing situation staff just want to hear from the leader. If there is nothing to say about the detail this doesn’t matter. In all cases I find employees just want to have access to the person at the top who they attribute to making the final decision whether that be accurate or not.
So what does the face to face communication consist of? This is the easy part, transparency. Employees just want to know why downsizing is taking place and when they will find out if they will still have a job. At this stage very few will be listening to any commentary on strategy, first and foremost they want to know about their financial security. Once this aspect of the change process is over, you need to move to strategy fast so that employees are clear on the road ahead and the opportunities to build on a solid foundation.
Scenario Two: Organisational transformation, this includes a new strategic plan, merger or acquisition, entry into new markets or new product lines or systems. Here the conversation is about the vision, the way the enterprise connects to achieve that vision and the importance of each area within the organisation to support it.
If employees can contribute to change based on what they do having some impact on business decisions, real time measures such as sales or customer service feedback are an excellent tool for measuring how well your change strategies are working. Sharing business information always creates a motivated and focussed workforce rather than one where people come to work, do their job and have no idea how they contribute to the big picture.
So as an easy checklist all you need to do first is consider the audience and what they want to know, what information and engagement strategies will make it easier for them to understand the reason why change is happening not what is happening. Whether you are implementing a new IT system, entering new markets or merging with an organisation, when focussed on articulating the why, transparency and openness will always be the outcome.
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