Communicating change in the workplace

This article first appeared in the April edition of SHD Logistics.

Whether it be a company restructure, legislative changes, process updates or mergers & acquisitions there is no question that the logistics sector is constantly evolving and changing. And if there is one thing we know for sure, it is that it will always affect the employees that work for the company in some way.

For example in a merger or acquisition quite often jobs can be lost due to duplication and when a process is updated people can often feel uncomfortable with the changes that are taking place.

Implementing change can be very difficult in fact McKinsey research estimates that 70% of change programs fail to achieve their goals, largely due to employee resistance. So this month’s article is going to highlight a few key steps your organisation can take to communicate change more effectively and therefore increase engagement from your teams.

Starting and tailoring your communications 

First things first please don’t just tell your employees that change is coming, make sure you that you explain why the change is happening, how it is being implemented, how it will benefit the business and how it will impact them personally. It is important to explain the bigger picture to your employees, you can’t assume that they will understand why the change is happening.

Remember that every team should not be communicated to in the same way, the impact will differ from team to team, for e.g. if a merger takes places and an area of your management team head into consultation – you will have the people directly affected – the people who may lose their jobs, but you also need to consider those who will remain, the shop floor employees who may have different line management. You need to be prepared for it not just to affect day to day tasks it could also affect mental health, change can bring with it the fear of the unknown and therefore a lot of anxiety and stress so please ensure you consider this carefully.

Be regular, varied and clear in your communications

Ensure you are communicating regularly, don’t wait until you have all the answers until you communicate about the change, it is better to say something than nothing. It is also OK to be honest and say that you don’t have all the answers.

Please don’t just use email to communicate change for a couple of reasons, many logistics employees are not desk based and so may not see emails, but also embracing a variety of communications can increase its impact – try setting up conference calls, organise  face to face meetings & focus groups, create visuals such as posters for the canteen and toilet doors.

It is also important to make sure you don’t use too much high level senior leadership language when communicating to teams or you won’t engage them very well – explain change in a way that is understandable and relatable.

Empower your leaders to communicate change effectively

Have your leaders and managers had the change explained clearly and concisely to them, do they understand the challenges they are about to face, the benefits the change will bring and how to deal with any resistance they may face? If not then ensure your project/change teams spend time with them to help guide them through this and provide them with the tools and resources they need.

Without an engaged and empowered leadership team that feel confident to lead their teams through change, it will not be communicated or implemented effectively – after all it will be them that are answering the majority of questions from the employees.

Two Way Communications

Ensure that communication is not just coming from the top down, there needs to be routes for bottom up discussions too. Providing open lines for two way communication is vital for success. Consider creating change champion roles and have these champions facilitate feedback loops. These valuable forums can allow questions to answered, concerns to be understood and resistance to be managed.

These forums can be essential in engagement as it can be a chance to applaud what is working and provides an opportunity to recognise employees who are demonstrating good behaviour and embracing the change. What is also important to remember is that change is ever evolving and having two way communication can also highlight what isn’t working on the ground and can help project teams to make adjustments quickly and as necessary to the roll out

To conclude I just want to re-inforce that communication and implementation of change will impact not only your bottom line but also your company culture and employee engagement, so it is crucial we get it right and do it well. There is no surprise that through leaner organisational structures, technological advancements and future proofing of processes companies who deliver change effectively tend to outperform their competitors.

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