Leading through change: This is what your employees want to hear
Between planned updates, new initiatives and unexpected changes, today’s workplace offers leaders plenty of opportunities to earn their change management stripes.
When leading through change, you must manage your team’s progress toward your goal as well as your employees’ attitudes throughout the experience.
Sometimes managing change calls for grace periods as your staff absorbs and understands a transition. Sometimes it calls for realism that’s not too sugarcoated. At all times, change calls for strong, consistent communication from the top of the organization before, during and after a change cycle.
To help you communicate well during seasons of change in your organization, we’ve assembled a list of the key messages that your employees need to hear throughout the change cycle.
Using these talking points and grasping the change management strategies behind them can help you:
- Get your employees on board with change faster
- Keep them motivated toward a new objective
- Ensure they feel supported along the way
“Here’s what’s happening, and here’s why”
When you know a change is coming, share the news with your employees as soon as possible. This initial communication, where you articulate the need for change in your organization, initiates the change cycle.
Your employees may go on to experience:
To soften the initial news, make the big picture clear, shedding as much light on the situation as you can. Explain why the change is important to your organization and how it will affect your company in a positive way.
The sooner your employees hear from you when change is coming, the more time they have to process it. And the better they understand the reasons behind a change, the easier it will be for them to get on board.
“Here’s how this is going to benefit you”
Don’t stop after you’ve explained how a change will benefit your business, even if you receive more support than resistance. Your employees may not articulate it, but they will probably be wondering: What’s in it for me?
You can gain your employees’ trust by anticipating these natural concerns. Consider how each group and individual will profit from the change. How will it make their work lives better? Be ready to point to these benefits when speaking with your employees. Look for ways to make the changes matter to them on an individual level.
“Here’s our goal”
Are you excited about what your organization will look like on the other side of this change? Invite your employees to envision it with you. Share your chief goal for the future, and reference it often.
Each person must decide to push through the discomfort that change requires – it will take some employees longer than others – and join you in working toward a new goal. Having a clear target can keep your team unified and encouraged even as they process and adapt to change at different speeds.
“I don’t have all the answers, but let’s talk through this”
You’ll speak openly. You’ll speak clearly. You’ll speak confidently. But will you speak vulnerably? And will you ask your employees to share their thoughts, too?
To lead through change well, you should strive for openness. Be transparent addressing the questions you don’t have answers to. Make sure your team is comfortable sharing their thoughts and questions.
If successful, you’ll appear more genuine and trustworthy. Transparent leadership, coupled with the opportunity to share opinions, gives your employees a greater sense of control over the situation, too. The result? Staff who are more likely to feel they’re making changes with you,rather than feeling that something is happening to them.
“Let’s strategize together”
Once your employees have asked their initial questions and shared opinions on the change, it’s time to include them in the transition. Asking for their ideas again – after they’ve had time to process a change – helps further. That’s because your employees are more likely to become invested and collaborative if they get the opportunity to think strategically and offer valuable input.
“Tell me how you’re feeling through this”
Check in on your people at various points in the change cycle. Remember, no two employees are alike in their pace of processing change. Someone who seemed open to the idea early on may struggle later, in the middle of the actual changes. That’s why it’s important to keep checking in, especially if you notice disheartened attitudes.
You can reach out to your whole group during team meetings and to individuals who seem to need it most during one-on-ones.
Dig deeper in these conversations by asking:
- Are you experiencing any roadblocks?
- How can I help you through this?
Mention any resources your organization provides that could help manage their stress and change fatigue, such as an employee assistance program.
“It’s time to join us”
Leaders sometimes run into an individual who won’t accept change and begins to take a disruptive stance against it. If a negative attitude becomes a performance issue, it may be time for a difficult conversation where you insist the employee finds a way to adjust and come along with the rest of the team.
Occasionally, the best choice for everyone might be for the employee to switch teams or otherwise part ways. But hopefully, you can avoid this outcome and even these conversations by leading and communicating well from the outset.
“We’ve gotten this far today”
Celebrate small achievements as your team works to adjust to or implement a change. Notice what has gone well, and bring their attention to it. Show gratitude for your team’s efforts and positivity.
Words of affirmation alone can lift employee spirits; allowing them to break for the day a few hours early or giving another small reward can show that you’re truly thankful for their contributions.
Affirm efforts along the way and celebrate in a big way when your team has brought you through an important change. Rewards could include public recognition, time off, extra help and more. The key to meaningful recognition is understanding what matters most to your team and giving them something that’s important to them.
Be gracious toward yourself, too
To have the emotional energy needed to take care of employees during seasons of change, leaders can’t neglect themselves in the process. Know your personal support system and reach out when your energy or enthusiasm wanes.
Keep reminding employees about how the changes will positively affect them, and show respect for each person’s unique response to the situation.
Employees who feel supported and included are more engaged. Do you want to learn what it takes to build a staff of employees who love their jobs? Download your free copy of The Insperity guide to employee engagement.