I have often said that we never change until it becomes too uncomfortable to stay the same.

But the intention to change is only an illusion unless there is some specific action to accomplish it.  This is the difference between making resolutions and setting goals.

Thinking about making a change in our lives, even talking about it, can fool us into believing that we are making progress, but until we put it into practical realities we are merely standing still day dreaming.

There is however, one advantage about making a change in our personal lives, and that is we don’t have any problem letting ourselves know what it is we want to change, how we think we might achieve that, and what the outcomes might be!

However, when we are concerned with commercial change – when that change is about the way a company approaches running their business – then we need to really consider the way in which we communicate that change to the people who will be affected by it.

Mostly we approach changes to our business when things are not going well for us.  There is a reluctance to change our processes and systems unless it can be shown that they are not working and coming to that realisation can be traumatic!  Then there is the difficulty in analysing what is going wrong and devising methods which may put things right. 

In all of this huge upheaval the very people who need to know – our workforce – get overlooked.  We can soothe our conscience by convincing ourselves there is nothing to tell until we have definite proposals or a clear direction.  But what you fail to communicate will trickle down via rumour and the grape vine; and as mostly these rumours are concerned with change as negative, you wake up one morning and find yourself with a sullen and uncooperative workforce. Unconfirmed rumours cause confusion and concern; it is human nature to fear the worst, especially when the known becomes the unknown.

And even if a company does try to communicate, there is another problem; as George Bernard Shaw once said, “The problem with communication is the illusion that it has occurred.”  Put this situation to most harassed executives and they will most probably be astounded!  How can this happen, they have been clearly communicating the details of what is going on; not a day goes by without at least a dozen emails dropping into in-boxes all through the company!

But what is the reality of that kind of communication?  For a start it is all one way! And even if our staff are dedicated readers of the morning influx, is it certain that it will answer the questions that are really causing concern?  In fact, unless we engage in real communication, how do know what those issues are? Any organisational change is going to cause a degree of stress to the people within that organisation and it is the responsibility of the leaders to ensure that they communicate clearly, the details to those affected by them.  To leave such important actions to the grape vine is a recipe for disaster.

Bringing in your workforce at the beginning of the change process is vital for its success.  People do not go around trying to second guess what’s going on or how it will affect them if they know the situation and the possible realities from Personal communication – not emails!

Organising information briefings where problems can be discussed; impacts explained, reasons confirmed and outcomes predicted … and most important of all … questions answered is only one way in which change communication can be effected.  But whatever means you decide – large meetings, small groups, trickle communication – you must make the time for it to be meaningful for it to be effective.

If you engage in that kind of communication then there is a much better chance that your workforce will be fully supportive of the changes you need to introduce.  When we understand the reasons why something must be done, we may not like the change but we know the need. 

So; communicate the need for change, the direction of change and the possible outcomes of that change – and do it personally. As the change proceeds keep your workforce informed as to progress and any changes in direction; and make sure that that communication is a two-way process which means listening as well.

 And this goes for unions too – there often is a reluctance to engage them in such discussions, but if the rumours at the water cooler are dangerous – keeping the union reps in the dark can be catastrophic!

Change, when undertaken properly need not be so traumatic. Just make sure that your workforce is positively engaged in the process from the start by using clear and personal communication; at least that way you have a real chance to achieve the change you need.
Michele @ Trischel

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