In our lives, change is inevitable. It’s always on the prowl, in the background, hiding behind an illusion of stability and safety. When ‘black swan’ events such as the Covid-19 crisis occur, companies are forced to implement changes to their work environments and their business model at the drop of a hat.
But how to avoid confusion, conflict and chaos? Again, adequate #communication is key.
When change becomes imperative, people will want (and need!) to know 5 things from you – or they’ll start building alternative scenarios in their minds.
1. WHAT IS CHANGING AND WHY?
Accepting change can be hard enough even when it is absolutely necessary. Much more so when it appears arbitrary and unjustified. Make sure to clearly explain the reasons for change and what the general change process is going to entail. Give an outline of the situation (macro and micro) to exemplify why it requires change and communicate the changes from the top down. Be sensible, acknowledge and honor the individual effort involved and pigment your approach with a little emotional appeal.
2. HOW WILL IT AFFECT ME?
When a certain way of doing things has become so entrenched that it feels self-perpetuating and natural, implementing change can be a grueling task. Try walking in your employees’ or partners’ shoes. What is this change going to mean for them? How will it affect their position and prestige, their workload and responsibilities, their emotions, the processes and hierarchies within the organization, the work environment, the quality of the final output? How steep is the learning curve going to be and who is likely to have problems with it? How are you going to support those individuals? Give people time to assimilate information and ask questions. Create a platform for further discussion, address insecurities and listen carefully to objections. Not all of them are knee-jerk reactions of resisting change for the sake of it.
3. THE SILVER LINING
Now that you’ve broken the bad news to them, it is time to highlight in the silver lining. This is the “good news” part of the deal. Sweeten the pill by listing all the benefits (from your stakeholder’s vantage point). In what way will change improve standing, resilience, sales, job security, profits? How will the benefits trickle down to the regular Joe? This is your chance to paint an inspirational picture and generate some enthusiasm. Reaffirm the final goal and help people identify with it. You can use optimistic forecasts, but don’t go down the slippery slope of unsubstantiated wishful thinking. Keep it honest, realistic and do not shun the caveats.
4. HOW IS THIS GOING TO HAPPEN?
People resist that which they do not understand and cannot control. Do yourself the favor of clarifying the details and establishing procedures that are straightforward and make sense. Give specifics about how change will be implemented – with clear timetables, responsibilities, criteria, deadlines. The nitty-gritty details. Allow suggestions and clarify how and to what extent people will be able to influence the processes that involve them. Exercise caution and be aware that things do not always go as planned. Both clear structure and some level of flexibility are required. Organize for the unexpected, so that people don’t lose direction when they hit a snag. Pay attention to details.
5. WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO – EXACTLY – AND HOW DO YOU EXPECT ME TO DO IT?
Each stakeholder must know exactly what they have to do and how. You need to manage expectations accordingly. Who can they address when they have issues or need additional information? Will there be round-tables along the way to measure progress and fine-tune the process? What is each individual expected to do first, secondly, thirdly? How will success be measured and evaluated? What changes for me starting tomorrow? Devise some kind of algorithm and communicate it clearly and concisely. This information should be easily available, salient and practical.
Remember, one key ingredient in any successful communication is active, empathetic listening. We cannot emphasize this enough. Listen to your stakeholders, customers, partners, employees. The best way to counter an objection is to understand it fully. Avoid falling into a competitive or adversarial mode of thinking and communicating. You may be endowed with the power to reward or punish, but refrain from using it arbitrarily for short-term gains. Authority is also rooted in legitimacy, liking, professional competence, insight, and charisma – soft skills can make a world of difference. Create an inclusive environment and keep channels of communication open in both directions. Avoid groupthink by inviting outside opinions and enlist the help of communication professionals to check, analyze and consult on your internal and external communications, making sure the messaging remains consistent and the brand image does not take a hit.
Implementing change is a high-wire act and you can use all the help you can get. YourTranscreator is ready to assist with competent and versatile translation, transcreation, communication audits and cultural consultation.
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