As people management becomes recognized as a more valuable asset for companies, the role of managers is evolving. Professionals in these positions are now responsible for the pastoral care of employees in their team. From supporting them through difficult times in their personal life to advising them on career progression, managers now typically have a much closer relationship with their team.
One of the most challenging elements of this role is often communicating organizational changes. Although sometimes positive, any transitional period can be daunting for everyone. Managers are intrinsic for helping answer questions, providing reassurance and generally allowing professionals to carry on as normal while the company evolves.
But how do you explain important changes to your team without making them panic?
1. Be transparent about the need for change
Regardless of whether it's positive or negative, you have to communicate clearly the need for change to employees. This should be as open and honest as you're able to be, even if it's relating to financial performance. Professionals are much more likely to be reassured by knowing why something is happening but only if they don't feel as though you're trying to hide something from them.
Managers and C-level Executives often want to try and shield employees from bad news, worried that it'll hurt morale or increase turnover. But - when communicated properly - delivering less-than-ideal news can actually strengthen the bond between employer and employee and bring out the best in individuals.
2. Make the plan even clearer
Although there should be time to answer questions, you don't want to dwell too much on the negatives of any transitional period an organization is undergoing. Instead focus on the strategy to navigate any obstacles ahead and the ways this will benefit everyone. Whether that's financial stability or something more exciting, ensuring the plan for success is clear - and where the change comes in - will help everyone feel involved in it.
This should lead to higher engagement levels not just with the strategy but the company as a whole. It's important that any steps outlined aren't sugar-coated as it could undermine the trustworthiness of your management and the company's wider plan. In most circumstances there will be people who are affected worse than others and you should make sure they are informed of the changes before anyone else. Hearing bad news in front of your peers and colleagues is never nice so avoid it at all costs.
3. Be an honest ambassador
As a manager, you should be vocally supportive of the plan but also honest about any difficulties that may be likely or have already arisen. Being evangelical about the strategy and disregarding the concerns of employees could damage the long-term relationship between you and your team. Of course, you want to be positive about the plan and ease concerns relating to the transitional period, but being overly enthusiastic about it can come across as disingenuous.
Holding 1-2-1 sessions with employees in the initial period after the announcement can be an effective way to get an honest reaction from people, and be able to address any points they may have. This can create ambassadors of other employees, helping the team as a whole adjust to the change.
4. Be consistent
It's easy to have bad days, especially if the company is undergoing a period of radical change. Your own role may become much more stressful. However, it's important that you remain consistent with your optimistic but realistic approach in regards to the organizational changes. Being negative will undermine your trustworthiness about the whole plan, even if you're just having a bad day.
Your employer undergoing a significant change is a daunting and confusing time for employees so managers need to provide as much stability as possible. As such, you also need to be consistent with each employee and the team as a whole. Any discrepancies will quickly surface and you may find yourself in a sticky situation where nobody knows what to believe. The circumstances surrounding the changes may alter throughout the transitional period, but ensure you have the facts from a person of authority on the matter before you communicate this to your team.
5. If in doubt, say so
When you're in a position of authority, you want to have all the answers but sometimes you don't. This is especially true when an organization is undergoing a massive change, affecting various different elements of the company. Honesty is still the best policy though and, if you're asked something you're unsure about, simply say that. Reassure the individual or employees that you'll try and find the answer and get back to them.
Endeavour to respond to them, even if it's only to say that you're still waiting for an answer or that no one is quite sure yet. This will solidify a trusting relationship between you and your team, while ensuring that they remain engaged in the plan.