Change. According to Merriam-Webster, change simply means: “to become different.” That doesn’t sound so bad, right? But, at some unknown point in history, the word “change” became a negative…something people fear. As a result, effectively messaging change within a business is absolutely critical.
One current example of a change that is impacting the vast majority of businesses around the country is the pending update to the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which goes into effective December 1, 2016. We won’t delve into the details of the update for the purposes of this post. What is important to note about it is that:
- It is a required change from an external source with a specific timestamp
- It impacts the majority of employees, but in different ways
Using FLSA as an example because it is organization-wide, we’ve outlined the following best practices for effectively communicating change internally:
Do Your Homework
First and foremost, it is critical to understand what the change means—both for your organization as a whole and for various team members within it. If necessary, don’t hesitate to bring in outside resources. In the case of FLSA, for example, a human resources consultant or labor law attorney can be an enormous asset in distilling otherwise complex and nuanced information.
If you don’t fully comprehend a change, how can you articulate it clearly?
Change takes time. Particularly when a change has a “due date,” it is important to get ahead of it. Rolling it out well advance of the deadline allows team members to get acclimated, while giving business leadership the opportunity to make real-time adjustments as needed based on initial results.
The first thing people think about when they hear about a shift is how it will impact them personally. A completely natural reaction! So message accordingly and be specific during the rollout of an organizational change.
Create messaging tailored to each group, clearly outlining how a change will (and will NOT) impact their day-to-day work lives. Make it relatable, be transparent and avoid fear mongering.
Change Isn’t A One Hit Wonder
With any change, it is important to maintain open lines of communication well after rollout. Consistently reinforce messaging (without beating an internal communications dead horse). Highlight what’s working, what you’re adjusting and any positive results of the change. Team members may have questions as they work through the organizational shift, and it is important that they feel comfortable seeking counsel from business leadership.
Together Everyone Achieves More
While that line is admittedly pulled from cheesy inspirational classroom imagery, it is true! While a given change may impact individuals differently, it’s important that everyone works together to make it happen. That is particularly true when the outcomes of a change are unknown, or when the change in question—like FLSA—comes from outside of your organization. When navigating unchartered territory, flexibility, understanding, and frequent and open communication are required.
Whether your business is preparing for a change in regulation, new leadership, a growth spurt, or new product or service offering, following these best practices for effectively communicating organizational change will set you on the path for a successful shift.
This post was co-authored by Elizabeth Bastian.