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Communicating change in the workplace: A guide

Leading & managing change 21st October 2020
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At a time of such accelerated change it may feel like you and the people you serve are in a perpetual cycle of redefinition.

Whilst the rapidity of change is out of our control, what we have command over is how we manage and respond to change as it arises. This article shares some practical ideas on how to communicate change in the workplace…

1. To communicate change, don’t rely on the traditional channels

The complexity of change means invariably traditional communication mechanisms e.g. townhalls, video broadcasts, presentations won’t be enough.

These rely on leaders to deliver information from a position of knowledge and authority, which can create the impression that change is being ‘done to us’.

When change is large-scale, ambiguous and emerging, seek to have regular conversations within and across teams. These are far more powerful and productive as it helps people to:

  • Get clear and aligned: form a realistic view based on what’s known and what isn’t
  • Understand better: test assumptions by hearing others’ perspectives
  • Check assumptions: address speculation, guessing or exaggeration
  • Support each other: build trust, acknowledge normal feelings of worry or concern, get excited about possibilities, and put plans in place to maintain team focus and attention
  • Feel involved and connected: stay engaged and reduce feelings of powerlessness or lack of control that can quickly tip into negativity

Top tip on how to communicate change in the workplace

To start a meaningful conversation about a change, it helps to have conversation starter questions. These should:

  • Be an open question that has maximum probability of open, genuine views being shared;
  • Align to the personality and preferences of the team – what types of question might prompt them to open up?
  • Have a clear purpose, e.g. is it to understand people’s reservations; is it to help the team see the change benefits?  Is there a call to action?

Check our our conversation guide for examples of good conversation starter questions.

2. ‘Bake in’ moments to communicate change

When communicating change, research suggests the most influential conversations may be those that happen at an everyday level, like team meetings and one to ones. So, seek to build conversation into your team’s regular interactions.

Top tip on how to communicate change in the workplace

When initiating a change conversation at a team or individual level:

  1. Provide some structure to the conversation.
  2. Be an enabler, facilitator and participant rather than the expert. Ask open questions and listen. Check out our conversation guide which has some suggestions on questions to get you started.
  3. Make it a habit. Just 15 minutes of conversation in a team meeting can make a massive difference to what people are thinking, how well they understand the changes in the organisation and how they are feeling.

Want more tips for how to communicate change in the workplace? Download: A conversation guide when communicating change

Free download

A conversation guide when communicating change