Communicating About Change During Disruption

March 2, 2022

We all know we have to change. But many people struggle with the rate, pace and sheer volume of changes, not to mention the many unknown unknowns. And yet with all these challenges, we still know, intuitively, that if businesses are going to thrive, we must change. 

Two facts determine whether or not businesses will be able to pivot successfully;  leaders must be skilled in change management; and employees must have the ability and motivation to adapt. 

After more than two years of constant and volatile changes, today many employees feel like saying “no more” to another change. Gallup reports “about seven in 10 employees feel burned out at work at least sometimes.” In addition, Gallup finds many employees experiencing “alarmingly high levels of stress, worry and burnout along with a record-high quit rate.”

The Pandemic is just one of the changes happening simultaneously in the workplace: the Great Resignation, diversity, inclusion and reinvention of the workplace.

In the midst of all these changes, a lot depends on a leader’s ability to communicate about change, especially if people are tired of change.  Here are my top tips for communicating change.

Simplify Communication About Change

It is essential that employee understands the essence of the change. The leader’s first job is to describe the change as simply as possible: clearly and succinctly. If possible, try to describe the change in one sentence. For examples, they might say: 

We’re going to implement new sales software; or

The office will transition to a hybrid office workspace; or

All of our physical files will be digitized. 

Leaders should offer a brief introduction to the big picture when communicating about change. The leader’s explanation should be clear, succinct and brief.  Because of the cumulative effect of constant change, some people might be experiencing shock, exhaustion or panic. Help employee by simplifying communication about change. 

Getting Buy In

After employees understand the change that is happening, leaders need to create the motivation for employees to accept the change. To do this, the leader should provide the reasons and rationale when communicating about change. This enable employees to understand why the changes are necessary as well as how the changes will help their organization.  This creates the potential for buy in as the employee understands “What’s In It For Me” as well as “What’s In It For Us.

Chunks of Information

Leaders must be careful not to overwhelm employees with information overload. People who are exhausted or stressed have a reduced capacity to absorb a lot of information. One change management method when communicating about change is to provide communication in short, manageable chucks. Employees receive just enough information that they can understand without being overwhelmed. Each meeting contains a chunk of information as well as a relevant task that each employee can focus on and accomplish.

Short Frequent Updates

Rather than trying to communicate a complex change initiative in one long meeting, a series of short and regular communication meetings should be scheduled. Additional supportive material can be provided, but the leader’s strategy for communicating about change is to provide clear direction in a way that explains the change and rationale behind it. 

Leaders who are skilled in change management help employees to see how the changes made today will affect the organization in the future.  In fact, employees who understand the connection between the necessity of the change and the company’s future are “much likelier to be engaged and thriving. They are also much less likely to feel burned out, stressed or that they have too much work to do.”

For more information on becoming Change Ready, check out Mark DeVolder’s new book Perpetual Pivot: How the Best Leaders Adapt to Exponential Change. He provides valuable insights, answers and solutions about change, transition, leadership, engagement and teamwork.

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