Managing change and communicating appropriately – the importance of internal communications in supporting reality – not ignoring it

When you’re managing change or difficulties in a business, it is vital that your team feel supported and heard. Internal communications plays a huge role in this process and it is vital to get it right.

Make sure employees are the first to know

One of my team recently told me that in their last position a whole team was brought into a room and told ‘if you’re job title is not on this chart – you no longer have one’. There had been no consultation, and those people losing their jobs had not been told in advance. The result was that everyone felt betrayed and upset. Employees must be told first-hand what is happening. Imagine finding out a key piece of information about your family from a newspaper or friend. How would you feel?

Be sincere but not patronising

Of course, at the same time it’s important not to sugar coat the pill. The last thing your employees need at a time of difficulty is to be patronised or told things aren’t as bad as they think. If you appear happy go lucky when they’ve received bad news, you will come across as uncaring and insincere. It is not the role of internal communications to make people feel better; it is to give them all the facts so they can make their own informed decisions. The last thing you need when business is in trouble or going through a period of change, is to have employees bad-mouthing it as well.

Be honest

Talk about the reasons for the problems and what you intend to do about it. Including employees will help them realise that they do matter and they may even offer some valuable insights into the situation.

Listen

Internal communications isn’t just about communicating outwardly to staff. It is also about listening and hearing their concerns, without making assumptions. Sometimes simply listening can result in staff feeling more content with the situation.

Think long-term

Internal communicators need to remember that the initial message is not enough. Employees must have an ongoing accessible and confidential communication channel through which to ask questions or vent frustrations in the knowledge that it will not affect their prospects.

Ultimately employees are the biggest asset in a business and need to be treated with respect and integrity.

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