We live in a fast-paced, ever-changing world, so constant change in the workplace is something we need to accept as the new norm. When I first joined the workforce more than 20 years ago, the business environment in Australia was much more stable. The notion of ‘jobs for life’ and ‘steady as she goes’ were accepted and expected. And of course internal communication within most organisations was simply the gossip in the kitchen.

Change communication

The world has changed, but sadly for many companies internal communication has not kept pace. When major change occurs within an organisation the employees are often the last to know. The senior management team is too busy reporting it to the stock exchange to worry about what its own people are feeling about it.

Some of course, are doing it well, and should be commended. It’s those companies that have much greater levels of employee engagement, have higher staff retention rates and are doing well financially.

The fundamental principal I always apply with internal communication, and this particularly applies to a major period of change, is the ‘what’s in it for me?’ test. Individual employees don’t care about airy-fairy talk of great synergies during a merger. They want to know if they are going to still have a job and if they are, whether they’ll like working in a new environment.

So when an organisation is planning a change program of any kind it needs to factor in communication as a high priority. This should be done in a strategic way, taking the big picture into account but realising that for each employee it’s the small picture that really matters.

That’s not to say that employees don’t want to know the big picture, most do. They just want to know how it will affect them.

So when preparing the communication plan, you need to break the workforce into various groups and analyse what it is they want to know and how they would like to hear about it. As a general rule, most employees would rather hear about a major change from their supervisor rather than via a video presentation from the far-flung CEO or worse still a written newsletter. These tactics can all be used to reinforce but they shouldn’t be the primary communication methods.

It’s all in the planning and if you don’t have the internal resources to put it in place then hire a specialist, like a PR agency.

Above all, put employees first on the communication checklist and reap the rewards.

-Nicola Rutzou