The last 18 months have necessitated organizational nimbleness as companies across the board have been forced to adjust their ways of working. The rise of virtual, remote and flexible work setups have forced businesses to make changes to how things are done in order to be effective. Changes to the status quo have the potential to disrupt a workforce – here’s how to communicate process changes while preserving productivity and engagement:
1. Build a change roadmap and craft a narrative
Your change roadmap should be a high level outline of where you think you’re going, the changes to get there and the impacted stakeholders along the way. The narrative, or messaging around a change, is critical – you want to ensure you are getting to the “what’s in it for me” for each audience, addressing their fears, objections and sensitivities up front.
2. Involve employees early
As early in the process as possible, discuss the change that’s under consideration with impacted employees. Explain the impetus for changing the way you work. Will it ease manual processes, free up time for core duties, allow employees to more effectively operate in a changing business landscape, improve the customer experience? Involving your team early will help secure buy-in at the onset of a change. If you can’t have all employees gather in-person or virtually, communicating via video or series of virtual town halls is also an option.
Tip: Avoid using words like efficiency, because people tend to associate that with reduction in jobs.
3. Solicit employee feedback
Ask your team for feedback on the proposed improvements. Make it easy for them to provide their thoughts, either during a Q&A at the end of the staff meeting, or anonymously through a survey, suggestion box or dedicated email box. Actively listen to and consider feedback – after all, the people on the front lines tend to have the best perspective of any implications associated with process changes.
4. Provide status updates
As you work to implement workflow changes or new tools or processes, communicate status updates to your team. Let them know what you’ve accomplished, which tasks are currently underway and anticipated timeframes for completion. Also let them know what you’ve learned. Change is often not perfect, and course correction is sometimes necessary – admitting where you need to improve builds trust. Giving employees a transparent lens into the behind the scenes workings will help them get on board – and avoid a shock when the final product is implemented.
Tip: Consider utilizing several communication vehicles to communicate updates, i.e. regular leader emails to teams, an intranet page or channel that employees can check on demand and a status update agenda item/talking points during regular team or 1:1 meetings.
5. Introduce the new tool or workflow
Training is an excellent way to introduce employees to new tools or ways of working, while also reinforcing the expectations moving forward and the benefits the change will bring. Make sure employees are set up for success with the appropriate training and resources ahead of time. This can include live and recorded demos, training videos, process documents, one-on-one coaching, answers to customer questions regarding the change, etc.
When going live, make sure your team feels prioritized and excited about the change and make the launch fun, or a celebration. If possible, let your employees know what you plan to announce externally and when, while reiterating what it means for them.
Tip: Proactively consider the types of questions employees (and other stakeholders like customers) will have, and develop an FAQ document that includes questions and thought-out answers. Most importantly, include answers to common employee questions like “What’s in it for me?” and “What does this mean for me and my job?”
6. Keep lines of communication open
The ongoing pursuit of improvement requires continuous change and evolution — it’s never one-and-done. Continue to check in with your team, gaining a pulse for areas of success as well as areas of potential improvement. This can be accomplished through live team meetings, one-on-one meetings with team members, a physical or online suggestion box, etc. Your team members need to know you appreciate and value their feedback, and it behooves leaders to consider team feedback and how it can relate to the further improvement of processes.
Throughout a workflow or tool change, remember the goal is two-fold: improve the business and make your employees’ lives easier. Thoughtful communication throughout the process can help you effectively accomplish both.