Managing change is not exclusive to work. We all go through changes in our personal lives. We can learn from those personal experiences and even apply them in our change management programs at work.
What if we could learn from the personal changes we’ve experienced and apply them in a professional setting? Changes in our personal lives test our resilience, adaptability, and our expectations. Most of us come through those times a bit tougher, a bit wiser, and hopefully, at peace with the change.
The ultimate test of change management at work is if we can look back at the change and see that we’re not necessarily worse off, but maybe even better off. As Communication Managers – focused on associate/internal communications – we’re asked and expected to move teams through difficult changes in the corporate landscape. And we can leverage some of what we learn in our personal change journeys each day when developing our change management plan.
- Communicate honestly and with empathy. Like the stages of loss, many of us experience stages of uneasiness when change causes upheaval in our lives. Initially, we all need some time and space to process what’s different, how it impacts us, and allow ourselves to make the transition in mind and spirit. In a business setting, acknowledging the discomfort and recognizing where associates sit on the change curve is critical to getting off on the right foot.
ACTION: Spell out upfront what will specifically be different and how you envision the change impacting each individual. Explain why the change is occurring – with truth, facts, and authenticity. Understanding why the change of course is occurring helps to lay the foundation for the work to come. Ensure the facts are communicated by individuals who understand and can articulate the rationale clearly. Then, step back for a moment and let the message and details sink in.
- Bring “the village” together. When a tough change (or even a positive change) happens in our lives, we tend to reach out to friends, family, or inner circles. We take our concerns, anxiety, or excitement to our “personal boards” – those we surround ourselves with to help us cope or navigate change in our lives. It’s no different at work.
As communications professionals, it’s important for us to talk about the change occurring, but also where our associates can go to find answers or support. It’s critical to create a “village” of individuals who can help associates talk through what’s going on and how they’re feeling. This can be accomplished in partnership with HR, senior leadership, or others in the organization that are trusted and respected.
ACTION: Build that village and have it ready to go on Day One. Create a series of “coffee and…” sessions without an agenda. Build safe zones for employees to connect and talk. Lean in to your EAP programs and remind people of what resources are available to them.
- Use the most common, accessible technologies. Technology is our friend. When something new is presented to us, or we want to learn more about an item, person or activity, our first instinct may be to check Google or ask Alexa. We want to learn more; we need to learn more. Having an understanding or knowledge of what’s happening allows us to process the change in a way that can keep us from making too many assumptions and spiraling into an unknown and negative place. Technology can play a critical role in change management communications too.
ACTION: Create a variety of communication channels that allow associates to inquire on what’s happening, provide feedback, and share concerns or ideas. This can be as simple as a “change” toolkit – with details, FAQs, and resources for managing the change both professionally and personally. You can create a change “blog” where folks can share thoughts and ideas or develop a group chat on your internal social media platform for asking question or sharing information. But don’t simply replace face-to-face interactions during times of change with just technology solutions. Find ways to blend both.
We all respond to change in different ways. Reactions can vary from “I don’t have time for change” to “Everything is fine, why change?” to “This is exciting, how can I help?”, as there’s not just one way individuals react to change, or only one way to communicate change. We can learn a lot by realizing that even in business, change can be very personal, and a personal touch can go a long way.
Jill Lazzaro Heinrich has led Internal Communications and Change Management initiatives for Fortune 100 companies throughout her career. She’s passionate about the criticality of employee engagement and communications to the success of any organization. She’s an Account Director at MossWarner, a marketing and communications agency with offices in Orange County, California and the New York Metro area, helping companies inform, engage, inspire and motivate their customers, business partners and employees since 1990.