5 ways to guide your staff through organizational changes

Uncertainty in the workplace can lead to low morale, diminished motivation, and a drop in productivity. Keep workers informed and engaged amid the upheaval.

Strong organizations understand that change is a necessary, inevitable ingredient to remaining competitive. Consumer behaviors are changing at an unprecedented pace, and organizations are being forced to adapt. Businesses today must be nimble and willing to adjust to the fickle fluctuations of the market.

Change might be necessary, but that doesn’t make it easy. You should develop a communication plan to shepherd your staff through turbulent times. When you’re announcing a major brand alteration or evolution, winging it is never a good option. Here’s how to successfully navigate the rocky road of change:

Be transparent

No one likes uncertainty in the workplace. When employees are unsure about their, it distraction and low morale usually result. The more communicative you are, the better you’ll be able to guide employees through any transition.

The earlier you can communicate any sort of upheaval, the easier it will be for everyone to adjust. This might mean starting conversations with team leaders to prepare them for questions following the formal announcement.

Not all details can be disclosed to the entire workforce, either for legal purposes or to protect individual employees, but leaders should try to share as many details as possible to assuage concern.

Be human

Face-to-face conversations are always more effective, and humane, than mass emails. It’s not always possible, though, for multinational corporations to hold all-hands meetings. However, facilitating individual office meetings or town halls will help your employees process the information more seamlessly.

Nuances tend to get lost in mass, impersonal email communications. Employees may have questions about the message but feel dissuaded from speaking up. Open, two-way communication is the most important facet of managing change.

Paint the big picture

It’s not enough to simply announce what’s changing at the organization—leaders must communicate why changes are being made. If execs announce the elimination of an entire department, or the discontinuation of a product that has been an essential part of the organization’s existence—without explanation or justification—employees will feel abandoned.

Every staff member should feel that their input and their work matters. Failing to explain the reasoning behind a major decision implies that individual voices are not valued. If you communicate a major change in relation to external forces like customers, investors or competitive developments, employees will at least have more context to consider.

Create an open-door policy

The leader’s work is not finished once the message has been delivered. Employees deserve an opportunity to ask questions and voice their opinions. Implementing an open-door policy that encourages individuals to come forward and have conversations with managers and leaders is the best way to mitigate potential chaos.

Following a major disruption, employees are bound to feel vulnerable, and this anxiety will only increase if they are not given a forum to ask questions and express concerns.

Communicate next steps

“What’s next?” is a collective concern following a major announcement. If leaders announce the termination of a product or the closing of a department, they should also communicate where the organization will go from there.

Let’s say an advertising agency decides to discontinue its offline division. Employees will want to know if this means there are plans to expand digital teams, or if the rest of the organization will remain intact. Offering direction and clarity around roles will help employees carry on without feeling distracted or threatened.

People are the most important asset of any organization. When change occurs, people must come first. When organizations fail to proactively address transitions, they risk diminishing morale. A workplace consumed with anxiety leads to low productivity, turnover and a host of stress-related illnesses. Organizations that prioritize transparency and two-sided communication are much better suited to thrive—even amid seasons of change.

AJ Agrawal is an entrepreneur, writer and speaker. A version of this post originally appeared on Business 2 Community.

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