Listening well is critical for change to occur

Taking time to hear what your employees are saying will save time, effort and productivity, resulting in a smoother transition, even if their ideas aren’t implemented.

Major change needs a steam control valve. When people can vent about their fears, concerns and frustrations, it serves the same purpose as the steam vent on a boiler. The steam harmlessly evaporates. The boiler doesn’t explode. Everyone gets back to work. Your company and customers benefit.

And that’s if employees are upset and their ideas won’t help. What if their ideas are spot on? When the people whose jobs are impacted by the change understand the goals and are given the chance to participate in the solution, they often can suggest tweaks and improvements. Employee involvement leads to buy-in.

The more methods you use to engage your people, the better the outcome.

CEO holds all-hands meeting
You announce the change and list the benefits for the customers, employees and company. Ask for employees’ help, involvement and patience during the transition and promise consistent communication once details are determined. Explain that they will be trained on the new tools/processes. Be sure to solicit questions and feedback on an ongoing basis.

Send an email from the CEO
This can be a brief message summarizing the all-hands meeting. Provide a link to a site that will collect questions without identifying the sender and make a commitment to respond.

Post FAQs and Q&As
Develop an intranet page or SharePoint site to continually update employees on the project and its progress, as well as collect questions/feedback and post responses.

Respond to feedback
Provide answers on a regular basis, even if the answer is that the details are still being collected and analyzed and the response will be provided later. Whether the questions are critical or mundane, just knowing they can ask any question without feeling embarrassed will calm emotions.

Seeing the answer to their anonymous question posted publicly will make an employee feel powerful and valued.

Lunch ’n learns
As the project moves forward, get middle managers and subject matter experts involved with small-group meetings. Employees are ultimately looking for the answer to, “What does this change mean to me?”

At first, the answers will be high level. As more details are worked through, the answers can more specifically address types of jobs. Many employees who won’t raise their hands during a large-group meeting will open up, ask questions and provide feedback during a small-group event.

Beware the black hole of communications — middle managers
Messages need to begin with the CEO, but the more detailed explanations of “how my job will be impacted” must come from managers. Since managers tend to get caught up in the daily details or forget that others aren’t as well informed as they are, set the expectation early that clear and consistent communication must continue throughout the change.

Encourage managers to talk with their staff members, both impacted and not impacted, to regularly update them on the change and ask for questions/feedback. ●