Following last week’s referendum result, there has been a lot of chaos and confusion across the UK, and while there may have been a lot of talking, there hasn’t been much communication.
The vote to leave is a shock for many businesses across the UK, and regardless of your political outlook, the uncertainty can be a challenge. However, unexpected or unanticipated change – good or bad – can be stressful no matter whether it is a break from the EU, a company merger or even the departure of a member of the senior leadership team.
Indeed, even the introduction of changes to improve culture and engagement within the business can be unnerving and stressful for staff.
So how can we manage big changes in our organisations?
If this wasn’t a planned or expected change, regardless of whether you think it is positive or negative, the first step is to remain calm during this period of uncertainty. It is important to remember that not everyone will share your feelings, and there may be some immediate hostility to any kind of change.
The focus is to ensure this hostility is carefully managed so that it doesn’t become something more toxic within the culture.
While this advice is important for all employees, it is especially important for those in leadership or management roles: Your teams will be looking to you for your reaction, so if you remain calm it’s likely they’ll be less stressed and more open to change too.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
With any uncertainty, the rumour mill immediately gets a kick-start. As a leader it is your role to ensure that the right information is communicated to staff to prevent them filling in the blanks with a horror story.
The less people know, the less in control they feel of their own future and the more they are likely to panic. It is best to head this off with regular and open communications outlining what this change will mean to the business – in real terms not in vagueries – and how it is likely to impact them, if at all.
If things will continue to be business as usual, the sooner you can communicate this with staff, the better.
However, you’ll also have to keep communications open and ongoing for as long as the period of change so that your employees feel they have the latest information and are not taken by surprise, which can lead to them feeling deceived.
Stop and listen
At this point it seems like communication is all one way, but it shouldn’t be. It is essential to listen and take stock of the rumblings on the factory floor. Often voices of disquiet will indicate people’s concerns to you, but sometimes they may illustrate something you had not considered.
People delivering your product or service are often more connected to the customer and how the business works than the management team, so it is essential to listen carefully to their concerns as there may be a serious issue that has not been anticipated.
Even if this is not the case, listening to staff in periods of change and ensuring they feel their voice and concerns are being heard is essential to get people on board with what is happening. Those that feel ignored will become disengaged and will either leave the workplace, or actively try to sabotage change initiatives.
Provide clear leadership
Throughout all periods of change, it is vital that leaders are visible and approachable. If the change has happened to the business – such as an acquisition or the loss of a key director – then the leadership team should be seen to be taking it seriously, but within their stride.
If the change has been implemented by leaders, this role is even more essential as you’ll need to indicate why this is a positive change and what benefits it will bring to the company.
Employees will take their cue from leaders, and if they remain calm, are open and honest about the plans and are willing to communicate the impact of change, staff are far more likely to be engaged.
There is nothing constant in life, except for change. Necessity is the mother of invention, and often periods of change and uncertainty can lead to innovation that was not thought possible previously.
Talk to us today about training and coaching in Change Management, to ensure any change within your business runs as smoothly as possible. Call 0800 066 3749 or click the button below to get in touch.