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Communicating in times of change

Change, while often necessary, is frequently stressful. But more stressful than change is fear of the unknown. And while it is hard for a business to avoid change if it wants to survive, employers can help to reduce, if not avoid, the fear of the unknown for its staff.

Change management is a massive subject, with numerous theories and models to explain how it should, and shouldn’t, be done. Common to all of these is communications.

A businesses’ employees can be its biggest advocates – or critics. Careful communication will not only focus your mind on timescales and the key issues to be addressed, but will be critical in garnering support for what you are trying to achieve. Poor communications runs the risk of igniting rumours, confusion, and stress – all of which will be detrimental to your objective and the business as a whole.

Here are some steps that you can take to reduce the fear of the unknown for your employees:

  • Be clear about what you are trying to achieve, and help your team to understand how this will affect them personally. What’s the call to action?
  • Have a plan. Good communications is pro-active, consistent, regular, and relevant. Thinking about your communications from the outset will help you to avoid going ‘off message’ with poorly thought out ad hoc communications, and help to stop the rumour mill before it gets going.
  • Share information as soon as you can – even if you don’t have all of the answers. Make it clear that you will release more detail as and when you can. Holding back until decisions are made is what will give rise to rumour and speculation.
  • Don’t just present. Listen. While PowerPoint can be an useful tool, it is not ‘communication’. Allow plenty of opportunity for two-way dialogue. Give people the chance to have their say and ask questions. If you don’t know an answer take it away and make sure you follow up with a response.  Engage in discussion and allow your team to feel part of the process.
  • Tell them and tell them again. Use as many communication channels as possible – focus groups, intranet, newsletters, video, bulletin boards, training, workshops.
  • Recognise and reward positive behaviours in line with adopting the change.
  • Assess yourself. Frequently review both the change and the communications process to monitor your progress and effectiveness – and adapt if needs be.
  • Celebrate the start of a new era. Don’t let a transition just slip away into the mist. Recognise the change, the contribution that the team has made, and the opportunities it brings.


Adapting to change can be uncomfortable, and takes time. But by treating people as you would like to be treated, with respect, courtesy, and honesty, it is possible to come through change with a stronger business and team.


“There is evidence to suggest that good HR practice and people management in SMEs are key factors in strong business performance and can lead to increased productivity.”

- CIPD people Skills Project 2017


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