How to communicate big changes to your company

When times get tough, business models, strategies and future outlooks often have to change. But, when it comes to keeping your employees informed, it's important to have a plan.
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The following was first published in Thrive, a new limited email series by Courier, designed to help small businesses make some sense of the current economic climate. Read more here.

Crises aren't just taxing for business founders; change can be stressful for your employees too, and it can impact morale, retention and productivity. So, what are the key things to consider when talking to your team?

1. Acknowledge the challenges. ‘Some leaders think they're protecting employees by staying quiet,’ says Louisa Mordaunt, founder of I Love My Job, a recruitment agency. ‘But this can create unrest.’ If the business is going through a rough patch, fess up and say so. 

‘If you're serious about communicating change to people, you have to engage them and look at the options,’ says Cary Cooper, professor of organizational psychology at The University of Manchester. ‘Once you've looked at the costs and benefits of each option, then say, “We've chosen this.” Be honest [and] upfront.’

2. Keep things simple. When Cary and colleagues looked at how people miscommunicated during the last global recession in 2008, they found that people struggled to understand the details about why their business was going wrong. ‘They tried to explain it in the most technical way to employees,’ he says. ‘You have to make it simple.’

3. Repeat the message. Not everyone takes in bad news the first time around. ‘Subsequently, you say it again and again and people get the message,’ says Cary. ‘When people are worried, all they're thinking is: “Will I lose my job?” This is going to be quite serious business over the next year.’

4. Check in with people. Giving a message and then disappearing isn't good enough, says Louisa. ‘Communicate to everybody how important their mental wellbeing is,’ she says. ‘In a time of crisis, there's a lot of mental impact and, if you can regularly check in and see how everyone's feeling, that gains insight and shows you're caring.’

A version of this article was published in Courier's Thrive newsletter.

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