Mastering change communications

Change is a force that propels businesses forward, carving pathways toward innovation and progress. But it can have a knock-on effect, especially when it comes to employees.

Let’s look at the art of change communications, change psychology and advice for communicating positive or challenging messages.

Share plan communications

For employees engaged in share plans, change can be viewed one of two ways. Share price goes up, employees are happy. Share price goes down, employees aren’t so happy. But what about the bits in-between? The financial elements involved with being a share plan participant that can also have a positive or negative effect on their investment?

The reduction in allowance on Capital Gains Tax (CGT) isn’t exactly great news for employees who are share plan participants. And employers can’t even sugar coat this news using the resurgence of SAYE bonuses because financially, it won’t have a huge impact overall. So, whatever the change, be it communicating about these new financial implications to introducing new ways of doing things, effective change communications will always come into play.

Here’s how change works within humans.

Fearing the unknown

We’re creatures of habit with a fear of the unknown. Any change, no matter how many benefits it might bring, can have a psychological impact on a person. How much will depend on the individual’s personality and free mental space to absorb a new process.

Psychology underpins how people will respond to workplace change. Understanding this can help you predict how specific groups are likely to react to a new situation. You can then choose the right way to approach your messaging.

The psychology of change

The change curve is a model that can help us understand the psychology behind change. It’s based on the emotions of grief identified by psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler Ross in the 1960s. These are shock and denial, anger and fear, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

People’s reactions to change depends on the impact it has on them – a positive change for one person might mean a loss of status or security for another. They may need different messages at different times, and this means leading people through the change curve is complex.

With the recent changes to CGT, some people might be convinced that being part of an employee share plan isn’t beneficial. People in this phase need a meaningful message, promoting the positives being in a share plan can bring so they appreciate how it will affect their life directly. Doing this is likely to make them more receptive and willing to listen and engage.

Once a person has been supported to resolve any difficult emotions they’re feeling, they move into the acceptance phase. At this point, they’re usually more positive about the change and ready to accept it and engage.

Keeping the information flowing in a clear, logical way that addresses your colleagues’ journey through the change curve is imperative.

And this brings us to another step in successful change management – good communication.

10 steps to communicating change

Communicating effectively with employees is crucial for reducing hearsay and concern. Here are 10 steps to successfully communicating change:

Plan ahead: Develop a communication plan before announcing the change. Identify key messages, target audiences, timelines, and communication channels.

Choose the right timing: Avoid announcing changes during busy periods or moments of high stress. Choose a time when employees can focus on the information.

Use multiple channels: Use a mix of communication channels such as in-person meetings, emails, company intranet, and video messages to appeal to different preferences.

Small but mighty: Keep your messages short and sweet. Bitesize pieces of information are more likely to stick around in brains that are constantly bombarded with information.

Be straightforward: Use clear and jargon free language when communicating your message. Confusion will help any concern or anxiety to grow.

Tailor messages: Craft messages that address the concerns and interests of various employee groups. Personalise the communication to make it relevant to the different people in your audience.

Two-way communication: Allow employees to ask questions, express their concerns, and provide feedback. Create a safe environment for open discussions.

Empathy and sensitivity: Acknowledge that change can be challenging. Show empathy towards employees’ feelings and uncertainties and offer support throughout the transition.

Address concerns: Anticipate potential resistance or concerns and address them proactively. This shows that you’ve considered employees’ perspectives and are prepared to help them navigate the change.

Training and support: Provide necessary training and resources to equip employees with the skills needed to understand what CGT and SAYE changes mean for them and their share plans.

Remember to keep the lines of communication open even after the change has happened to ensure a successful transition and continued engagement. This will empower them to make informed decisions and embrace any changing landscape with confidence.

If you need help with change communications, contact us for an informal chat.

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