A return to ‘normal’? Communicating with your employees through change

ents of the past few months will have triggered fundamental transformation in organisations of all shapes and sizes. Some changes, like adopting new technologies and new ways of working, will be a positive experience. But leaders at the sharp end of this situation will be facing tough decisions about how to protect the long-term future of their organisation.

While the Government’s furlough scheme has given many organisations much-needed breathing space, it’s inevitable that the answer for some will be restructuring and making redundancies. And while this might be the right call for the organisation, it’s a hugely challenging message for those whose roles are at risk, and for those who will deliver the message.

Here are five priorities for you to consider as you communicate with your employees about these difficult decisions:

  1. Involve the experts. Engage your communications colleagues – both internal and external – from the outset. These individuals are best placed to offer invaluable strategic advice, help create a clear and consistent narrative for employees and stakeholders, and manage reputational risk
  2. Take calculated risks about who else you can engage. You will rely on individuals across the organisation to deliver the news directly to those affected or to support your narrative more generally. If you can, bring these people into your confidence early and gain their support, despite the natural inclination to have as few people in the know as possible
  3. Be authentic. Don’t use jargon to dress the redundancies/restructuring up as something it isn’t. People will see through it or assume you’re being disingenuous. Either way, it devalues your employees and undermines your message
  4. Be honest. Tell as much of the truth as you can, as soon as you can. People will understand that there is information you can’t share with them, as long as you explain why. The key will be setting expectations early about what information you can share, and when
  5. Reassure and affirm those teams and individuals who are not directly affected by the changes, but don’t contradict your narrative. These people will draw their own conclusions about whether or not this is an organisation they want to work for long-term, based on the way you treat both them and their colleagues whose jobs are at risk

Communicating through periods of uncertainty and change is a challenge. If you’d like to talk to us about how we can help, email Emma on emma@athene-communications.co.uk

You can find out more about our internal comms services here.