How to Communicate During an Organizational Change [7 Best Practices]

Part 1

What Is Change Management?

Contrary to what everyone would like, change does happen. Nothing stays the same forever. People understand this in theory, but as time goes on it can become difficult to manage the impact of various changes. Dealing with transitions becomes even more difficult when this happens in the setting of a company. There are a lot of moving parts leaders have to manage as their organization goes through a company-wide change. Change management is about the strategies and tactics leaders use to keep processes, job roles, systems, and structures going and adjusting to the transition. The ultimate goal of change management is to walk employees through the change to a point of acceptance. This makes communication one of the most pivotal aspect of change management. Workers need to feel comfortable with where the company is heading, and transparent communication is what is often needed to keep workers trusting the process.

Why Is It Important to Communicate During Organizational Changes?

Imagine someone walking into a home. They walk in to see that everything has been changed. The walls are covered in new paint, furniture has been changed to another location, and the person cannot find anything you once had. It would be understandable that they would feel stressed and a little angry that they were not consulted about changes that affected them. Emotions of confusion, betrayal, and annoyance make total sense in this situation. This is likely the way that many employees feel when they are the last to find out about company changes, especially those that impact them directly. It breeds distrust among workers, so it would be in the company’s best interest to communicate all changes to employees. Most often when changes occur, the first thing staff want to know about is the reason for the change. Is it something they did? Are budgets to blame? Is there a new vision? Knowing these factors can make company transitions a lot easier for staff.

The status of internal communication is under fire. In a recent Salesforce study, 96 percent of executives surveyed cited a lack of collaboration or ineffective communication as one of the most important factors in workplace failures. Dialogues about company changes have to be a component in this messaging. According to Lexicon Content Marketing, more than 80 percent of Americans say employee communication is a key factor in developing trust in employees. Sadly, Lexicon also found that only 32 percent of employees highly rate communications from their company’s leadership. It makes sense that messages about company changes are becoming lost in translation. If leaders do not understand the importance of keeping staff in the loop on transitions, then company morale and productivity will ultimately suffer. It is difficult for employees to work for a company they feel they cannot trust or be inspired by.

  16 Essential Change Management Principles You Should Know About

Related: Change Management Principles and Concepts

Change Management Communication (Key Strategies)

Part 2
7 Best Practices for Communicating During an Organizational Change

The first step in communicating organizational changes to employees is to develop a change management communication plan. How leaders will inform employees of changes has to be seen as significant, and held to the same level of importance as the change process itself.

  1. Pre-Empt the Concerns Employees May Have

    A. Are a large number of layoffs planned?
    B. Is a department’s budget shrinking?
    C. Is the vision or focus of the company changing?
    Leaders have the advantage of knowing the transition the company is going through.With this knowledge leaders can begin to list questions or concerns workers may have for each scenario.


    This way, leaders can empower each other as well as managers with verbiage (that is true and transparent) they can use to immediately and easily respond to workers.

  2. Decide on What Can Be Shared Immediately

    There are times when there is some knowledge that might change or may not be ready for immediate release.


    However, managers need to be upfront with workers. To quell worries or concerns, leaders should air on the side of over communicating.

    If details can change, leaders should convey that. Employees would rather be in the know then find out something they should have known a lot earlier.

  3. Be Clear About Who It Impacts

    Most of the worry is going to center around who the changes impact, and how.


    Leaders need to take the time to see how each transition impacts each position. They can do this in partnership with department managers to know how exactly each position is affected.

    Once they know, leaders should instruct each manager to sit down with their employees to and detail how the changes impact them and what they next steps are.

  4. Choose the Medium of Communication

    The announcement of the change itself should probably happen face-to-face with time for questions and office-hours right after.

    Large-scale transitions should not be detailed over email or through any other digital communications. Workers may feel the company did not care enough to reach out to them personally, and staff will likely have immediate questions about details. To avoid an unplanned inquisitive crowd, a town hall like style where leadership is directly addressing employees might be the best medium to share.

  5. Digital Updates Are Appropriate

    Once workers know about large-scale changes, then regular updates via feeds are not a bad idea. Employees will trust that they are being kept in constant loop of information they need to know. Again, over communicating is not a negative thing here.

  6. Connect Changes with the Mission and Vision

    Helping workers to understand and accept the changes happening may also need a connection to be made to the company’s overall mission and vision.


    If workers know the company is making this change to stay in line with the company’s core principles, and they can see the direct link to this, then coming to term with the changes will be a lot easier.

    Everyone should be aware of how this change impacts the company as a while.

  7. Realize That Communication Is Two-Way

    Leaders should not be the only individuals talking through this process.


    There should be plans for employees to communicate with leaders about the changes and discuss the good and bad aspects.

    Leaders need to take the role of active listeners to truly understand the concerns and questions employees have. Leaders need to do away with any defensiveness or desire to explain away problems staff may have. This takes a lot of patience and forethought, but if leaders do this with the right intentions then they will gain the respect and trust of workers. Two qualities that are often sought after but never reached in a lot of organizations.

Part 3
Best Practices for Communication Organizational Changes

  • Use Training as Interactive Communication

    At some point, it is going to be time to get down to the details concerning transitions.

    A. Is there a new procedure or software employees need to learn?
    B. Is there a re-assignment of job duties?
    Leaders can use training and workshops as a way to walk employees through changes and introduce them to methods for utilizing the new skills in the daily workday.

  • Think About Incorporating Change Sponsors

    Change sponsors are individuals who are experts on what is happening with transitions. These people should be instructed to mingle with workers whenever possible. Their presence will allow employees more time to ask questions, and it will show that leadership is again open to transparency.

    These can also be point of contact people that workers can go to if they have questions who cannot be answered by a supervisor.

  • Quickly Address Each Rumor

    If gossip and rumors have already started to circulate in the organization, then leaders have waited too long to address changes.

    People will always talk, but if this underground communication is addressing aspects that leaders have yet to acknowledge, then management should see the need to change the narrative.

    They should take the time to address each rumor and its validity with staff. If leaders do not choose to do this, then they are risking a loss of trust and respect with workers.

  • Make Sure All Messaging Stays the Same

    The last thing that leaders need is to know a manager or change sponsor is delivering information that is different than what leaders are saying.

    Everyone needs to have the same message when talking with employees about transitions.

    If workers get the idea that the message changes depending on who they go to, then management will lose trust and any communication progress they have already made. This makes feeds about the change paramount so that all who are in authority can stay on the same page.

  • Identify Who Will Be the Most Resistant

    Each employee may not need the same level of attention and communication as others.

    There may be some who take what leaders are saying at face value, and they trust the measures being taken.

    However, there are others who may be resistant to the change. This could be due to their long-tenure at the company, the level of impact on their job, or their position of authority in the company.

    Leaders should have a good idea of who these people will be, and they should include a step in their plan to address the concerns of these individuals separately.

Change is never easy, but imagine how much harder it is when someone has no idea how the change will impact them. Knowing how this can feel should spur leaders to do everything they can to make transitions clear and smooth as possible. In every relationship, communication is key, and this could not be truer in the case of employer and employee.


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