Change in any organization can be a catalyst for excitement and growth, however if not managed properly change can create a culture of gossip and uncertainty.
So how do you strengthen culture during times of transition?
Be Transparent. Help your employees understand why change is occurring in the company. This doesn’t mean you have to share every tiny detail of every situation. It’s your responsibility to help maintain organizational stability and reduce false information from spreading across the organization and to customers. For example, many companies are dealing with personnel transitions and leadership changes due to the unfortunate actions of specific individuals in powerful and influential positions.
Take the time to properly articulate, with guidance from your company’s general counsel and public relations teams, how to appropriately acknowledge the situation, define the organization’s position, then reinforce the values. It’s important when addressing sensitive issues that you communicate to employees and other stakeholders when people are not in alignment with organizational policies and values it will not be tolerated. Moreover, especially with dispersed organizations with decentralized leadership teams, that communication is consistent across all offices. Take the time to organize a virtual all-hands meeting, plan for a series of email communication outlining next steps and set up a protocol on how to address any internal or external inquiries that may result.
In less severe change situations, the simple question you need to answer is, do your employees and stakeholders have enough, correct information to keep business running as usual? If they don’t, have an escalation process to quickly assemble the information people need to keep operations functioning at the level that causes the least amount of disruption. Pulse surveys, feedback options and open communication are critical during times of change.
Set Expectations. It is essential that organizations are steadfast in establishing what is expected of employees during times of change. Naturally, people will go into self-preservation mode, so you want to create an environment where people feel safe to go to their managers or Human Resources department to ask questions. More importantly, you coach those managers with how to handle the random and thought through questions that may come their way. Additionally, because you know employees will talk amongst each other, acknowledge correct information and make it easily accessible. Doing what you say is even more critical during times of change, so be careful to set proper expectations that you can follow through on.
Cultivate Trust. Creating a culture of trust is essential to change management. People want reassurance that they can trust their leaders and coworkers to uphold a standard of professionalism and service that keeps the business moving forward in high regard and towards achieving its ultimate purpose. Trust and respect go together. When employees feel respected and their concerns or ideas have a forum to be heard without bias, they are more amenable to participating in change. If trust has been broken in an organization, and change is required to rebuild trust remember what is required at the foundation level – to listen. By listening we can learn so much. Gaining an understanding of what people need to succeed and how to overcome obstacles to grow hold the key to high-performance cultures. Leaders behaviors and actions are very visible and ensuring alignment with expectations and values will keep trust going within organizations during times of change.
Change isn’t always easy, but it is worth it. We are operating businesses in a very special time. As leaders we can make choices that take our organizations to the next level and support cultures where transparency isn’t a nicety only when something absolutely needs to be addressed, it’s the norm.
If you need assistance with guiding your organization through change, please connect with me at Jamie@highperformanceology.com