Change and transition is a natural part of business, whether it’s new leadership, a change in structure or bigger shifts like a merger or acquisition. But change can be scary for employees, it will almost always leave them in a state of uncertainty. In this time of uncertainty, it’s very easy for your employees to become disengaged from their day to day activities.
If your business is going through a period of change, it’s extremely important to keep the ship moving forward and keep your staff on task. If you do find yourself in this period of change, here are four tips to help keep this transition as smooth as possible, and keep the team engaged and working hard.
Communicate early and often
Change in a business isn’t always a bad thing, sometimes it could be that the business is bringing on a new leader who will help boost the company’s performance. But for employees, change brings uncertainty, and uncertainty brings about speculation. Speculation fuels rumours and that spreads fear.
It’s normal for employees to be concerned about their position in the company, at the end of the day, these are people with responsibilities and a livelihood. When they are left to speculate and worry about their future at the business, it’s extremely easy for them to become disconnected to their day to day responsibilities. This results in a stagnation in productivity.
Communication is the most important tool to be used during these times of change. It’s is vitally important to always keep the team in the loop. By communicating early and often, you will provide the team with a sense of comfort in knowing that they’re being kept up to date on the going ons.
To help keep this up, set up catch up meetings with the team to make any announcements on the transition. Whether this is weekly or every other day, it’s important to make these meetings happen often. Even if there is no new news to relay, it’s important to keep in constant contact with the team and keep everyone on the same page. These meetings can also be used to answer any concerns from the team, which leads me into the next point.
One of the worst feelings employees can feel is that they’re being kept in the dark. Whenever big announcements are made, there is always going to be a bombardment of questions from the staff, mostly concerned with what impact the change will have on their job. This can be a tricky situation to navigate. You don’t want to hurt anyone, but if you know there are going to be layoffs, it’s much better to be upfront about it. This way, the staff have time to prepare and aren’t blindsided by the decision.
It’s important to answer the questions and concerns raised by the team, and just as importantly, if you don’t know the answer, let them know that you aren’t sure, but that you’ll do what you can to find out.
It’s vital to try and keep these questions under control, and asked in a formal manner. You want to avoid as much as possible, the question and answer conversations in the staff kitchen. One way to help with this is to channel all questions through one platform. Setup a way for the staff to submit questions anonymously online to you, this way you can make sure the situation is kept under control and answers are always unbiased. Again, if you don’t know the answer, let them know that. It’s much better that they know you don’t know than them thinking your hiding something. This kind of secrecy is certain to lead to a distracted and disengaged workforce.
Lead by example
At the end of the day, one of the most critical things for a business when going through a transition, is to keep the business running properly. You need to keep the team functioning. And the best way to do this, is to lead by example. If you show your team that you’re still focused on the business activities, then they’re more likely to do the same.
It would be useful to assign a team to handle the transition so that you’re able to focus on your day to day activities and keep the team working hard. Only arranging weekly meetings with the transition team to keep you in the loop on what’s going on, not taking up all your time that could be spent on other matters.
Setup a team designated for running the transition. Catch up with them weekly. And in your weekly meetings with the team, invite a representative from the transition team to give updates. This also allows the team the opportunity to ask questions directly to the team that’s in charge of the transition.
Don’t make promises you can’t keep
It’s unavoidable that sometimes these transitions are going to end in people being laid off. It’s not an easy task to manage employees during this time. They’re worried about their jobs and they want to know what’s going to happen. By following the previous three points, you’re already putting yourself in good stead to manage the team and keep them engaged.
But one very important thing to be cautious of is making any promises to employees. You don’t want to hurt anyone, but you may also not be in a position to decide who stays and who goes. So only tell someone their job is safe if you’re 110% sure. And If you know they’re job is at risk, don’t try to soften the blow by talking around it. In the long term, those employees will be much more grateful if you were upfront and honest with them, allowing them the opportunity to put a plan together.
Be as transparent with your team as you can, let them know what you can as soon as you can. Don’t make promises on outcomes if you aren’t sure and if you know there is the possibility that it might not end well for some, have an honest discussion with them.
Your team come in and work hard day in and day out to better the company you all work for. They’ve put a lot of time and effort into the work they do and so they deserve to be treated with respect, especially during these times of change and transition. As professionals, everyone understands the nature of business and the risks involved. But how you treat your employees is a big reflection of not only you, but the company as a whole. By being honest, transparent and empathetic to your team, you are increasing the chances of not only having a smooth transition, but also keeping the team engaged and on task through the process.