Coping with Change
by Melissa Barreca; Kathy Callahan
Coping with Change
To effectively address adjustments in the company, managers need to communicate openly and honestly
Melissa Barreca is communications project manager for Ameristar’s corporate officein Las Vegas. She can be reached at (636) 825-9802, or by e-mail at email@example.com. Kathy Callahan is director of communications for Ameristar’s corporate office in Las Vegas. She can be reached at (702) 567-7053, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. That should be a central message to your employees any time a big change is on the horizon. People need to be reassured of stability even in the face of change and that they can continue to reap the benefits of a strong and stable workplace during a company’s latest strategic business move.
Whether you have a new general manager to introduce, a new benefits plan to roll out, or a larger-scale change like a major expansion taking place, unless you as a manager take time to articulate the realities—the benefits…and the potential downside—on the ground level, these changes will seem frightening and full of uncertainty. As a result, your employees may begin to worry. Morale may suffer. Customer service could decline.
But when managers take a proactive approach to communicating, these problems can be avoided. What’s more, by being proactive in addressing questions head-on and making sure your team is informed, you build trust and loyalty. With proper focus on communication, you may even see morale improve in the face of major changes.
To make that happen, there are several questions to consider from your employees’ perspective whenever a major change is on the horizon. Take the time to think about these issues and formulate answers that you can bring to your team when the announcement is made.
Questions and answers
How will this affect my job? Will there be layoffs? It’s the first question on every employee’s mind…is my job safe? Even if the situation seems totally unrelated to job security (a new GM for example), people will wonder if their job is stable. Knowing that your team will be wondering this, it’s best to address it directly than allow rumors to form and spread.
What’s in it for me? No matter what the issue, it’s human nature to look at it from the micro perspective of how it affects us as individuals. As a leader, it’s your role to translate the big picture directly to the personal perspective. If the change will bring new opportunities or benefits to your team, by all means share them. This is the best way to sweeten the deal and get your team behind the news from the start, providing them a reason to get excited instead of worrying about the future.
What’s different? What stays the same? There’s a certain comfort level in knowing that even in change, there is some level of continuity, such as the core values that have been the basis of your property’s or company’s success. Even after an event such as the loss of Ameristar founder Craig Neilsen, it was critical to communicate the strong foundation he built and how that positioned the company well for the future. These comforting core values offered a sense of constancy and consistency to team members, even during a time of significant change.
How will the world look today, next week, next year? Take some time to think about how the change might impact your operations in the short, medium and long term. The more you can prepare your team for potential changes to their work environment, the more smoothly the transition will go. The situation as it stands today may evolve over the longer term. And you may not even know the long-term implications—in which case, it’s better to say “I don’t know” than to make an absolute commitment.
How will this affect our players? Any conscientious employee will want to be able to reassure their customers and answer their questions when a major change is publicized. Take the time to anticipate questions your guests may have and provide your team with the answers to respond with confidence. If specific information is too sensitive to share or unavailable at this time, make your team aware of how to handle inquiries and where to refer guests for answers.
Where do I go with questions? The beginning of a change process is also just the beginning of the questions your team will have. If public information is available on your Web site, let them know. Tell them if you will be posting updates and where they can look for the information. Also, it’s important to give your employees an outlet for concerns—even if it’s just a reminder to speak with their supervisor. If possible, offer an open door with the HR director or GM. While few employees will take you up on the offer, all will appreciate the gesture.
Positive key messages
In addition to anticipating and addressing your team’s questions, take the time to articulate the business case for the change. The “why” is more important than the “what” in terms of building engagement and generating excitement about the future. Why is it a good thing for your company? What benefits do you expect to come as a result? If possible, develop key messages that are designed to build support in all your communications, written and verbal. Some of these messages might be:
—Growth brings greater opportunities for
advancement for everyone.
—Our success up to now has been based on change. We’ve gone through other big changes (give examples) and benefited as a result (give more examples).
—The best aspects of our company will never change, such as our devotion to our employees, our commitment to building outstanding products, our dedication to guest service. In other words, list the things your employees value that are not subject to change.
Change can be frightening, it can also be exciting…and it’s become a fact of life. If you communicate throughout the process in a transparent way, even your most cynical employees can to get behind your efforts to evolve and continue to progress.