Communication is the Key to Engaging Employees and Leading Change Effectively
Most managers will, at some time, be required to lead change or manage their team through a process or systems overhaul. For many employees, who have probably been doing things a certain way for years, this can cause confusion, nervousness, and even a feeling of loss. Communication of the change must be relevant and targeted to mitigate negative responses.
Engage your people for success
Imperative in today’s world is the need to communicate with a view to engaging employees in the business. A McKinsey study conducted in 2010 found that managers who are good at engaging employees are 75% more likely to see their projects achieve expected results. This runs contrary to traditional management communication techniques – old style managers ‘requesting’ increased production, cost reduction, innovation, etc.
This old style management and poor communication technique inevitably leads to employee resistance. When leading change and managing their team, a manager should ask:
- Do my people ‘own their own destiny’?
- Am I involving my people in the process of problem solving?
When the manager is able to answer ‘yes’ to these two questions, it is likely that he or she is communicating consciously with their people.
Three steps to effective communication of change and engaging employees
When managers are tasked with leading change or a targeted project, the first mistake that many make is to send out a mass email. While email certainly has a place in the communicative process, at this early stage it can be seen as impersonal and a way of avoiding discussing important issues. Better is for the manager to employ a simple three step communication process designed to engage employees:
Step 1: The team meeting
Call a team meeting, at which people are encouraged to voice their fears openly. Highlight the commitment and experience, effort and enthusiasm of your people, and ask for ideas how to implement the project. This type of meeting can also be run as a workshop, perhaps splitting the team into smaller groups and tackling different problems.
Step 2: Test ideas and iterate
The aim of the meeting should be to come to an agreed set of practices and processes, which are seen as the accumulation of a joint effort. This doesn’t mean going against organisational strategy, but rather the manager must be adept at creating buy-in of culture, vision, and purpose.
The ideas that have been put forward at the team meeting should be tested, with results discussed as a team, before iterating to improve.
This process will give people a better handle on the identification of problems and creation of solutions, and empower them with the knowledge that they and their ideas are highly valued.
Step 3: Individualise the approach
This process of leading change and project management can then be taken a stage further, with managers using their findings from team meetings and solution innovation as discussion points in employee appraisals. This can lead directly to the identification of required training as well as spotting up-and-coming talent that had not previously been recognised.
Communication is key to getting the best out of your people. Managers who communicate consciously, engaging employees in the business, will create an effective and enthusiastic group of stakeholders. Your employees will all be driven by the same core values, and collectively punch above their weight as corporate goals come into view.