Anybody Out There? by Kelly Swingler

Why Leaders Need To Stay Visible During Times of Change

You’re about to embark on a change programme, you’ve spent weeks or months planning the changes behind the scenes and you’ve announced the changes to your people. You’ve got a communication plan with all of the announcements, the meetings and the emails scheduled and still your people don’t seem engaged with the changes or understand the reasons for them – what’s next?

Change can impact us in very different ways, and we can find it tough for a number of different reasons and it’s these reasons that mean leaders and HR need to stay visible and keep communicating during the process.

As our people process the changes and try and come to terms with these, they can start to feel quite lonely and vulnerable.  Some people may be hoping they are the ones who will be made redundant as they’ve decided that they want to try a new career or a new venture; others will worry as perhaps their partner has recently been made redundant; some may have just bought a new house and maxed their income limit with their mortgage payments, perhaps their children have just started university, or they are saving for a wedding.

We can’t underestimate the personal, and often financial, worries that our people experience when change is announced, and nor should we.

Of course, we’ll talk about the reasons for the change and how the changes are best for the organisation, but as individuals we don’t always hear those messages in the way they are intended, or at the speed in which they are being communicated to us.

Sadly, I’ve seen many change programmes that are likely to result in redundancies being made, and where the leaders seem to vanish into thin air as soon as the changes are announced.  Many leaders seem unable to look their people in the eye or have any kind of conversation with them unless it’s been fully scripted.  This may seem like a safe option for the leaders, both for their own energy levels and to stop them being hauled across the coals at a tribunal if they should say the wrong thing, but this doesn’t help the individuals who are being impacted by the change.

Furthermore, it doesn’t help when managers don’t get behind the changes either and they start to talk to their teams about the changes with sentences that begin with ‘You know I wouldn’t have made this choice, it’s the leaders who have told me to say this …’.  This isn’t helpful at all, and if managers aren’t behind the message, then our people are never going to understand it and this is when it begins to feel much more personal for them.  Because after all, if you haven’t engaged their manager in the changes, how do you know you don’t really need the people – ‘the ones who are doing the job’.

So please, don’t hide behind your change policy and your communications plan, find as many ways as possible to speak to your people.  Meet them for coffee, hold change surgeries, or engagement workshops, attend their team meetings, invite them to come and speak with you, encourage their questions and provide the answers.  If you don’t know what to say, or how to answer, be honest with them and tell them that, but reassure them that you will come back to them when you have the answer, and make sure you do it.

Change doesn’t have to be hard, but leaders and HR have to be visible during and after the changes. We owe it to our people.

This article is brought to you exclusively by The Business Transformation Network.

 

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Kelly Swingler is the Rule Breaker and Founder of Chrysalis Consulting, The People and Change Experts and was appointed as the UK’s Youngest HR Director.  Kelly is passionate about helping people find bespoke people solutions to suit the needs of their business and is driving our mission of inspiring and empowering 10,000 HR professionals in 2018. She is the author of Fostering a Mindset for Career SuccessAGILE HR and what’s your excuse for not Overcoming Stress and speaks at many events on the Future of Work.