Communicating In Times Of Uncertainty

September 12, 2017By Stephen V. Smith

We’ve all heard the saying “the only constant is change.” That doesn’t make change any more comfortable to bear.

It’s not so much the change itself we dread, but the uncertainly that comes with it. What is going to change? How will it affect me? Will life be better for me and my family, or will things get worse?

Your employees and customers may have such questions from time to time. For your employees, it could be a change in their benefits package or the transition to new billing software. For your customers, it could be the introduction of automated meters or gig internet service.

Whatever the reason for the uncertainty, taking a few simple steps to address it in the beginning can help prevent uncertainty from turning into crisis.

Begin Early
“Something is coming” is almost always better than “here’s something new, effective immediately.” Sure, there are times when you need to sit on information for a while due to its sensitive nature or legal requirements. But as a general rule, it’s better to prepare your employees or customers for coming changes with a well-thought-out communications plan. Let people know what to expect up front and you’ll set expectations you can build upon as the situation unfolds.

Acknowledge The Pain
As a leader at your company, you have thought through this decision from every angle. You’ve lived with it for a long time, examined it from top to bottom. But before you roll it out, you need to look at it with fresh eyes. Make a list of all the concerns your people may have about the change, then use this list to guide your communications efforts. Anticipating and addressing their concerns before anyone has time to voice them will help you lead your employees and customers through the next phase, whatever it may be.

Keep The Information Flowing
Communicating is not a “one and done” game. You can never say, “OK, we have communicated. We’re finished.” More than likely, your message contains many components (here’s why we’re doing this, this is how it will work, here’s how it will impact you, here’s a list of things you can do, etc.), and your employees or customers need time to truly absorb these details. To be successful, your communications plan needs to be ongoing.

It doesn’t take a dramatic event to create uncertainty. Even when the upcoming change will have nothing but a positive impact on your employees or customers, it’s important for you to have a solid plan in place to communicate throughout the process. You’ll be rewarded with a better-informed base, fewer questions and less of the anxiety that comes from not knowing what is going to happen next.

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