HR Management & Compliance

Helping Employees During Times of Change

Change is never easy, even for those who claim to like spontaneity and prefer to “go with the flow.” Change sometimes means abandoning ways of doing things that we thought worked well, which can be frustrating. It can mean losing parts of your job that brought happiness or satisfaction or may simply bring the fear of these things, even if none of them happen.

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What can employers do to help employees during times of change? Whether it’s change due to a pandemic or change that is closer to home, like a change in work procedures, there are a lot of ways employers can help employees during these difficult times. Here are some tips:

  • Take employee concerns seriously. Employees’ feeling their concerns aren’t being heard will only exacerbate the issues.
  • Get employee input during times of change, and sincerely try to implement what you can. Making employees feel their input matters can go a long way toward accepting those changes.
  • Communicate early and often when changes are coming. People don’t like to feel blindsided. By communicating early, employees won’t be caught off guard and will have time to adapt to the coming changes. Communication also makes employees feel trusted. Communicating positively about the expectations going forward can help everyone view the changes in a positive light.
  • Communicate throughout the change process. In fact, it may be good to communicate more than you initially think is necessary. Employees often fill in the blanks with rumors and half-truths, but they won’t need to do so if they’re kept fully updated. This means communicating what is happening each step along the way, along with timing.
  • Ensure people understand why the change is happening if it is something the organization has control over. When people understand the rationale for something new, as well as its basis, they’re more likely to adapt to it more quickly and with less resistance.
  • Be empathetic to what your employees are going through. No matter what the change is, there will likely be some employees who have not been through it before. Some will be anxious about what it means for their future, some will make negative assumptions, and some will fear they will lose their job (depending on the situation, of course). The key is to empathize with what they’re going through and understand that anxiety and other emotions during these times are completely normal. You can help alleviate that, but don’t minimize their feelings.
  • If layoffs are a part of the change you’re experiencing, create a robust communication plan around this aspect alone. Consider ways to minimize impacts for employees, such as retraining for new roles, utilizing temp staff for short-term positions rather than existing staff who will need to be let go, etc. Be as open as you can about the whole process.
  • Continue to recognize and reward great employee behaviors and outcomes. Ensure they still feel valued throughout the process.

This list can be a good starting point and provides some ideas on how to help employees through transition periods, but it’s not exhaustive. What else has your organization done during times of change to make things easier on employees?