Most managers recognize the need to overcommunicate with employees during times of change and upheaval. And yet many employees still report that they’re not getting the information they need.

But that doesn’t mean you should bury employees with a pile of meaningless corporatespeak. The information you communicate should be meaningful and relevant to employees’ concerns.

Five key elements

A study of companies undergoing major restructuring found that the most successful communications efforts had five elements in common. Use this list as a guide to make sure you’re saying the right things in the right way:

  1. Managers explained why decisions were being made. For example: “We’re merging with another company because the industry is consolidating, and we won’t be big enough to compete on our own.”
  2. Communication occurs in a timely manner. Example: “I’m handing out copies of the press release, which we’re issuing to the media right now.”
  3. Direct supervisors explain the specific implications of the change to each level of worker. Example: “This merger will give us access to the healthcare industry. What this means for the marketing team is that we’ll need to create new collateral for that market.”
  4. Important information flows continuously. Example: “As of now, I’ve told you as much as I know. As soon as more information becomes available, I’ll update you.”
  5. Employee responses are validated – that is, managers accept the emotions for what they are, not what they should be. Example: “Joan, I understand that you’re worried about layoffs. Those decisions won’t be made for a while, but I know it’s hard not knowing what will happen. As soon as I can tell you something, I will. In the meantime, I’ll share your concerns with the transition team, if that’s okay with you.”

Source: Mayfield, J., and Mayfield, M. (2002). Leader communication strategies: Critical Paths to improving employee commitment. American Business Review, pp. 89-94.

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