|Why Managers and Supervisors ARE NOT the
Best Communicators During Times of Change|
Everywhere you look these days, the focus in Human Resources and
Employee Communication is managing change within organizations. But most
of these programs fail to achieve their objectives.
During bad economic times, the focus is usually on providing coaching
on understanding the emotions people go through during change, helping
employees deal with the complex emotions of watching colleagues leave,
communication strategies that utilise management hierarchies to
communicate face to face with their teams on what is happening next in
organizational restructures and so on.
The reason why this approach does not work is because the focus is on
managing fear, not change. And this is why managers don't follow through
with the key messages and face to face discussions with their teams that
you have so cleverly crafted.
I realize that some "studies" show that employees trust their
immediate manager or supervisor more than anyone in the organization.
Therefore it must follow that if you are designing a communication and
change strategy focused on organizational restructures and downsizing
the smart thing to do would be to utilize them as a key part of your
face to face strategy.
Actually this is not the case and there are many reasons why this is
not the way to approach change during these times. Think about it. Here
you have an entire organization paralyzed with fear.
Budget cuts all around, negative media speculation, no one is secure.
And the only person who really knows what is being planned is the CEO.
Is it any wonder, when you give a script for managers and supervisors
to communicate to staff, their teams ask what's going to happen with our
jobs, and the manager or supervisor in the spirit of trust and honesty
says, “I don't know, I don't even know what is going happen to me.” So
this is why you need to take a different approach to face to face
communication during these times.
So here is an example of how you can still give accountability for
specific messages to managers and supervisors and at the same time
utilize your CEO as a key communicator during times of change .
During another "bad" economic time, during which the organization had
9 new competitors during one year I implemented the following strategy.
1. Firstly I had arranged for the CEO to meet with each of the state
managers of the business divisions in each state individually. The win
for the CEO was to hear first hand how business was in each business
division in each state and to meet with key clients at the same time.
2. He explained honestly to each State Manager the reality of the
situation with the business and why he had to rely on them.
3. He gave them specific actions of what he wanted from them and they
in return delivered and stepped up and managed in some instances the
total closure of state offices in true leadership style.
4. We then held "Business Reality" workshops for one day in each
state which all managers and supervisors attended. The CEO was present
at each and shared with them real business data and the issues facing
the organization and asked for their input in coming up with options and
innovative ideas to grow the business.
5. These ideas were then considered by the Executive team and the
best were implemented in each business division and state.
6. The supervisors and managers now had something to share with their
teams – specific action plans for their division. And more importantly
the key issues that the CEO had asked them to focus on.
The outcome was that despite going through extensive downsizing,
restructures and everyone having to reapply for new roles, we grew the
business by 25% in that year. Obviously the strategy was much more
detailed than outlined above, but the purpose of this article is share
why I think managers and supervisors are not the best face to face
communicators during times of change.