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A change is as good as a rest according to the old proverb, but change in the workplace can be unsettling, and even minor change needs effective communication. 

Brexit took the country – and the government – by surprise, leading to widespread uncertainty and anxiety. As anxiety is a key demotivator in the workforce, communicating change successfully has never been so important.
 
According to a survey carried out by employee engagement experts Gatehouse in July, 63% of leaders admit they are unsure how Brexit will affect their business. But in the absence of knowledge of the future, employees can be reassured if they feel valued and have confidence in their company’s long-term strategies.
 
Jennie Flower, Business Development Director of Minerva Engagement, co-authored a report following the referendum, evaluating the implications for business leaders in the UK.

Jennie advises: “Whilst it may not be possible in the midst of deep uncertainty to draw out detailed plans, it is possible to concentrate on tackling any negative impact internally. Creating opportunities for discussion and actively involving teams in the changes are critical steps. Listen, provide support and emphasise the fact that all employees matter regardless of background or ethnicity.”
 
Ensure key stakeholders, such as HR and the leadership team, are involved early and are fully bought in. Consider all the channels you have available to create a considered, planned, multichannel approach that drives an agreed strategy.
 
Above all, communicate the long-term business objectives, adds Jennie. “Keep people focused on the long-term company vision to help them ride out the short-term turbulence. To quote the Harvard Business Review, a company’s ‘values are its scaffolding in times of trouble’ – check they’re fit for purpose. Leaders need to embody them and employees will follow.”
 
Open, two-way communication
Brexit is the current debate on everyone’s lips, but managing major change, from redundancies to mergers, requires the same principles of open and honest two-way communication, and emphasising core values.
 
Change management experts Change First advise that often the execution of strategy is not well understood by those who were not involved in building it, highlighting the need for a well-structured communication plan.
 
They advise that any change communication strategy needs to start with the base question of why – what is the goal? Why does the goal exist? Why it is needed or, most importantly, why can’t we afford to go on like this?
 
And finally, don’t underestimate the power of connection. Jennie says: “We are hugely social animals. Coming together in a social activity encourages bonding and cultivates trust. Creating moments where teams go out or do something worthwhile for charity all have tremendous impact, especially during periods of change.”

To hear Jennie Flower and Deborah Hulme of Minerva Engagement talk about how to alleviate uncertainty during change and why that’s important, alongside Laura Ferguson, who will share insights into the challenges of the Shell takeover of BG, book tickets for the IOIC Insight Seminar: Managing the impact of major change on 10 November. For more details, visit our events page.
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