· Comment

How to communicate with a team in times of rapid change

"Finding and articulating the lemonade story can lead to a more powerful and unified team" -

How should HR leaders communicate with employees who are experiencing change fatigue?

Effective communication is vital for business success. When navigating change, this becomes even more important. Research by Gallup revealed that leaders who share how changes being made today will affect the organisation in the future have more engaged employees, who are less likely to feel burnt out. 

Studies also show that half of employees believe poor communication increases stress, with 34% saying it has decreased their job satisfaction. Concerningly, more than one in five (22%) say poor communication led to them considering a new job.

So, how can you successfully engage and motivate your team through change?

Read more: How to drive successful change

Framing what change means

It’s important to consider how you frame change. Change can be disorientating and unnerving, or, if framed well, it can be perceived as an exciting opportunity. We call this mindful framing the 'lemonade technique'. 

We all know the phrase: ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade’. The lemonade technique is all about moving away from the bitter lemon version of events (the catastrophising and inevitable fears that ensue) towards the 'lemonade’. To get to the lemonade, you first need to get to know the bitter lemon; the potential negative outcomes of the change, and all the things that the team may worry about.

Then, you can work on the lemonade. What's the positive story? Where’s the opportunity for the company, team and individuals? It may be that times of crisis help a team to come together, or that, in the challenges, we find our team spirit and real growth happens.

Finding and articulating the lemonade story is crucial to successfully navigate change. If done well, it can lead to a more powerful and unified team.

For example, if you’re downsizing, your bitter lemon may be people leaving due to loss of job security. Being aware of the bitter lemon will allow you to pinpoint fears. To get to the lemonade, you need to look for the positives, so you can communicate: “If we get through this, we will come out stronger and better.”

Read more: Embracing change is vital to successful business mergers

Once you have your lemonade, there are two ways to share this information, and both have value. First, there’s the presentation-style share, where you need your positive story to hand while being ready to respond to the bitter lemons people send your way. For this, preparation is key.

Second, you can share information through one-to-one communication. This is really important to respond to anyone who is more fearful, as by taking the time to understand their concerns, you can address them directly.

When communicating change, it’s important to keep in mind that employees want to:

  • Feel part of a team;
  • Know the prize and where they’re heading;
  • Feel valued and understand their value in relation to the time of crisis.

You need to mitigate uncertainty to keep your team reassured and engaged. The key to open communication is to remain true to your values and be honest, transparent and authentic.

If you can articulate this, and a clear path through uncertainty – for the individual and the collective – you have every chance to not just survive through change but to thrive as a result.

By Emma Serlin, CEO of London Speech Workshop