Policy change can be inescapable for businesses. Discover the best practices for communicating and teaching workers about new policies.
Here's what you need to know:
- Inform employees before implementing policy changes and be clear and specific about what the changes are
- Help your staff understand why the changes are necessary and provide appropriate training in any areas that call for it
- Request a sign-off or some other demonstration of understanding
- Make the new policy accessible and the messaging consistent
- Be open to feedback, and provide a channel that allows for it
- Be prepared to answer any questions that come up
Change is inevitable in life, and it’s no different in business. If a business has company-wide policy changes to implement, they may be wondering how best to prepare their employees.
There are several steps they can take to make it easy for their team to jump on board, and to help ensure a smooth transition. Here are some things to keep in mind before rolling out the next policy change.
Inform employees before implementing policy changes
Change can take time to get used to. It’s best to approach company-wide policy changes by first taking the time to prepare employees.
Give them time to learn about what will be different and give them the chance to ask any questions they might have. Let them get used to the idea before asking them to jump aboard.
A good rule of thumb is the bigger the change, the more notice management should give. They should keep in mind that the decisions they make have a direct impact on the lives of their employees.
They can think of it this way: a person wouldn’t want to wake up one morning to discover the route they usually take to work is no longer available.
They’d prefer to be aware ahead of time so they can prepare and figure out a new way to get to work with the least amount of friction possible.
It’s the same with any change — it’s nice to have some time to prepare.
Be clear and specific about what the changes are
It should be very clear to employees exactly what is changing and what is staying the same. They should have clear instructions on what the changes will look like, and what steps they need to take to ensure a smooth transition.
It should be very clear to employees exactly what is changing and what is staying the same.
Management should write policy changes in a way that is easy to understand. Avoid jargon — stick to simple, clear language. The clearer they write their policy, the easier it will be for teams to implement.
Expectations should be specific. The quality of a company’s internal communication is key here.
They need to let employees know the date the changes will take place, and when and where any training will happen. They should also provide detailed instructions for accessing any information they might need.
Help them understand why the changes are necessary
People are generally more receptive to change if their employers can explain why the changes are necessary in the first place.
One way to do this is by helping employees understand the positive outcomes a company hopes to achieve as a result of the changes. If they can visualize positive outcomes, they’re more likely to be on board.
Let them in on the vision! And they shouldn’t forget to highlight the benefits to them, not just the company. Inspiration is a powerful motivator.
This can also be as simple as using hard data to back up policy changes. If they’re instilling a change because of research, or experiential data, they should be sure to highlight that in employee communications.
It’s not beneficial to assume that employees understand the “why” behind the “what.” Employees that don’t understand why changes are happening are less likely to commit and are more likely to resist or push back against them.
Provide appropriate training in any areas that call for it
Policy changes can be disruptive in the day-to-day routines of employees. Plus, they may need some professional training to ensure the retention of changes without an excess of errors.
If a business wants to enforce a company-wide policy, leadership should assess what type of training is appropriate. To encourage engagement, they should give their employees plenty of notice ahead of required training. They should know why the training is necessary as well.
A minor change may only need a one-off or series of emails. Each change should be accordingly assessed. For example, a change in policy concerning the PTO may only require an email. However, a change in the technology used daily may require a few sessions of in-depth, in-person training.
Request a sign-off or some other demonstration of understanding
They can consider requiring a sign-off on a statement that says each employee is knowledgeable of and understands the new change. They’ll want to be sure that each employee has a copy of the new policy in their possession.
Requiring a sign-off is a good way for them to do their best to ensure that everyone reads and reviews the change. They can set a deadline and be sure to follow up with anyone who doesn’t sign by that date.
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Make the new policy accessible and the messaging consistent
Notification and details about the policy should go out ahead of time, and again when the policy engagement begins. Any changes should reflect in the employee handbook and be readily accessible to employees.
HR should consider posting the new policy in multiple areas. It could look like an email attachment, distributed at a company meeting, posted in a common area at the office, or sent to the team’s Slack or Teams channel. Whatever they choose, they should be sure the channel(s) are appropriate for the message.
Messaging about policy change should be consistent. There shouldn’t be any conflicting information that could be a source of confusion for employees.
Be open to feedback, and provide a channel that allows for it
It’s important to allow for and encourage feedback. Feedback from trusted employees is invaluable.
Managers should try to gather it from employees who are most affected by the changes. This information can help to make sure that the new changes are appropriate, and that the training surrounding it is practical.
Asking for feedback signals to employees that leaders are making the effort to be sure the policies are realistic. It helps them to feel involved in the process, and it also helps to build trust. Taking the time to check in makes employees feel appreciated and helps to keep morale high.
While it’s important to listen to feedback from employees, it’s important to give them feedback, too. Let them know how the changes are going, and whether goals are being reached.
If something isn’t going as planned, keep them in the loop, and be open to suggestions.
Be prepared to answer any questions that come up
Even if leaders require an employee sign-off, there will likely be some individuals who sign without reading. Sometimes, those who do read and attend the training will still have questions. It’s important that they anticipate any questions that may come up, and can effectively answer them.
During times of change, employees look to HR and management to have all the answers. If they come up short, it may lead to a break in confidence, and it could cause people to question why they needed changes in the first place.
Taking the time to prepare employees for company-wide changes before they’re implemented is a signal of respect. This does wonders to help maintain a positive work environment.
Providing clear instructions, appropriate training, and being open to feedback help to keep morale high. What’s more, it will also help a company to avoid making costly mistakes.