For the past two years we have worked with a client who, just last week, moved approximately 600 employees into a new, state-of-the-art facility. The move represents about half of the total employees who will be moved to the building over the next couple of weeks and is one of many moves that have taken or will take place in multiple locations over the course of two years for this organization. It’s an enormous undertaking, and one that represents much more than a physical move.

Our client is (very wisely!) using this move as a catalyst to spark cultural change – introducing new ways of working, re-invigorating employee pride and morale, and establishing new expectations for behaviors. None of these things just happen automatically when people walk through the doors of the new building. Efforts like this require a long-term, strategic, change management plan that starts way before boxes are packed and requires significant momentum to maintain once people are settled.

Whether it’s moving locations, an acquisition or another major change, communication is critical. If your company is rolling out a major change, consider the following best practices:

Planning and Support

  • Tell the story. Illustrate the need for the change with key messages that clearly articulate the “what” and the “why.” Be consistent with this messaging and tailor your language and delivery to different audiences as needed.
  • Have a plan. Create a detailed plan with a timeline for communications and activities to keep everyone on track. Use multiple communication channels to share information and establish a communications cadence. It’s tempting to share everything at once, but by spacing things out, you can avoid overwhelming people while maintaining momentum and engagement. 
  • Gain support from leadership. Your leaders must support the change – in their words and actions – for other employees to buy in. Give them the training and tools they need to help drive the change among their teams.

Engaging Employees

  • Be transparent. Employees want the truth. Explain the thinking behind the decisions. And if you don’t have the answer, or a decision has not yet been made, it’s okay to say so. Just don’t speculate.
  • Be empathetic. Acknowledge that change is hard, and don’t minimize concerns that may sound trivial. Sometimes the smallest things can cause the most anxiety.
  • Give employees a voice. Employees want to feel included in the decision-making process. Invite them to give feedback, ask questions and offer ideas. They’ll be more engaged if they’re given opportunities to be directly involved. But if you ask, remember to follow up. 

Continued Engagement

  • Make it fun! Plan activities that share information in unique ways and keep employees engaged, such as employee contests, milestone celebrations, games and more.
  • Identify change champions. Identify natural leaders within different employee groups and ask for their help in driving the change and engaging other employees. This can be a formal or informal program, as long as it feels authentic.
  • Share and celebrate progress. It’s especially important during long-term initiatives to keep employees informed about big and small successes. Continue to follow up with examples of how the change is making your company stronger. And along the way, remember to thank employees for their support.