Learn how house training a new puppy can help you get employees engaged in change

Recently, my wife and I welcomed a Goldendoodle puppy into our lives. We named him Porter for our love of beer and because a porter was traditionally a gatekeeper—the person who granted entry into the castle.

When we first brought Porter home, he was small, sweet and unassuming. He liked to nibble our hands, jump for attention and walk on a leash like a kite in the wind. But, based on the size of his parents, he was going to quickly get big. We knew that if we didn’t want Porter to become a big, hairy monster, we’d need to invest time in training him.

However, we couldn’t teach him everything at once. We started by teaching him a simple command: sit. Then we worked on mastering more complex commands such as down, stay and come.

This same concept of starting out simply also applies to organizational change. Sharing the details of a change all at once may overwhelm employees—like trying to teach a puppy all the rules on his first day home.

Instead, it’s easier on employees (and on you) to break change communication into manageable pieces to share with employees when they need it.

A simple way to create bite-sized communication is to consider what employees need to know before, during and after a change. Here’s how:

Before the change:

  • Let people know that change is coming and why
  • Explain what will change and what will stay the same
  • Outline why the change will benefit the company

During the change:

  • Reinforce what’s changing and what’s not changing
  • Tell employees what action they need to take—what they need to do differently
  • Offer resources to action, get help or ask questions

After the change:

  • Provide progress updates on the change
  • Be clear about next steps
  • Share lessons learned—what went well and what could be improved

After you determine what you’re communicating and when, it’s time to start creating materials. 
Create change materials that are:

  • Accessible. Employees are busy with their day-to-day work and don’t have a lot of time to spend searching for information. Put all resources in one central location that’s easy to find.
  • Simple. Use language that is easy to understand—especially if the change is complex. Break it down into simple terms.
  • Helpful. Think about your audiences and what they need to know. Your communication should answer “what’s in it for me?” or “what do I need to do?”

The next time your organization is going through a big, hairy change, don’t feel the need to share everything all at once. When you share bite-sized information right when employees need it, the change becomes much more manageable.



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