Employee learning about PTO policy changes

Recently, a good friend told me about an experience he had at work. The CEO announced there would be changes to the Paid Time Off (PTO) policy, but for three weeks he neglected to provide any further details.

Naturally, employees assumed the worst—that their vacation and sick days were in jeopardy. People panicked. Rumors flew. To make matters worse, managers didn’t have any information about the change.

Finally, after three weeks of mayhem, the CEO announced that all employees would receive an additional five days of vacation time. So, all the worry was for nothing.

Although in this particular situation the change was positive, the good news was overshadowed by anxiety of not knowing what would happen. You can imagine how much worse the situation would have been if the change was more controversial.

My friend’s story made me think that the CEO could have benefited from best practices for communicating change. So, the next time a change is headed for your organization, use these three ways to avoid rumors among employees:

1. Communicate just in time

Figuring out timing is tricky. On one hand, communicating too soon can set you up for disaster (as we saw with my friend’s vague CEO announcement). On the other hand, communicating too late won’t give employees enough time to prepare for the change. To find the right balance, focus on sharing what employees need to know and when they need to know it.

For example, if you’re updating your employee recognition program, figure out when employees need to start paying attention. Then, once all the details around the change are confirmed, you can begin communicating.

2. Prepare leaders and managers

Expect questions, questions and more questions! Make sure leaders and managers are on the same page and prepared to address employees’ concerns.

For example, if you’re communicating changes to the health care policy, set up face-to-face meetings with leaders and managers to review the details and ensure they know their roles.

3. Keep track of questions employees ask

Typically, the same types of questions keep popping up. That’s why it’s best to have mangers keep track of employees’ questions as you go, so you know what topics may need additional clarification.

For example, if there’s confusion about how to opt in to the company’s Flex Spending Account, create a short video that talks through each step. Then, plan a follow-up email to remind employees of these steps. In addition, create a Frequently Asked Questions document leaders and managers can reference throughout the change.

Now that you know these three tips, you’ll be able to communicate your next organizational change without causing fear in the workplace.

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