In business, as in life, change is normal. Your company’s name or location can change. Employees move around: Perhaps your top sales executive Bill has moved on to a new position within the company. Maybe June—a primary gatekeeper of critical information—has decided after 30 years to retire. Or perhaps Ann, a key contact person within the organization, is leaving the company to pursue other opportunities.
Organizational changes such as the ones I’ve described can have a big impact on operations. They can affect who will be handling the day-to-day responsibilities that the former employees once had, and how that transition process will be managed. They can also affect how institutional knowledge is retained.
Think about this:
- Was the former employee an administrator on any major accounts or contracts? If so, have you developed a plan to communicate the change in personnel to all affected stakeholders?
- Did the former employee have access to critical online accounts? Think about blocking that access. Do you really want to run the security risk of a prior employee logging in?
- If your company has moved to a new location, have you properly notified customers, vendors, and others who need to know?
- If your company’s name (or ownership) has changed, have you communicated that information effectively?
When communicating change, don’t rely on a single mode of communication, but instead use several communication channels. This is one time where it helps to be redundant: Where appropriate, post information on the company’s external website and internal intranet, send e-mail to stakeholders, and communicate the change verbally as well. Some customers may prefer receiving e-mail, while others will want to receive information verbally (but always put anything conveyed verbally in writing).
Other best practices include:
- Communicate early and often. If a key contact is leaving your company, notify clients, employees, vendors, and other stakeholders as soon as possible.
- Determine who in the organization will be responsible for communicating information, both internally and externally, to avoid conflicting messages.
- Convey information directly and succinctly: Your message should not be cluttered with unrelated information (or, for that matter, buried in a company newsletter).
Don’t wait until a strategic employee announces he or she is leaving. Identify knowledge leaders in your organization. Document what information is critical to retain, and have your knowledge leaders serve as mentors to other employees so that when they leave, they do not create a knowledge vacuum.
Change is certain, but with proper planning and foresight, it doesn’t have to be painful.
iiX Customer Support Specialist Dawn Green contributed to this article.