Th 5 effective strategies –
The payroll department is often tasked with the responsibility to communicate the changes agreed on by management and the unions regarding conditions of employment or changes to legislation, that impact employees. This usually means interpreting the changes and making them real and meaningful to all customers. (This may also include sending out the actual notices announcing the changes.)
Payroll is the only department able to explain how the changes will affect the employees’ take-home pay, or their benefits (eg. leave days or pension deductions). We have a unique opportunity to interact with the employees, and make sure there is a complete understanding of how the changes will impact each one personally. What a privilege!
Here is an example. In March 2016, changes in retirement legislation were announced in South Africa. If you were including life insurance or disability in your one tax-free deduction, this could change, and now become tax deductable. This would reduce the employee’s take-home pay. And of course, the payroll department is the first stop when explanations are needed around this.
Five strategies to communicate change effectively
1. Use face-to-face meetings
Nothing is as powerful as sitting across the table from your employees (or customers), and explaining in detail how the changes will impact them. Use a dummy payslip (and alternative if you have them) as a visual example of the changes, and their impact. And be ready, and patient, to answer questions and concerns. This way they will be prepared for their changed payslip.
2. Identify champions
One champion has the power to convert many. Identify a leader ( shop steward, supervisor, line manager or senior manager), and make sure they have a thorough understanding of the changes. They can be the first line of explainers, and answer the basic questions. A detailed and clear question-and-answer sheet will be very useful. Speak to management for advice, if necessary, to approach these leaders, or be proactive and cultivate relationships with the leaders in the company.
3. Language and medium of communication
Important (and obvious), is the fact that home language is much more powerful for effective communication, compared to a 2nd language. Visual aids (eg. pictures) and simple explanations are always better than long, complicated and wordy descriptions. Ensure any hand-out pamphlets/documents are concise, and clear, and that the information is correct. Communicating the wrong facts is difficult to undo, and will negatively affect the organization and your reputation.
4. Honestly explain the benefits and downsides
It always pays to be 100% truthful, and convey ALL the facts, even if this might mean anger and outrage ( not your fault, you are only the conveyor of the facts). When explaining the benefits, do it in detail, and be sure NOT to oversell the upside. Be realistic. And in the same vein, don’t minimize the downsides.
5. Have an Action Plan
Make sure you have a clear action plan before starting the communication process. Decide WHO will communicate WHAT, and WHEN. Who will be available to answer questions, and when? Make sure everyone is up to date, and in the loop on what is to be implemented, and when. And what documents need to be signed, and by whom…
Remember: this is an opportunity to grow relationships, and enhance the reputation of the payroll department. So, be available to answer all questions. And go out of your way, if possible, to personalize every answer, and explain how this will affect the employee.