You have significant changes coming to your organization that will affect your employees – up to and including their responsibilities or their continued employment. Announce it too early and you risk subjecting them to undue stress for an extended period. Sit on the information too long and you risk losing their trust – the main currency an employer needs to retain top talent in any labor environment.

What do you do?

Transparency Treats Employees Like Adults

In my decade focused on organizational change communications, I have come to strongly believe that once you have a clear direction and at least a general plan for how you will get there, it’s time to make an announcement.

The announcement would include a high-level summary of the problem you are trying to solve and the solution you have devised, along with a general timeline for implementation and next steps or expectations for employees.

You do not need to have answers to every question, though general answers for the questions that are easy to anticipate should be readily available.

This approach treats your employees like the adults they are and gives them agency to make decisions that are best for them. This can be a scary prospect for managers and executives, but it’s a discomfort that you have to accept.

The fear, of course is that your top performers will decide to leave before you implement the changes that you want them to lead or at least be a part of. That’s a valid concern, but it needs to be addressed through honest conversations and regular reminders about why the changes are coming and how much that team member is valued. Controlling their options with secrecy can easily backfire.

Secrecy Retains Control but Erodes Trust

Delaying an announcement for fear that people will leave is manipulative, and adults will not take kindly to being infantilized in such a way. While those whose options are most limited by your secrecy may be less-than-stellar performers, their coworkers and friends may be the very people you’re counting on to lead your organization in the next phase. Those top performers will see how their colleagues were treated and lose trust in the company and its leaders.

How do they know you won’t do the same thing to them? They don’t.

Once your top performers lose trust in you, they are more likely to start looking elsewhere AND less likely to encourage their talented friends to apply for openings. Is that worth retaining control?

By understanding that employment is an agreement between the company and the individual and that both parties make a choice to remain engaged with each other, you build trust. An employer a person can trust to tell them what they need to know even when the news is bad is an employer who will build a loyal workforce.

In an age of social media and the Great Resignation, that’s as good as gold. But you need to earn it.

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