As the end of the year approaches, it’s the time of year when people start assessing their current job situation and you’ll start to see a few leave in anticipation of starting a new position to kick off 2023.
Staffing changes happen all the time, but when it’s an integral member of the team who is in a leadership position then you need to handle the departure announcement carefully to mitigate potential risks. As we all know, really important staff members’ exits have the potential to create team unrest, customer unrest and can even lead to negative rumours in the industry if handled poorly.
Because of these potential risks, it’s worth pausing and putting your PR hat on. How are you going to communicate this announcement internally, to staff, and externally, to clients, stakeholders, the industry and wider public?
What risks are there – will staff feel concerned about the future of the company or their jobs? Will clients wonder if their projects or contracts are at risk? Is there a perception that the leader takes a lot of company IP and reputation with them, and how do you manage that?
A well-planned communications strategy can ease a key staff transition and mitigate risks to the company’s reputation or projects.
Here are seven things to think about when communicating about leadership transition at a company or organisation:
GATHER YOUR INNER TEAM
You’ll want to get key members of your team together immediately to start planning next steps. Keep things confidential and limited to just those who need to know.
MAKE A PLAN
Alongside your HR and recruitment plans, develop a communications strategy. This is your road map for communicating about the leadership change. You need to decide what to say and how to say it, and to whom, and in what priority order.
This is a detailed planning process, and generally includes gathering information, considering audiences, setting strategic communication objectives, crafting key messages, looking at communication risks and mitigation, and planning a timeline for all communications.
DOT THE I’S AND CROSS THE T’S
It’s important to be thorough and consider every possible scenario with your communications execution and delivery to do it well.
PREPARE THE COMMUNICATIONS
Once you have your road map written, and signed off on by leadership team, it’s time to ‘do the doing.’ This may involve crafting bullet points for the staff announcement, with all the key messages you want to convey.
This is typically followed up by an email letter that goes out to all staff, confirming the contents of a face-to-face staff meeting. Another letter should then be sent to other audiences, including clients and stakeholders.
As part of this preparation, it’s worth spending time brainstorming questions you may get asked so you are not caught out. In any situation where there is change, it can be upsetting, and it’s best to be prepared and have responses in place to assure staff and clients if needed.
Get your email databases ready in advance, so everything is drafted, approved and you are ready to press send on the day of the announcement.
STAFF COME FIRST
In any announcement of this kind, talk to staff first before clients and other stakeholders, and do it in person where you can. If necessary, if you need to make the announcement across multiple office locations, consider getting staff in a Zoom call, and ensure the senior leaders at those locations have been briefed prior so they can answer follow-up questions.
When a key leader moves on to another role or even retires, it can be a great chance to celebrate their achievements and contribution to the industry, region or community. Write a media release for an industry publication, business paper or local media outlet. There is often a good story to tell, especially if it’s a long-serving team member. A media story can also help with recruiting a new person into the role.
Don’t forget about sharing the news on your social media channels as a last step. A post on your business’s LinkedIn page may be appropriate.