Many members of the hardworking practice teams across Australia live and work in their local communities. Therefore, these staff members must adapt to the changing COVID-19 situation at work and at home, with many of them change fatigued.
Investing a few minutes to prepare a simple change communications plan may help address practice team members’ concerns.
When you are ready to begin:
- Open a new Word document on your computer and create a table of 6 horizontal x 6 vertical columns.
- Down the vertical left-hand side, list your key team member groups, especially for larger practices. Add more rows if required.
- In the next horizontal column, identity what you need to communicate to these different audiences.
- In the following horizontal column, write the reasons and benefits of the change or address their current concerns, keeping in mind the audience’ needs and the desired outcomes.
- In the adjourning horizontal column, draft some key messages for each audience that is clear, concise, factual and easy to understand. Where practical, make sure you include the ‘why’ and benefits of the change and/or you address their concerns. Please keep in mind that medical professionals appreciate evidence-based information including a link to resources where possible so they can access the information for themselves.
- In the next horizontal column, determine the best way to communicate this information, whether it be via clinical software, in person, email or leaving a copy of the message on the table or in pigeonholes. If you have multiple messages, you may consider combining messages and producing a practice newsletter, especially if there are regular messages to communicate. If you aren’t already, consider holding a face-to-face meeting every fortnight or month to check-in with staff members.
- In the final column, determine when you need to communicate this information. If you need staff to adapt to a new way of working, then provide adequate notice. The general rule is the bigger the change or it’s likely that staff will have concerns, the longer the notice required. More communication is needed for bigger changes.
- Be accessible to answer your team’s questions. If you work part time, then consider having a fully informed person who can answer questions on your day’s off.
It’s human nature to want to answer everyone’s questions and concerns, but sometimes the answers are unknown. In this case, be upfront and say that you don’t know the answer at this time and will endeavour to get back with an answer in due course. Ensure you make a note and follow up within a reasonable timeframe.
In a change-weary environment, it’s important to communicate clear timelines and outcomes. In larger practices, it’s also important to recognise key milestones along the way and early adapters, so your team feels like progress is being made.
For significant changes at larger practices, consider having a change agent/champion whether it is the Practice Manager, Clinical Director or Practice Owner. Your team is more likely to adapt to the change if it has high level ‘buy in’.