Don’t you just love the way the payroll department is asked to take responsibility for communicating the changes agreed to by management and the unions in conditions of employment or changes in legislation that impact our employees? I am not talking about the actual sending out of notices (although we sometimes do that), but we so often interpret the changes and make them real and meaningful to our customers.
Payroll is the only department that has the ability to explain how the changes will be felt in the employees’ take home pay or how it will affect their benefits (example: leave days or pension deductions). We have a unique opportunity to interact with the employees and to make sure that that there is a 100% understanding of the impact these changes will have on their take home pay. What a privilege!
Let’s use as an example the changes in retirement legislation that is coming into play from 1 March 2016 (South Africa). You may be including life insurance or disability in your one tax free deduction. This will change in March and these may be needed to be taxed, reducing the employees take home pay. We all know that when their take home pay is reduced, payroll will be the first people who are asked to explain.
Here are 5 strategies to communicate change effectively:
- Use face-to-face
Nothing is as powerful as sitting across the table form your employees (customers) and explaining in detail how the changes will impact on the employee. Having a dummy payslip ready as well as alternatives (if there are any). This will give the employees certainty and understanding. I know it takes time, but this way is so much better than dealing with angry employees who have just received their payslip.
- Identify champions
One champion converts many. Identify a leader (shop steward, supervisor, line manager or senior employee) and make sure they understand the changes. They can be your first explainer and answer the basic questions. A good question and answer sheet will be very useful. If you don’t know who to approach, speak to management. Alternatively, be proactive and start to cultivate a relationship with the leaders in the company.
- Language and medium of communication.
Obvious: But it is important. Home language is always more powerful than a second language. Pictures and simple explanations always work a lot better than long complicated wordy explanations. Make sure your take away document/pamphlet is powerful. Actual dummy payslips or completed form give certainty. Make sure we get the information right. It is very difficult to undo wrong communication and the effects that it may have on the organisation and your reputation.
- Describe the benefits/downside
Now is the time to be 100% truthful. I know that sometimes this means anger and outrage (you did not cause it). If you are explaining the benefits, do so in detail and make sure that you do not oversell the upside. You need to be realistic. In the same way the downside must not be minimised. If the changes will reduce take home pay, be up front about it.
- Have a clear action plan and alternatives (if possible)
Who will communicate what, when. What times will you be available to answer questions. Make sure your staff are up to date and in the loop. Know what will be implemented when. Understand what documents need to be signed by whom.
Lastly be available to answer all questions. Go out of your way to have the answers and if possible personalise every answer with how this will affect the employee.
This is an opportunity to grow relationships and enhance the reputation of the payroll department.