Now more than ever, co-ops must adapt to market forces and make changes to survive and thrive in the marketplace. So much change can be hard on staff members, especially if some staff feel those changes are moving the co-op in a direction that could be perceived as less cooperative or more “corporate”. Exceptional communication strategies are key to keeping staff members informed and engaged.
Give advance warning. When there’s a problem necessitating a change in a personnel policy, an operational system, a job description or some workplace condition, be clear about what’s not working before you’ve decided on a solution. Except for emergencies, the first communication about a change should not be to sell employees on an already chosen course of action, but to alert them to a problem or situation that needs a change.
Establish formal channels for staff input. Include regular time at staff meetings, daily huddles and Open Book meetings for staff to provide feedback. Provide a suggestion box, logbook or big wall poster where staff members can offer feedback and read each other’s ideas.
Allow time for input that influences the final decision. In urgent situations, changes may need to be made quickly. In all other cases, tap into the combined knowledge of the group, and allow their suggestions and concerns to impact the final outcome.
Keep the co-op mission and vision visible and prominent. Reference the co-op’s mission and vision and strategic goals when explaining the problem to be solved and the ultimate decision. When everyone knows the end goals, it’s easier for them to come along on the journey to get there.
Close the communication loop. Once a decision is made, let staff know how their input influenced the final decision, what the decision was, and why it was the final choice, or why other options weren’t selected.
Change is constant in the workplace, It’s important that staff members know what to expect and can be part of shaping the final outcome. Here are some additional resources:
- Decision Matrix can help determine who to involve in a decision and in what role.
- Growthworks Inc. Free Employee Engagement Tool
Grab and Go Solutions is a resource from CDS Consulting Co-op to provide easy to implement solutions to common issues facing food co-ops. Watch for future releases tackling a wide variety of topics including HR, governance, member engagement, safety, store and growth.