Hearts, heads & hands

Communicating with empathy is crucial to reassure worried workers in a period of trouble            

Let’s get real. No one talks about change management when the change is something wonderful. For example, a change management plan because we are raising your pay 20 per cent? Not likely to happen. Change management plans kick in when an organisation is undergoing – or considering undergoing – hard, even traumatic change. The introduction of a new process, a change in the staffing model, a reorganisation are all good examples, because they all involve significant risks for the company. Sun Microsystems is a company that has been undergoing heart-wrenchingly difficult change for the past six years. Once the wonder of Wall Street, Sun crashed hard in the dot-com bust, and has struggled to recover ever since. We’ve undergone numerous reductions in force (we have laid off more than 45,000 people since 2001), massive reorganisations, a new CEO, at least three new executive leadership teams, large-scale outsourcing, new strategies, and new procedures. In the process, we have learned some hard lessons about change management and the critical role of communication in helping our employees adjust. Perhaps the most important lesson we’ve learned is that strong change communication is an effective, low-cost way to help the company manage risk and ensure a successful outcome.

Sheira Ariel

Sheira Ariel joined Sun over three years ago as part of the Global Employee Communication and Communities Organisation (GECCO). Prior to Sun, she was a senior consultant at Terranova Consulting Group.

Terry L. McKenzie

Terry L. McKenzie has been with Sun Microsystems since 2003 and has designed and implemented Sun’s communication model. Prior to joining Sun, McKenzie was the president and chief executive officer of Sheppard Associates, an employee communication consulting firm.