If there’s one thing that people hate, it’s change. Maybe that’s why there are so many lengthy books and clever quotes on the subject.
Regardless, because adaptation and evolution are essential to any business’ survival, change must occur.
Now, you may get lucky and find you have a few people within your organization who are actually excited about and support business improvements you might be planning. Most likely, though, you’ll find yourself stuck with the overwhelming task of trying to get the majority of your staff on board with the changes ahead — changes that will affect their duties, workflows … potentially even their titles and paychecks.
So, how do you do it? How do you get staff buy-in on your business improvement plans?
1) Get staff involved with the decision-making surrounding the process and communicate transparently about it every step of the way. No surprise here, but people tend to cooperate more when they’re included in discussions and decisions. Even if they disagree with the ultimate decision or direction taken, being included does count for something.
To that end, make sure you’re engaging your staff in the change process from beginning to end, constantly communicating with them in an honest fashion. Honor the old way so that employees don’t feel everything they’ve done for the organization has been for naught, but also explain why changes are necessary and detail the benefits of the new way of doing things.
2) Have a solid plan for executing change that includes benchmarks and training. More than just talking the talk, you need to walk the walk — and in this case, that means having a plan to enact change that incorporates tangible steps and well-defined, measurable goals. Don’t hesitate to look to companies who’ve already made similar transitions for guidance and tips on how they succeeded in doing so.
And train, train, train. It’s always easier for people to perform tasks they feel they’re actually capable of accomplishing. If the improvements you’re proposing include new tools and procedures employees have never engaged before, give them the training they need to succeed so they’re less likely to want to fall back on the old ways. And when a few stand out as particularly successful with the new methods, be willing to tap into those talents, designating one or two employees as leaders that can help guide the others along.
3) Give employees a stake in the process and outcome. Coming back to communication, acknowledge and hold people accountable for the good and bad that happen along the way — including individual attitudes. Address any employee resistance before it becomes mutiny and reward those staff members who make the change as smooth as possible.
This doesn’t mean shutting down conversations that constructively point out flaws and propose solutions; employees may see something you don’t, so it’s important that they be able to have a forum in which to give honest feedback so you can improve your new processes as necessary. And those who provide such valuable feedback should be rewarded. Being willing to share the risks as well as the returns associated with the venture will inspire your employees to care more about their organization’s welfare.
Don’t let the fact that there are only three main steps here fool you; the task of converting people to “the change side” is far more easier said that done. Nevertheless, these tips should help you gain some ground with your staff and ultimately lead you — and them — prosper under the new model.