Keeping up with competition and new marketing avenues means that you need to change things frequently. Sometimes you can just make minor tweaks, but other times you have to implement a major process change.
Unfortunately, only about 26% of transformation initiatives succeed. What can you do to make your business one of the places that change sticks? It all has to do with how you prepare for a change, implement it, and overcome resistance.
Preparing for a Major Change
If you’re in the position to determine what changes need to be made, the best advice is to include employees in the problem-solving process as much as possible. The more involved they are, the more likely they are to embrace and implement the new processes.
For instance, if customers frequently complain about turnaround time, you might create a new process designed to make things more efficient with the input of your staff who can give you an accurate look at what holds up their work. Or, perhaps you need to update a creative workflow to improve quality.
Once it’s time to communicate the change, think about who has the right skills to lead the initiative. Key change management skills include critical thinking, analysis, excellent communication skills, the ability to train people, and a deft touch with diplomacy.
Perhaps the right person is you! Or, it may be another leader in your organization or even a group of employees. The key is to know who will be most effective in leading the charge and to make sure they understand their responsibilities.
Research shows that one of the most common reasons for failure is that a plan is managed too top-down, with upper levels of leadership determining every detail of how change should happen. Experts say that success starts with focusing on every individual.
The day has come—the change is ready to roll out. Congratulations! There are several steps to successfully introduce a new business process.
One key is to start small if you can. Is it possible to roll out the new initiative to a small group within your company that’s excited to try it? If so, the benefits that the group gets from the innovation may help prove its usefulness to more resistant staff members.
Whether you start large or small, it’s vital to communicate, communicate, communicate! Explain the problem the company was having and how the process modification will make a difference. Help your employees see the vision behind the change. More importantly, realize that all changes – even good ones – include some kind of loss to those involved. Even if the loss is simply that they were the fastest on the team and they might not be anymore, it could be a big deal to that individual. If you acknowledge and talk about those losses openly, it can help people overcome their fears and resistance. Ensure that productivity will likely fall while the team grows accustomed to the new change, and management is anticipating that.
Finally, if possible, walk through the implementation of the adjustment step by step, including a presentation of the intended changes and the timeline, so that employees do not feel caught off guard during any of the process. This will help people change their habits little by little, instead of having to throw everything out and start over. Also, people may have less opposition to small changes compared to large ones.
Handling resistance is a part of every change, especially significant ones. The good news is that if you do this well, you may build your team into a stronger unit than it was before.
The first step to overcoming concerns is to provide adequate training. Remember that a significant change won’t necessarily “take” on the first overview. You’ll need to train it, remind them, and possibly train it again. Remember that you’re trying to overcome ingrained habits—it takes time and patience.
Secondly, be sure to listen to and address concerns. You can create problem-solving teams to deal with bumps in the road that come up. Get employees to encourage each other to use the new process. Many times people respond better when they hear from a peer rather than a boss. Specifically, according to the Edleman Trust Barometer in 2017, trust in work peers is over 60% while trust in executives is below 38%. Plus, studies show that peer credibility is a key reason messages are heard or ignored.
Rewards or incentives tied to the new process may help as well. Be careful to define these clearly, because once people begin to get something extra it’s hard to take it away. You want to plainly say if the rewards are only available for the first month of the new process, for instance.
Finally, show everyone the positive results as they start to come in so that employees can see the fruits of their labors and fully understand why the change was made for the better. Continue to communicate about the process, concerns, and any problems that crop up. Over time, people will see the benefits and the new process will become much more second nature.
Protecting Your Business During the Change Process
Change isn’t just tough on your employees, it can be tough on your systems and software also. You need to make sure you are protected in case something goes wrong and you experience an interruption in your business.
One thing to do is to make sure you have a complete backup of all your data before the change goes live. You may want to make backups more frequently as the new process takes hold as well, just to be sure that you have what you need if something happens.
Consider getting business income insurance to cover you if you have an interruption in your operations. This coverage can help you with income, relocation expenses if needed, payroll, and more. Hopefully, nothing will go wrong, but it pays to be prepared.
Finally, you might consider slowing down your content production while the change takes hold. It’s a helpful way to reduce your responsibilities so that you can focus on the new process and training your employees to follow through.
Change Is Good—If It Sticks
The key to all change management strategies is that you want your new business process to stick. When you follow the steps outlined above, you’ll have a far better chance of that happening.
Managing change is scary, even for a business owner, but going through the process can make you a better manager. A team that does something challenging together is more cohesive as well.
You don’t have to be afraid of change. It’s a necessary part of being in business, and with these tips, you can navigate change management successfully.
About the Author
Jori Hamilton is a feminist writer from the Pacific Northwest who enjoys discussing social justice, empowerment, and how to improve the workplace. You can find more of her work in her portfolio here.