Change management: how to get your staff engaged with new ways of working

change management
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Today’s fast-paced working environment means businesses need to be more agile and adaptive to change, so it’s essential that your team is equipped to manage this process. Here are some tips to help prepare them.

Change is the new normal in business, as innovative technology, rapid communication and savvy consumers drive the constant demand for something new.

If companies want to stay ahead, then they have to get comfortable with this lightning pace of change, but that can mean unsettling times for employees.

Anybody who’s tried to alter entrenched routines might beg to differ, but science shows that people are naturally attracted to change. Trying something new sparks the release of dopamine in our brains, a reward hormone that makes us more motivated.

There’s even a name for it: neophilia, i.e. a tendency to like anything new, or a love of novelty.

It’s a fact worth remembering the next time you’re bringing fresh ideas, technologies or processes into your business, but does the dopamine-effect really apply to workplaces across the UK?

In reality, you’re likely to find that some people are more ‘neophilic’ than others, with a fair bit of effort and creativity needed to get the non-neophiles on board.

Securing buy-in

As many business owners will attest, failure to implement change effectively can end up making things worse, as your team becomes divided over those who embrace it and those who don’t.

You might have the best idea, or the most game-changing piece of technology, but without buy-in from those on the frontline, the initiative is sure to fail.

Employees want the business to do well. Your success is their success. Don’t hold back, aim for complete transparency and give as much detail as possible regarding the rationale behind the change.

In fact, research shows that’s why more than half of all tech investments don’t succeed.

Nowhere is this more the case than with productivity apps, which promise to revolutionise the efficiency of your teams, but which can just as easily fall flat if your employees aren’t on board. So, what can business owners and HR managers do to ensure these apps deliver on the ROI they promise?

Explain the benefits

Communication is absolutely critical, so that employees understand the reason for the change and their role in making it happen. That starts with explaining the benefits of what you’re implementing, whether that’s to cut costs, increase productivity, or boost your bottom-line.

After all, employees want the business to do well. Your success is their success. Don’t hold back, aim for complete transparency and give as much detail as possible regarding the rationale behind the change.

Address their concerns

Giving employees the opportunity to air their views and concerns will also make a huge difference to how the change is received, ensuring staff feel valued, while also flagging potential issues and areas of possible conflict.

Encourage everybody to speak up and be as honest as possible, taking all comments on board and addressing them as best you can.

Gathering this feedback will not only enable you to hone your plans and proposals based on staff feedback, it also gives you the chance to nip any detractors and naysayers in the bud as early as possible. That way, those individuals are much less likely to cause problems and influence the minds of others further down the line.

Define ‘success’

Be clear what success looks like and link this as closely as possible to the mission, objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs) of your business. Be fully open in sharing this with your staff. For example, if you’re implementing a sales app, the KPI may be to increase leads or improve conversion rates. With a productivity app, it might be about digitising your operations and becoming the best-in-class provider in your marketplace.

This level of detail hammers home the importance of what you’re proposing and helps galvanise employees behind your plans.

Incentivise success

Now that you’ve communicated what’s in it for the business, it’s time to demonstrate what it means for every individual concerned. After all, that’s what really gets most of us up in the morning.

It may be that the new tool will make specific aspects of their job easier, in which case make staff aware of this and try to quantify it in some way. So, you might say something like: ‘by managing your workflow through this tool, you will be able to reduce the time you spend on admin by 25%’.

Change management isn’t always easy, but it needs to become second nature to businesses that want to get ahead in today’s business world.

Or it might be to solve a broader issue that they’ve faced, for example: ‘many of you have fed back to us that our current systems make it difficult to meet your targets. This new way of working will enable you to do your jobs even better and ensure all our customers are totally satisfied with our service’.

Then if you have individuals who are particularly resistant to change, you can personalise these incentives even more based on their own specific roles and responsibilities.

Be open to changing the change

Finally, stay flexible, as any change is a learning experience. It’s entirely natural that you may need to change course or alter your plans as you go. Don’t feel like you have to stick rigidly to the plan you have in place.

Implementing anything new requires testing and iterating, and testing again, to track against your KPIs. Make sure you factor this into your schedule, and stay open to employee feedback, and for things to not necessarily go as you planned. That’s all part of making your implementation as successful as it can be.

Change management isn’t always easy, but it needs to become second nature to businesses that want to get ahead in today’s business world.

If you do your due diligence, prepare thoroughly and communicate continuously with your people, then you have a good chance of coming out better and stronger the other side.

Interested in this topic? You may also enjoy reading Why are some people more resilient when facing change?

About Andy Birch

Andy Birch

Andy Birch is VP EMEA at 9 Spokes. He’s been at the business since June 2017 and was previously Senior Director for Oracle Communications.

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