“Employees resist change”. That’s the conventional wisdom. Naturally it’s not true. What employees resist is change that they perceive will have a negative effect on them. But employees can be your best allies in creating positive change in your business.
“Change Is Normal”
You’ve probably heard that statement often. It’s true. Whether we like it or not, we’re surrounded by change. If affects us every day. We live with it. It doesn’t make sense to suggest that employees become “anti-change” the moment they enter the workplace.
Making “normal” Normal
If you want employees to be positive about change, here are some basics.
- • Always ask, “How can we do this better?” whenever something doesn’t work out. It’s not enough to “fix” an error. You should always ensure that you change your systems to ensure it doesn’t recur,
- • “What do you think we should do?” This is the managers’ answer to the employees’ problem. An employee has a problem. They bring it to the manager. Don’t accept it. Ask for the employees’ recommendation. I’ll admit that the recommendation may not satisfy you. But even when that happens you have an excellent opportunity to discuss the issue with the employee.
- • When you have an idea, take it to employees and say, “I want to do such and such. What would be the best way to make it work well for us?”
- • Set up small groups to consider in house projects. Give them clear responsibility to make recommendations for change. Draw group members from different areas in the business.
- • Encourage suggestions for change at all times. Avoid expressions like “that’d never work” or “we couldn’t possibly do that” or “we’ve tried that and it just won’t work”. Encourage employees to investigate ideas with other employees then decide on the value of the ideas.
- • Make a virtue of collaboration between employees in different areas. This helps employees to broaden their perspective.
- • “How will this affect maintenance?” is always a good question to ask operations, admin or sales staff ….. and vice versa
A Culture Change
You should try to create a positive change culture within the business. When staff say, “But we’ve always done it this way”, you probably have a problem.
Acknowledge publicly employee contributions to business improvement. Let it be known that you value such contributions to positive change. And ensure that you keep “before and after” statistics of the effect of change.
Rewards and Incentives
Use rewards and incentives to encourage change. One of my clients introduced an elaborate, computer based maintenance system. It replaced a manual system that didn’t work well. But they also introduced both team and individual rewards and incentives so that employees would earn considerably more by using the new system successfully. It worked very, very well.
It’s possible that you’ll still have the occasional “hard-line resistor”: the employee who feels seriously threatened by change. Resist the temptation to “counsel” that employee. That’s likely to make them feel isolated. Make the performance you expect from the team crystal clear. Make sure the employee understands his or her role B3a in the business. Then adopt a “wait and see” approach. If the employee doesn’t adapt, let the team accept the responsibility for removing the threat.
There’s an old saying, “Change may be initiated at “the top”: it can only be successfully implemented at “the bottom”. Your employees’ are your change agents. It’s your job to establish the change climate. That will enable employees to successfully implement effective change.
What To Do Now
Please check the links in the post. Leave a comment below too. For a much deeper treatment of change management, check out my eBook “Managing Change: Turning Resistance & Distrust Into A Distinct Business Advantage”. You can access the eBook through the Resources tab on the blog. And contact me direct on email@example.com for more specific advice.