We humans are creatures of habit.
We like to know what we are going to do, when we are going to do it and why it must get done. As a business owner, you could only wish that everything stayed the same way. Reality is that change happens and it is something that your employees must not just accept, but embrace.
Resistance to change can harm your business.
The more radical the change, the more that resistance may be felt. You can, however, operate as a change agent to help your employees make whatever transition you have planned.
The overarching requirement here is for you to keep the lines of communication open. The following are some strategies you can employ to help bring forth change.
Explain Your Reasons for Change
You know that change is coming — now you need to tell your employees.
If you have managers, call a meeting for managers only and explain what is coming down. That explanation should be detailed, including outlining how the new strategy will impact the business.
If your managers understand and accept your plan, then you have allies to help you make your point to employees.
When talking with your employees you need to clearly convey the goals and direction your company will be taking.
As you explain to your people about the changes coming forth, you need to ask for their support.
The more specific you are about what you need, the better they will understand the changes that are coming.
This may include changes in job description, an adjustment in work hours, a realignment of teams and other changes that could be temporary or permanent.
Field Questions, Give Answers
Your people will have questions.
You need to allow them to ask what is on their hearts and allow them to speak freely. If the change will have an impact on head counts, you need to let them know about that possibility immediately. Uncertainty can harm productivity — do not keep your people in the dark.
Even if you do not have all the answers right away you still need to be communicative. For instance, if your company is preparing to acquire another business and you believe that certain duplicate positions may be eliminated, they need to know about that possibility.
You may lose some employees during the transition, but if you are clear and keep everyone posted, then you have a better chance of retaining your talent.
Authorize a Transition Team
Depending on the level of change, you may want to establish a transition team.
That team can be composed of managers and everyday workers alike.
Team members should understand and accept the coming change and advocate on behalf of the company as you make the transition.
The transition team should be highly visible to everyone.
They can serve as the point of contact for people when questions arise as most certainly they will.
When problems come up the team will review them and offer a solution.
There will always be unforeseen events that need to be resolved.
Lean on your transition team to help you out.
Gradual Is Best
If at all possible move forward with intention.
That means rolling out your changes gradually to allow your people to absorb everything.
You should communicate to your people the steps necessary to bring forth change, using a calendar to mark various benchmarks that must be reached along the way.
For instance, if the change involves a merger, you want the combined staffs to meet each other before the transition begins.
That means assigning people to new bosses and new departments as necessary. Organize an informal meet up, such as a luncheon, to allow people to meet and greet.
You can also have days marked down when the computer systems will be merged, an old office closed, a new phone system up and running, and other transitory highlights recognized.
Problems will occur and are to be expected.
As the transition moves further along, resistance to change may become more likely.
Take note of team member attitudes and be quick to talk privately with anyone who is displaying negative behavior to the point where morale is being adversely affected.
Reiterate to your team how the transition is progressing and what it will produce for your company. Always maintain a positive outlook even in the heat of the moment. Be ready to make changes yourself as necessary.
This could mean allowing two computer systems to run concurrently until everyone is up to speed. Your employees are looking to you as a role model — your time to shine is now.
Keep Up With Training
In any transition, people need to learn new things.
This is where training is critically important. Your management team may be able to handle all training themselves.
If not, bring in a third party to help smooth the transition.
Poorly trained employees will have a negative effect on productivity.
Make certain that your people have all the training that they will need and do not skimp on providing tools to help bring them up to speed.
Job and Family Matters
When making a transition, people that previously managed their jobs quite well may feel overwhelmed.
You need to keep your pulse on your people’s moods to maintain morale.
There may be times when family matters weigh in. You need to be sensitive to what people are going through outside of the job and reasonably accommodate their needs.
For some individuals they may need to take time off or cut their day short to be with family.
Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
You will constantly be coaching your people as you go through the transition process.
Keep your managers on board and help them help their people stay focused. As you get towards the end of the transition consider how you might celebrate with your team.
Choose a meaningful event that will allow everyone to participate.
That may include taking your employees, their spouses and children to a sporting event to mark the occasion.