Shifts. Evolutions. Digital transformations. Whatever buzzword you choose, there's no denying that change is a regular part of doing business. Yet while adapting to new trends, markets, and technologies is key to survival, introducing the required changes – and making them stick – can be a challenge.
The most common reason business transformations go off track? People. Resistance to change is human nature. We're inclined to stay with what we know. Similarly, employees are resistant to new tools or processes that nudge them outside of their comfort zones. This can make it difficult to introduce beneficial changes to your operations, but with some preparation and a little strategy, surviving the change cycle as a team is doable.
Here are five tips to make your change successful.
1. Build momentum: There is a benefit to announcing change after it's already begun. That doesn't mean introducing new technologies or procedures without warning, but waiting until the initial steps have already been taken before making an official change announcement. Generally, employees are more inclined to adopt something “new” when they can see the benefits for themselves. Moreover, they're more likely to go with the flow if they see that momentum has already been built around the change.
2. Have a plan: Managing expectations is key to change management. When employees know why the change is happening and the steps their employers are taking to embed that change, they have more confidence and trust in the decision. It's the reason fundraisers use visuals to show their progress, or why tech firms will draft an "implementation roadmap" first to ease clients into a new system or tool. Consider drafting your own change roadmap to show employees where you're going and how you plan to get there.
3. Enlist early adopters: Not all employees are averse to change. In fact, you'll likely find a few who are willing and eager to embrace it. Find influential individuals within your workforce who are comfortable jumping into something new and ask them to champion it among their peers. This will help insulate your plans against naysayers and build support at a ground level.
4. Focus on loss aversion: People are more willing to accept change if it means it will help them avoid loss. Therefore, it pays to position change initiatives as something that will prevent the loss of their time, productivity, or morale. For example, learning a new mobile technology might be a bit intimidating, but employees will be more willing to jump on board if they recognize that the technology will save them from extra work and hassle in the long run. By focusing your discussions on how a change will avoid potential losses, you'll be making a more persuasive argument for taking the risk.
5. Make it easy: With new technologies comes the need for new skills, and you can't expect employees to acquire these capabilities by themselves. Ensure your roadmap for change includes training. (This is important for everyone, but is especially crucial for the tech-averse, who may need a little more handholding.) Also, provide ongoing support so employees feel confident they have resources at the ready to support their transformation. Digitizing training materials (e.g., videos, documents, references, etc.) can make it simple for your team to access the resources they need to feel comfortable on their journey.
Change is an inevitability, but it doesn’t have to be painful. Taking the time to communicate the benefits, map the journey, and provide support can help businesses make it through to the other end with their entire team intact.