Going with the Flow: Introducing New Business Processes
Lao Tzu said, “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
Well, good for Lao Tzu, but any business owner who has tried to implement new workplace processes knows they don’t necessarily employ an entire staff of Zen masters. While new processes are common in every workplace, there’s a certain amount of grumbling and resistance from employees that is common as well. This isn’t always unwarranted – even minor procedural changes can have a big impact on small businesses.
The key to a successful transition lies in communication and execution. This five-step process for communicating changes can help you get your employees on board.
First, decide how you’re going to communicate the process change. Small changes that are self-explanatory might only require an email, whereas a major change merits a company/department meeting. Sending a brief email to let everyone know about a big change can upset employees and create confusion. Any major change will create questions, and it’s better to answer those in person to the employees as a group.
Time it right. There's no definitive rule on the right timing for a big announcement, as every situation and workplace is different, but be aware of how the changes affect your employees. Any big changes should be announced a few weeks in advance to give employees time to prepare. If you’re implementing multiple changes at once, roll these out gradually, and give your employees a timeline for when to expect each change to go into effect. It can be easier to deal with things one at a time than in a big chunk and a gradual transition will be less likely to disrupt workflow.
Next, share your vision. In a meeting, tell your employees why you think this new process is an improvement and why it’s being implemented (to save money, create a better work environment, etc.). Some employees may be on board right away, but you’ll need to sell this to at least a few. Don’t just say, “this is how it’s going to be.” Help everyone see why it’s the best thing for the company and for them, and show how the positive will outweigh any learning curve and implementation process. Point out why the old way of doing things was improper or ineffective.
Remove any uncertainty. Lots of people fear the unknown – a big reason that employees might resist workplace changes. If there are any uncertainties about how the day-to-day business will operate, or about the specific roles you and your employees will play in these changes, you will need to address them. You can do this by anticipating your staff’s questions, doubts and fears and addressing them before they come up. Let them voice their feedback on the proposed change – someone may have a great suggestion you can implement – but be sure to maintain control of the situation.
Now, get technical. Lay out the specifics and steps related to the process change. Identify the expected impact of the change as well as any action items (additional training or certification, for example). Be meticulous in your planning of how the business will operate and what (if any) changes will arise in your employees' roles. Transparency and clarity are key.
Following these guidelines before implementing any procedural change will help your employees be more ‘Zen’ about workplace procedure changes and create a smoother transition to your new and improved business.
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