Managing change

Introducing organizational change, such as the implementation of new technology, can be a difficult task. How can you help your employees adapt?

Trust and communication — If your employees trust you, they tend to experience greater levels of satisfaction and co-operation at work. Establish open, trusting and cooperative relationships by engaging your employees: communicate with them, empower them to make decisions and support their choices on a regular basis. In turn, they will be more inclined to trust your instincts when you introduce change to the workplace.

Employee status — Employment status can determine loyalty, so your part-time, seasonal or contract employees may feel less committed to your corporate goals and proposed changes. Include them in planning meetings and training sessions, or when you send out information. It is a good idea to involve all parties affected by an organizational change in the change management process.

Organizational culture — Your long-term employees often set the standards of acceptable attitudes and behaviour within your business. They may do so inadvertently; nevertheless, their influence on organizational culture is important. You should manage their participation carefully so that they do not impede change.

With a culture of teamwork established prior to introducing change, you have a solid foundation upon which to build your change effort. In this case, your employees are accustomed to teamwork and already share the co-operative attitude necessary for your success.

Leadership — Your role as a leader is important to the success of implemented changes. Implementing a new system is not a minor operational issue. Changes in your business processes are strategic in nature, so anyone in a leadership role within your business should support them.

Phases involved in implementing change

You can make it easier for your employees to adapt to the new technologies or processes by approaching the changes in phases: preparation, acceptance, implementation and commitment.

Preparation: Build the foundation that leads to commitment

It is up to you, as business owner, to help your employees understand the need for change. If you can explain what is involved, they may begin to accept what is expected of them.

Before you start, there may be some preliminary questions to consider:

When you are ready, here are some steps that could help build the foundation:

Acceptance: Get agreement and create a plan

To establish a course of action and get the support and resources to carry it out, consider the following questions:

When you implement different tools, you may have to redefine some jobs or create new ones, or even restructure departments and teams. Employees may fear that they will be unable to learn new skills, get along with new colleagues, or adapt to the new workplace.

Resistance is normal, especially if your employees don't know what to expect and are focused only on perceived losses. They need to participate in decision-making to feel that they have a voice and a sense of control over their fate. Supportive management and training can make all the difference.

At this point, you may want to consider the following steps:

Implementation: Make the changes

As you make changes, step back and analyze the new systems and processes to check for any problems within the technical systems and the workflow. If there is a negative impact on the effectiveness of your business, some redesign may be necessary.

Implementing the change could include:

Commitment: Sustain the changes

Reinforce the new process and behaviours expected of everyone involved through on-going communication. In order to establish commitment, you may have to:

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