Everything in life changes.
Well…I guess it depends on how you look at it.
The same is true in business. Every business goes through changes whether those are part of strategic planning or part of the natural progression of the company.
Processes often change in business. It’s a good thing when it makes sense. It seems the most successful businesses know when to make changes. They don’t make changes for the sake of making changes. They’re patient with changes, but also quick to pull the trigger when they’re convinced a change is needed.
Changes to processes are typically good, but making a change to a process can be tricky especially when it comes to employees.
Change can be scary for everyone. It can be scary for leadership and it can be scary for employees. When you make a change to a process, especially a longstanding process, there can be pushback.
Here are some tips for talking to employees about changes to your business when implementing a new process.
Focus On Company Improvement
Changing something that an employee does or how they do something is very important to them. If handled in the wrong way, or even in the right way, a change can come across as a personal attack.
We’re all people. The things we do and how others interact with us is always personal. Nobody separates their job from their personal life. It’s all related.
Keep that in mind when you’re talking to an employee about a change.
Something that seems to help a conversation about a new business process is to keep the focus on the company’s improvement.
Companies that experience long-term success seem to be the ones that don’t focus just on the individuals. The main focus is always on the improvement of the team and how each individual plays a role in the company’s improvement.
A new business process is not for one person’s benefit. It’s for the company’s benefit and is thus for everyone’s benefit.
For example, we’re nearing the end of the NFL season. Throughout the season, coaches have made changes. New players get more playing time. Different plays are called. New players are given more plays to carry out and so on.
These changes are all aimed at making the team better overall. And when the team improves, everyone benefits. It can seem like a change is made for the benefit of one particular player, but that is simply a byproduct of a coach looking to improve the overall team.
Let’s say a quality player is excelling at his position. But injuries cause an issue at a related position. A coach might ask the player to change positions mid-season for the benefit of the team. The player probably won’t be as good in a new position, but he may be the team’s best option.
Thus, the player may seem to lose effectiveness while the team improves.
The good news is that not every new process in a business requires this kind of sacrifice.
Let’s say one employee discovered a more efficient process for a task. You determine that you want to rollout the process to all employees doing that task. This might be seen as a win all around for everyone involved, but even in this case you want to communicate the change as being motivated by the improvement of the company.
Mention The Company’s Goals
This kind of comes along with the first tip.
When speaking to an employee about a new process bring up the company’s goal. It’s always good to keep employees motivated about achieving something on the company level.
For example, your company may have a goal to achieve 10% growth per year on average very five years. That’s a goal that everyone in the company has a hand in.
If you go to the sales team with a new process you can reassert the sales growth and communicate that the change is a way to help the company reach its goal. The salesperson might be involved directly in bringing sales to the company so they can really see the effectiveness of the change and they’ll be more willing to accept the new process.
It can be trickier in other areas of the company.
Customer service is usually not directly involved in sales, but they are involved in helping the company grow in other ways. Let’s say one customer service employee discovers a common issue that’s leading to some customers leaving. This can lead to a discover of a new process that can be implemented across the customer service division.
When communicating the change, remind each employee about the company’s goals and lay out how you feel this change will help the company reach its goals.
The good thing about this approach is that it also keeps you and your management team focused on the company and its goals. You won’t change something for the sake of change. You’ll have the company’s goals guiding your decisions.
Reassess The Employee’s Goals
Everyone is motivated by individual goals and ambitions. We all do things for ourselves. It’s the way we’re wired. We have a built in mechanism in our being to try and survive and to thrive.
So while communicating that changes in processes are to improve the company and to help the company reach its goals you still need to look at the individual.
When you come to the employee with a change, especially a big change that really redoes the way they do their job, use it as an opportunity to talk to the employee again about their goals. Their professional goals, personal goals and just their vision for their life.
As they speak, think of ways that their goals align with the goals of the company.
Back to the NFL example…
A coach may sit down with a player to discuss a new process (play, position, etc.). Before announcing the change the coach may have a discussion with the player about the player’s goals. The play may discuss upcoming contract discussions and how they want to earn enough money to live comfortably in retirement and to provide for their family and all those wonderful things.
The coach can take this information and align it with the team’s goals of winning a Super Bowl. When teams win Super Bowls there is bonus money paid to players from the league itself. Many players also have incentives for winning Super Bowls. And players that win Super Bowls often get more money in future contracts.
It’s not 100% the case, but consider two players of the same age, ability and position. One has been part of a Super Bowl winning team and the other has not. The winning player is often seen as the better option.
Talk to your employees about their goals and look for a way to align their motivations with the company’s goals. This can make it easier to implement a new process.
Change is often resisted by employees. It can be threatening when a manager comes to you with a change to a process or with an entirely new process. It makes you think, “Am I doing something wrong? Are they phasing me out? What does this mean for my future?”
As the manager, it’s your job to set the employee up to succeed so the company can succeed. Hopefully the tips above will help the next time you have a new process to implement at your company.