People resist change – it’s our nature. Whether it’s trying to introduce a regular workout schedule into your weekly routine, giving up a bad habit, or even just adjusting your internal clock to Daylight Savings Time, it’s always a challenge to make a change in how we do things, no matter how good our intentions. If you doubt it, just look at the number of next-to-new treadmills that pop up for sale in the weeks after January 1st, when New Year’s resolutions have lost their luster. The people who bought them were certainly invested in making a positive change, but they couldn’t make it stick.
That’s true at work, too: when you introduce needed changes in processes, you’re not only modifying a job’s physical routines, you are also impacting individuals’ sense of their relationship to their work. The more secure they feel in that relationship, the less they will resist process changes. Don’t become so focused on new processes that will serve your company better that you forget how they may impact your staff. It doesn’t matter how valid and needed the changes are, if your staff feels threatened by them.
How can you moderate the impact of change on your company culture, and keep your team moving productively in the same direction? Your staff is made up of a network of relationships that allow them to work well together. Take advantage of that network rather than ignoring it. When you work with it instead of fighting against it, you’ll encounter far less resistance. Understand too that change can make people feel insecure about their jobs; if things are going to be different, does that mean their roles will disappear? Make sure that you’re as transparent and as open as possible about the impact of the changes you’re making on those who’ll be feeling them. Frequent and clear communication should flow in both directions, to cut off office gossip and water cooler talk.
If you introduce processes that your staff doesn’t understand and hasn’t been taught how to do, you’re going to slow things down rather than speed them up. Staff feels frustrated and resentful, and so does leadership—but it’s not the staff’s fault. It’s up to leadership to bring clarity and understanding around the need for change, and why it’s being addressed in the ways that it is.
Even more essential is a willingness to invest in your people. You’ve got to be sure that everyone understands his or her new role, what’s required of them, and how to avoid duplicative efforts. Training is essential when you’re introducing new processes and dealing with peoples’ very natural reluctance to change; it can’t be relegated to a day of rapid-fire instructions, or absorbed in a few hours of Powerpoint presentations. Well-trained people feel more competent and secure. Your people will accept change more easily if they understand what’s expected of them and why, and the transition to the new way of doing things will be that much smoother and more productive, more quickly.