National Connections, Local Ownership
National Connections, Local Ownership

Clark: Why change management is so difficult

Originally appeared in Fleet Owner

Whether it’s a Fortune 500 company, a midsize clothing manufacturer, or a private fleet, change is inevitable. In just the last decade, our industry has undergone technological, organizational, and generational changes.

Our drivers have had to learn new ways of keeping HOS records, using telematics, and using ADAS systems. Maintenance technicians now have to be as proficient on a laptop keyboard as they are with legacy tools of the trade, like a wrench. Even back-office staff have likely seen certain aspects of their jobs automated and digitized. Unfortunately, the longer someone has been tied to a particular way of doing things, the more difficult it is to change.

How to ensure successful change management

Change is inevitable; in order to succeed, everyone must play a part and feel as though they are invested in the success. Three very important steps determine whether a change initiative will succeed or fail:

  • Understand what change management entails
    • Define the vision: People need to know why this change is necessary. You need to  articulate the reasons behind the change, and you also have to make clear what benefits will be realized by all involved.
    • Get leadership buy-in: Get leadership to commit to the initiative and to endorse it for the rest of the workforce. Leadership also needs to participate in the change process. Everyone needs to be involved.
    • Keep communication going: Don’t just communicate on the fly; develop a robust communication plan and follow it. Address any issues that arise in real time and provide regular updates to keep everyone involved.
    • Involve other stakeholders: Identify the people within your workforce who would prove valuable in the process, and get them involved early on.
  • Develop strategies
    • Create a team: Form a dedicated team to oversee the change, and make sure the team includes different department representatives.
    • Plan, plan, plan: First, perform an impact analysis to understand the implications of the change. Then develop a detailed plan that outlines the steps, includes a timeline, and stipulates the resources required.
    • Create training and development sessions: It’s likely many of your workers will need to upskill, so provide them with the necessary training.
    • Break the change into smaller parts: Establish milestones along the way that are achievable in a specific timeframe and recognize and reward individuals and teams as these small steps are completed.
    • Establish feedback channels: Open feedback channels and then act on that feedback quickly, making the necessary adjustments to the overall plan.
  • Handle resistance
    • Acknowledge resistance: It’s important to identify where the resistance is coming from. Are people afraid of losing their jobs or being demoted? Are they uncertain as to what this means for them? Work to get their cooperation once you know this.
    • Communicate and educate: Just as you did with the leadership and stakeholders, you must do the same with the rest of the workforce, clearly communicating the reasons for the change.
    • Offer incentives: Change is difficult, so provide emotional and practical support to those who are struggling to adapt. Offer incentives and foster a culture that encourages collaboration and mutual support.

Change management is one of the hardest issues to tackle. To ensure cooperation and collaboration, make sure to get ahead of any concerns leaders, stakeholders, and the workforce at large may have. Let everyone know how this change will help them do their jobs more efficiently and contribute to the overall success of the business.