Change is inevitable…that doesn’t mean people have to like it. And they generally don’t, especially in the workplace. Whether it’s a Fortune 500 company, a mid-size clothing manufacturer, or a private fleet, change is constant. Just think of all the changes we’ve gone through in the last decade. Those changes are technological, organizational, and generational.
Our drivers have had to learn new ways of keeping HOS records, utilizing telematics, and 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 has likely seen certain aspects of their jobs automated and digitized. A FleetOwner article earlier this year dealt with this issue. Unfortunately, the longer someone’s been tied to doing things a certain way, the harder change can be.
The pandemic created so much change that it became overwhelming. A Gartner report found that many workers are suffering from what they call “change fatigue,’ noting that when it comes to organizational change, only 38% of workers say they are willing to support this kind of change (In 2016, 74% of employees were supportive).
The three essential keys to successful change management
Change is going to happen, as I noted above. In order to succeed, everyone needs to play a part and feel as though they are invested in the success. Managing change management is a very challenging task. Whether a change initiative succeeds or fails depends on three very important steps: understanding what the change management entails; developing strategies; and handling resistance.
- Understand what change management entails
- Define the vision – People need to know why this change is necessary so you need to not only articulate the reasons behind the change, you also have to make clear what benefits will be realized by all involved. And you need to ensure that the goal you communicate aligns with the company’s organizational goals
- Get leadership buy-in – Let’s face it, if you don’t have top decision makers behind you, the initiative is already over before it’s begun. So, 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. As I said above, 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. Also, make sure your communications are transparent and easily understood.
- Involve other stakeholders – There are undoubtedly people in your workforce who would prove valuable in the process. Identify them and get them involved early in the process. Find out what their concerns are and incorporate their feedback. This will give them a sense of ownership in the result.
- Develop strategies
- Create a team – Change management is a significant undertaking and one you really shouldn’t do on your own. Instead, form a dedicated team to oversee the change. To ensure success, make sure the team includes different department representatives. That’s the only way to make sure that everyone in the organization will know the reason why this is being undertaken.
- Plan, plan, plan – Before you begin, 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 the training for them to do so. Make resources and support available as needed. Don’t stop the education after the initiative is complete – keep it going.
- 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. This will maintain morale and motivation.
- Establish feedback channels – You won’t know what snafus you’ll face until you actually face them. So, you need to open these feedback channels and then act on that feedback quickly, making the necessary adjustments to the overall plan. Make sure that your people know their feedback won’t go into a “black hole,” but will be integrated into the process.
- Handle resistance
- Acknowledge resistance – You will face resistance…no question. How much you face will depend on how you’ve communicated up to this point. 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. Once you know this, you can get their cooperation.
- Communicate and educate – As you’ve done with the leadership and stakeholders, you need to do the same with the rest of the workforce, clearly communicating the reasons for the change. Provide the necessary education and resources so they can understand how this change will benefit them as well as the business.
- Offer incentives – Always remember that change is difficult so provide emotional and practical support for those finding it difficult to adapt. Offer incentives (what kind will depend on the business) and foster a culture that encourages collaboration and mutual support.
Change management is one of the hardest issues to tackle, but it needs to be done. To ensure cooperation and collaboration, make sure to get ahead of any concerns leaders, stakeholders, and the workforce at large may have. Keep the fear of the unknown limited by constantly reminding everyone how this change will help them do their jobs more efficiently and contribute to the overall good of the business.