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How to Be an Expert Change Manager

Regardless of how carefully you plan the introduction of changes in procedure, your new system won’t fully succeed unless your employees “buy in” to it. People become emotionally attached to their familiar way of doing things, and even though the new system will end up saving time and money, employees may still react negatively at first if you don’t follow a few important steps. Here are the crucial management tips you’ll need to win over your staff and ensure that they’re on board with changes from day one.

Communicate your vision

Many employees go through the day focused only on accomplishing the individual tasks in front of them. When change is in the air, they may feel resistant, partly because they aren’t aware of the larger context. If you make the effort to clarify your vision and strategic planning for the company’s future direction, your staff will more easily see themselves as part of the team. We all respond much more positively to change when we have a clear picture of where we’re meant to end up. Also, it’s important that each employee feels valued by management, so he or she needs to recognize how their individual efforts are needed in order to achieve the envisioned future.

A study by PriceWaterhouseCoopers notes, “research shows that nearly 75 percent of all organizational change programs fail, not because leadership didn’t adequately address infrastructure, process, or IT issues, but because they didn’t create the necessary groundswell of support among employees.”

Empathize with your employees

Employees are more likely to remain stuck in positions of resistance and uncertainty if they believe that management is clueless about how their work day really feels. Presumably one of the reasons you decided to introduce a new system is because you want to make your staff’s jobs easier and more efficient; be sure to communicate that fact ahead of time.

Before installing a new software solution, meet with your staff and discuss the way in which the new system will relieve some of the pressure points of their day. The Wall Street Journal says, “One way to demonstrate empathy with employees is to be more honest with them”, and it’s true. Your discussion needs to move in both directions: ask them to share their concerns with you, and then listen closely to what they have to say. They may need to vent, and it’s important to allow them this opportunity. The nature of their concerns should be your management road-map for the coming months.

Involve employees in decisions

This is a tip so basic that every manager is aware of it, at least theoretically, but it’s easy to skip over actually carrying it out. While holding meetings and soliciting feedback from staff may be time-consuming, it is an important building block for successfully implementing adoption of new systems. Even if you already have a specific new program in mind, you can still seek input as to some of the details of implementation. This is a good time to recognize and play to the strengths of each individual staff member.

Follow up by listening to feedback

The cycle of good change management doesn’t end when a new system is in place and fully operational. Employees will have strong reactions to how the new system is affecting them, and no manager can afford to ignore those reactions.

Even the most user-friendly software solution involves a learning curve, and employees who are struggling to master new procedures need to be mentored and supported. If employees experience difficulty in executing some of the new functions, often a minor adjustment can make all the difference between frustration and fulfillment.

It’s also good to keep in mind that the act of putting change in place often stimulates creative ideas for further innovation, and any suggestions of this type deserve credit as a form of commitment to the organization.

Approaching the change process from an employee-centric point of view will provide the smoothest path to implementing successful solutions.

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