Your virtual CFO has given you a swathe of new ideas and strategies to implement. It’s a new year and you’ve decided THIS YEAR will be different. Better. But workplace change, in fact, any change, can be difficult. Maybe because of fear. Or perhaps there is a belief that there’s nothing wrong with the way do it now. Whatever the reason, you’re going to need some strategies to ensure the change is long lasting.
Getting Started on the Road to Change
Business must plan for change management and innovate to remain competitive in a demanding market. That’s why we wrote these 4 steps for overcoming the fear of change in your business, which are designed for gradually introducing a new business strategy and for reducing employee stress levels throughout the implementation phase.
- Identify the change that’s needed. The best way to do this is with some form of survey or questionnaire. It’s a folly to assume that you know all the problems in your business. Your survey doesn’t need to be long or complex but gives employees and customer an opportunity to speak freely. This will yield a rich list of ideas you can tackle. It could be eliminating a condition your employees or customers dislike or introducing a new one that will have positive benefits for all concerned. Some business owners also use a SWOT analysis, which includes the company’s current Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats to decide which issues to tackle.
- Plan for the steps that employees must take to prepare for change. This may involve holding informational meetings with employees and deciding what individuals and teams need in terms of training or retraining. If their roles are to change, then you want employees to have the prerequisite skills in place before implementing a change. In extreme circumstances, this can also mean that you must terminate employees who are not prepared to embrace the change.
- Plan for the steps that employees will follow to implement each change. While all employees may need some information about the series of changes, not all of them will have a role in the process. They may give input about change that is needed. You may want them to be available for additional support. They need to understand the potential ways that changes to existing processes could affect their jobs. For example, employees may be cross-trained in new job tasks that they will perform when other employees are reassigned during a change process. Employees may also pinpoint problems that you and your management team do not foresee, which might require action during the change process.
- Plan for how to measure the change management plan’s success or failure after its full implementation. The purpose of a change is usually positive (i.e. improving the company’s culture, reducing operating costs, or expanding into new markets). Remember, not every change is easy to measure or can be boiled down to dollars and cents. If you will go to all the trouble to create a change management process, you want indicators for how related business conditions get better or worse after the process is complete.
Smart business owners embrace the change management process by breaking it down into manageable chunks. If you try to take on too much at once, anxiety levels will increase, and you will waste too much energy. It’s also possible to choose the wrong changes to tackle first and to upset employees with ideas that lack the right timing for the market. If you don’t do your research and determine if a series of changes are really suited to your company’s current capacity and future opportunities, then you might not see the changes through to the end. Failed change management strategies just make employees more frustrated than they were with the status quo.
About David Officen
David is the Founder and Managing Director of proCFO.
David combines an accounting and consulting background with commercial experience both as a manager for large commercial businesses and as the owner of private and family businesses.