Change is inevitable. Whether it’s proactively positive or to correct a negative, at some point, all businesses will confront change. Steven Clement, GM Breathe HR Australia, sees two main reasons for business change. “Usually what we see is that there will be automation of manual processes,” says Clement. “That’s kind of the big one, and the real benefit of that change is time saving. The other reason might be where a business can use technology to unlock new revenue streams or to help support growth of existing revenue streams.”
Change management — the way that a business plans for and executes change — can be the difference between success and failure. “The change management process is really critical in making sure that you have buy-in, that your employees understand the reason and the purpose for making that change, and in turn that helps with the success of the overall project,” says Clement. Often, where change management falls over, businesses have failed to engage employees effectively from early in the process.
How to communicate and plan for change
“Change doesn’t need to be a really complicated process, it just needs to be planned for effectively,” says Clement. A key element of the pre-work is to effectively communicate plans for change to employees, and bring them on the journey from the start. “Early engagement of employees is really critical to position the context and the content of change — why you’re changing, what the success of that change might look like and what the impacts might be for those individuals and teams who are going to be impacted,” says Clement. Workshops and open communication channels for employees to voice any concerns they have with the planned change are great ways to ensure employee buy-in.
When looking at how the change will roll out, it’s also important to clearly state some key milestones specific to your change goals, and think about how successful change might be measured. Then, plan for how to celebrate successes along the way. “Ensure that where you have success you can clearly play that back to your employees as well and that they’re able to come on that journey,” says Clement.
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Even with early communication, it’s worth understanding that change can take some time to adapt to, particularly if that change is technological. As Clement sees with Breathe HR — a holistic HR software — there can be a learning curve to address when adopting new tech. “Some of our customers may have not used technology in that space previously and they may have been relying on manual processes or on spreadsheets,” Clement says. “There’s a process that an organisation has to go through to bring that software in, to adopt it, to make sure the data that’s held there is up to date and correct and accurate.”
Employee training can be a great way to ensure that, as change is implemented, the team feels well-placed to capitalise on it. “Undertake a good training program where employees can see how the software works and how to use it so that no one’s getting left behind or feeling lost,” says Clement.
For employees that resist change, including them in the process can be a great way to encourage buy-in. “It may be that you look to some of the more change-resistant staff to become part of that project and use them and engage them as a means of trying to bring them along on that journey,” says Clement. “You need to understand that it impacts individuals in different ways and not everyone is going to respond the same way to change.”
Change in review
Once change has been implemented, businesses should ideally have some criteria or metrics to judge its relative success. A comparison between the time taken for processes before and after change is one example. “If there’s a manual process and you switched to using technology to support that, how many hours are saved within the business?” asks Clement. Business growth and operational efficiency metrics are other ways to get a read on the effectiveness of change.
In the case of technological change, success might be measured by whether or not employees are actually engaged with that technology. “If you’re thinking in terms of taking your employees on a journey through change, measuring adoption post go-live is really critical as well,” Clement says. Similarly, surveying employees can be a simple way to determine factors such as overall satisfaction, levels of competence with new systems and any ongoing concerns or feedback.
Breathe is the intuitive online HR, payroll and rostering software helping Aussie small businesses save time and manage their people the right way.