5 Things You Can Do To Improve Your Employees’ Understanding of Change

Did you ever think that leading a business would involve so much talking and explaining? You talk with your managers, employees, customers, peers, vendors, the mailman, the cleaning crew and on it goes. It’s no wonder, then, when an employee says he/she doesn’t understand a change you want to make that you question if anyone has heard you.

Many important business decisions are well thought out and communicated with managers and employees. Yet, employees still don’t make the changes you need. This isn’t uncommon. How people adapt to change has been well studied in various situations from grief to business. There’s a process that people go through before they can truly act on implementing any change.1 Resistance is normal and should be expected when you begin to think about making a change. Still, how can you help employees through it?

Overcoming resistance to change
As a business owner, you spend a good deal of your time developing plans and finding solutions to problems. Your time is consumed by many different issues. Once you’ve solved one problem, another pops up to demand your attention. This is the point at which a change can begin to fail and you could be missing out on the most important factor in making your business successful—ensuring employees understand what you need from them. I’m not talking about knowing what the change is. I mean truly UNDERSTANDING and being a part of the company’s success.

Having spent most of my career in employee and leadership communications, I found that a company is always evolving to flourish. In stark contrast, many employees fear the very actions that will ensure the longevity of the company and their own future. Basically, they want their work experience to remain the same or want to make part of a change. How often have you heard team members say that they like the way the company was before more employees were hired or challenging market dynamics affected the business? Each employee has his/her own preference and degree of comfort with change.

Change is inevitable
Change IS happening more rapidly and businesses need to adapt or suffer. So, if companies are changing regularly and rapidly, shouldn’t we expect that employees would “get used to change”, adjust quicker and get on with the work that needs to get done? The number of experiences employees have with change doesn’t help them adjust. It’s the quality of how they have been included and understand the change that helps them adapt more quickly to what you need from them.2 Employees’ needs around the change must be met in order for them to be able to focus and get the job done.

As the owner of your business, you’re continually looking for ways to make improvements, increase your profits, become leaner, satisfy your workers and customers and reduce costs. You can’t do all that without occasional disruption. The question becomes how to continually improve your business while keeping your employees productive and satisfied working for you. The answer is to involve them in your business issues and improvements.

How to involve your employees

  1. Have conversations about your current business plans with your employees. Let them ask questions, probe your thoughts and rationale.  Include the naysayers.  Make sure your managers can articulate your plan and have conversations with their employees.  Do this as often as it feels comfortable.  Rotate the employees you’re having conversations with to get different perspectives.
  2. Set up environments that allow open, unstructured dialogue to occur. Coffee or lunch sessions with you or their manager.  Let employees know that they can ask you anything and you will answer to the best of your knowledge.  Most importantly, listen with no expectation other than to hear what they say.  Afterwards, take what you’ve gathered and think on it. Incorporate what you can and keep other ideas socked away until you see a pattern of similar issues or ideas.  Then act on those improvements.
  3. Ask your employees regularly how business or their work can be improved and what can be done differently. Employees are the experts on your business and know what your business needs.  Talk to employees who directly interact with customers.  What are your customers asking for that the business isn’t providing?  This is where your next new business development idea may originate.
  4. Write down what employees say and who made the recommendations. Follow up with one-on-one conversations or get a group of people with similar ideas together to discuss.  Engage them in coming up with ideas or changes.  Then have them help explain the change to others.
  5. Recognize employees for contributing. Give them credit when possible.  Use stories that include them when talking about new business ideas or changes that will make the business run better and more efficiently.

Here’s what you can do today

  • Talk to your leadership team about involving employees at all levels in discussions on business direction and improvements.
  • Set up a lunch meeting with 5 or 6 trusted employees to discuss how you want to get more worker input. Then set up another lunch meeting with 5 or 6 naysayers.  Ask them if your approach will work in your company’s culture.  Ask what would concern other employees about contributing more and owning the changes that will result.  Then begin implementing consistent, timely discussions with your workforce.

If you haven’t involved employees in solutions and business development previously explain what you’re doing and why, what you expect from workers and how you’d like this new approach to be part of your culture. The larger your business becomes, the more insights you will need from employees. It’s never too late to start including your employees in growing your business.

1 Managing resistance to change, www.prosci.com, August 5, 2019.
2 Joseph B. Fuller, Judith K. Wallenstein, Manjari Raman, Alice de Chalendar, Your Workforce is More Adaptable than you think, Harvard Business Review, May-June 2019, issue, p. 118-126.

Look for our upcoming blog on:
Enhancing your employees’ skills through training and development

How The Labor Shortage Could Impact Your Business

For decades now, we have heard that there was going to be a labor shortage coming to the US labor market where there would be more jobs available than people to fill them. The shortage is here and it may impact your business.

Some of the headlines coming from the US Department of Labor recently include, Unemployment Rate Near 50-year Low,  7.3 Million Job Openings and 17thStraight Month Unemployment Rate Is At Or Below 4%.

On August 6, the US Department of Labor announced that for the 16thstraight month, the number of open and available jobs exceeded the number of job seekers.

Impact on your business

As a business owner, the most important asset your business has is your employees. But what happens if you don’t have enough employees or the people with the right skills? Here are just a few resulting issues that might impact your bottom line.

  • Missed customer order deadlines
  • Additional cost for overtime to existing employees
  • Expense for hiring temporary employees (if they’re available)
  • Quality errors because your employees are rushing to complete orders
  • Overworked employees can lead to more accidents and safety issues
  • Higher absentee rate from burnout and frustration

What can you do right now to mitigate the crisis before it hits your business?

Look at your employee engagement through employee retention, turnover rates and data. Are your good people leaving? These ‘keepers’ are the lifeblood of your business now and in the future. Simply stated you need to retain your star employees.

What can you do to assure you keep your solid contributors working for you?  One way is to have ‘Stay Interviews’ with your high performers.  The answer may sound simple, but will take time, thought and effort. 

Stay interviews

Stay Interviews help leaders and business owners engage in dialogue with employees they don’t want to leave the business.  The interviews uncover what keeps your strongest employees coming to work everyday and will help identify issues in your business that may be alienating these team members. You then have the opportunity to make changes and improvements—all to benefit your business.

5 steps to keeping your star performers

  1. Determine who your ‘keepers’ are. You and your managers should be able to quickly list them. These employees are those that not only deliver results, but they do so in a way that exhibits the culture of your business. These employees probably work collaboratively, conscientiously, diligently and carefully.If you suspect that any of them may be ready to leave, make them your priority.
  2. Schedule one-on-one time with your high performers to have the stay interview discussions. First, tell them that you want to hear their opinion on what’s working in the business and what needs to be improved.  Assure them this is a casual, friendly conversation and you will be setting up time with them.  The meeting should not be a tag-on to another one, but a special meeting to discuss issues they may have and to give you feedback on how your business is running. It also should not be done during a performance review discussion, unless it is as a follow-up to previously held discussions on the topic.
  3. Be prepared. Give some thought to what the employee could say. You need to be prepared for anything. Also have pre-arranged questions that you can ask to get to the heart of any issues. Be prepared to write down what they say, questions that you may need to get answers to and follow-up activities that might be necessary.  Click here if you’d like to request our stay interview questions.
  4. Have the discussions. Try to have the discussions in a ‘neutral’ environment, free from distractions. A small break room would be great. Try to avoid sitting behind a desk in a typical manager/subordinate situation. Level the playing field. Give the employee an environment in which they can be comfortable.
  5. Follow-up. Depending upon the outcome of the discussions, you should follow up on some action items. Be sure to circle back with the employee to assure that both of you are fulfilling any commitments made.

While stay interviews are one way for you to show you value your ‘keepers’, don’t look at it as a one and done.  Be sure to re-engage with your star performers.  Let them know that you thought through what they said.  Ask specific questions to get more information.  Invite them to participate on teams outside of their area of expertise to show you value their input.  Let them know you want to hear what they have to say.

Click here to request a copy of our Stay Interview questions.

Look for our upcoming blogs on:

  • Ensuring your employees understand the changes you want to make
  • Enhancing your employees’ skills through training and development