You have a lot to gain by gleaning insights from the latest trends and implementing new systems at the right time. New processes streamline your workflow, while technology helps your firm communicate effectively and grow dynamically. And let's not forget how tech safeguards sensitive data and enables you to work remotely. But how do you implement new tools? Does your firm give change management the attention it deserves?
Change management refers to the processes and techniques firms use to help employees change their day-to-day habits. Introducing a new system – i.e. changing how your staff works – requires a careful and systematic process that considers the human side of the change in addition to the roll-out strategy. It's important and sensitive work that involves understanding employee hesitation and managing adoption to achieve the desired business outcomes.
Let's examine how a technological or operational change affects employees. Not everyone's an innovator or an early adopter; many people are skeptical about or afraid of new systems, especially if there's a learning curve. It's up to firms to show employees the positive impact new tech will have and address concerns as they arise.
The extent to which your people embrace change determines how much ROI you'll see on the new system. Effective change management increases the likelihood of success. In fact, a study by Prosci revealed “projects with excellent change management were six times more likely to meet objectives than those with poor change management.” There’s also a direct correlation between effective change management and staying on track in terms of schedule and budget.
Not putting enough thought into your change management process can have costly consequences. For one, productivity may suffer, slowing or stopping progress on critical operations. Additionally, clients could end up being negatively impacted by a change they shouldn't have been privy to in the first place. Furthermore, morale could deteriorate internally. If some employees accept the change and others don't, you could inadvertently create a "them" versus "us" culture, which leads to stress and confusion.
No firm wants to face any of these unfavorable outcomes. Here are some ways to avoid them, support your staff, and help your firm start implementing new technologies and systems successfully:
- Get backing from others. Gaining buy-in from key stakeholders plays a huge part in successfully implementing a new system. Harvard Business School Professor John Kotter discusses this in his book Buy-In: “Buy-in is critical to making any large organizational change happen. Unless you win support for your ideas, from people at all levels of your organization, big ideas never seem to take hold or have the impact you want.” To expand on that idea, real buy-in involves at least some element of co-creation. When firm leaders want to make a change, they should encourage dialogue so stakeholders feel empowered by the results. Frame ideas as "drafts”, ask for others' opinions about them, and incorporate good feedback into changes. Communicate with stakeholders at every step, and you'll have a good chance of achieving your goal. Another idea is to assemble a technology and systems committee that consists of team members from different departments and various levels within the firm. Create buy-in with that team and let them advocate for the change. This will send a message that decisions and changes aren’t just top-down.
- Understand and acknowledge where your staff is coming from. Once you've announced your decision, you'll experience your staff's reactions. While many of your employees will agree with you, some of them will have a hard time adopting the new system. Find out what their concerns are and address them by presenting data about how the new system's helped other firms. Remember, you need to prepare your firm for change, manage the change, and reinforce the change.
- Communicate with your staff. Announce the new system and roll-out schedule in your next staff meeting. Walk your employees through the need for the change and give an overview of any new tools, including what they do, how they work, and who will be impacted by them. Discussing these things will warm your staff up and will increase the adoption rate.
- Choose someone to champion the tool. If you're implementing technology, empower one of your most organized employees to “own” it. This person will act as a resource for your staff during the onboarding and training processes and be the liaison between your firm and the tech’s representative. Select someone from the technology and systems committee mentioned above.
- Execute a solid roll-out plan. Once you’ve introduced the system and enabled your staff to use it, mandate firmwide trainings. Accommodate different learning styles – including visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and reading/writing – in your methods to maximize retention and the value of your trainings. If you're introducing new tech, make sure you explain the tool’s best features and create a public channel for FAQ’s. Provide support every step of the way.
- Track your progress. Investing so much time, energy, and money in a new system isn’t worth anything if you don’t measure the impact it has on your firm. Set goals for what you hope to accomplish with it based on industry benchmarks, take note of improvements, and adjust the goals periodically.
Implementing a new system in your firm takes a lot of work, but pays off if it revamps your processes, enhances your client relationships, or increases productivity. With a smooth rollout informed by change management, the right solution will make a noticeable difference in your firm’s performance and provide quick ROI.