Competent employees know how to get stuff done. They’ve figured out the systems, the processes, and the politics to achieve the outcomes you need to make your department successful. All good, right?
Yes. That is, until you want to do something differently. And then you find that your bright, capable group of employees, especially those that may have been around for a while, are reluctant to try anything new. You want to introduce a new ERP system. Or change the process flow for purchase orders. Or change the automation for hiring new employees.
There are any number of scenarios you can imagine that invoke the refrain so many managers hear when a new idea or way of working comes along: “But, we’ve always done it this way!” If you’ve ever had to switch from a PC to a Mac or vice versa, you understand that change isn’t easy.
So, what do you do when you want to introduce new ways of working, but find employees resolutely clinging to their old school predilections? Here are five strategies that can help move the needle on getting things done in a new and different way.
1. Address the Failure Factor
Often employees resist doing things differently because they aren’t sure they’ll be successful doing them. We’re wired to fear failure, after all.
Introduce a new concept, process, or way of doing things by assuring your colleagues that it’s OK to be in learning mode. Allow them to absorb the information, attempt to put it into practice, fail, and try again with impunity.
2. Establish a Tutoring Program
Pair up people on your team with others in the organization who already understand the change you’re introducing. Delegate and have an experienced person teach the employee who’s new to the process. Think of it as on-the-job tutoring, similar in some ways to mentoring.
3. Implement a Brown Bag Community
The brown bag session, or series of sessions, is a great tool for launching a new process or work method. It's basically a casual meeting that takes place over lunch. Used to implement a new program, it can provide support and give employees a chance to hear concerns, questions, and comments from others. They’ll know they’re not alone in their apprehension about trying something innovative. In the process, your team will do far more than learn in the brown bag sessions—they’ll build a sense of camaraderie and culture.
4. Establish Accountability Partnerships
To take the brown bag sessions a step further, use the group to set up accountability partnerships.
An accountability partner is an employee who helps another colleague keep a commitment, the commitment in this case the agreement to the modified workflow.
Research shows that using this kind of peer accountability can actually help implement new changes in the organization.
5. Start Reverse Mentoring
This is a powerful strategy to implement when seasoned team members are hesitant to get on board with the updated tools and processes.
The information exchange between the more experienced employees and the less experienced can benefit both parties: Change-resistant types will learn new skills and efficiencies while the quick-to-adapt people will gain industry expertise from those who have been around a while.
If there’s one thing we know about today’s workplace, it’s that it will never stop changing. In fact, some say our ability to unlearn what we know is one of the most important skills for the future of success in the workplace. When your teams are called upon to unlearn, and then relearn something new leverage the power of your organization. Address the fear of failure up front, encourage employees to learn from and support one another, and create a sense of community around big changes.