Ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu wrote, “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them. That only creates sorrow.”
Wise words, but, unless your office is staffed entirely by Zen masters, you will encounter resistance—and maybe even sorrow—as you introduce new software and processes to your company. When people are asked to change, they can become defensive and protective of their time, especially at work where routines have been established – no matter how inefficient their process may be, it’s what they know how to do.
One of the toughest issues any company faces when implementing new productivity tools is the carbon-based lifeforms, i.e. humans. Silicon-based lifeforms are very elegant and do what you tell them to do, but carbon changes everything.
But change doesn’t need to cause sorrow. Here are some ways you can roll-out a new tool or process without impacting morale so you can make the most out of the systems you invested in.
Take Ownership – Lead By Example
According to Tiffany Chepul of Rhythm Systems, “The most successful process implementations have one person who clearly owns it as a priority.” Be that one person by being forthright and honest with your employees about why you thought the company needs new software tools and what you hope to accomplish. Clearly define the objectives of the need for change, highlighting where efficiencies can be gained. While you were researching and buying the software, you saw something in this particular one that you appreciate. Share that with your staff, enthusiastically!
This usually needs to be the big boss leading by example. If the boss is doing it and paying attention, employees usually follow suit. Same thing happens when the boss doesn’t embrace the changes, neither will the team. I’ve had very successful software implementations fall apart because the leader didn’t lead.
People will trust you more if you’re transparent. As part of the transition take the time to explain the benefits and the reasoning for the new software. Make sure you explain it in positive terms, pitching how the new tool can help solve everyone’s problems not just increase your bottom line.
So not: “You were all submitting your timesheets late and it was causing a big headache.” Try instead, “I was looking for a way to reduce the burden of paperwork and make tracking hours more convenient for everyone.”
It’s All in the Timing
Consider when you plan to roll out the new process. If you have slower seasons, say winter, wait until then. Or if it’s busy all the time, you might need to break the staff up into teams that will be trained at various times so others can keep up with the workload in the field.
Also consider how the work-week flows. It’s probably best to avoid Friday afternoon when people are trying to finish their work to start their weekend on time or first thing Monday morning when people are getting situated. Don’t spring the training on them; let people know a week in advance and remind them the day before.
Make the Most Out of Training
There is no way around it: people will need to be trained on how to use the new system and most people won’t be happy about that. Training sessions have a reputation for being boring and ineffective. Have you ever sat through a PowerPoint slide show of web pages with arrows drawn on them? Not fun and you probably don’t remember much of it.
In How the Brain Learns, David Sousa tests various methods of knowledge acquisition. He found that 24 hours after a training, people remember five percent of the information delivered in a lecture. That number jumped to 75% when they practiced the skill. He found that people retained 90% after they taught what they had just learned to others.
What I suggest is inviting people to bring their laptops or other devices to the training and pausing the demonstration so people can practice using the tool. If you have a large office, start with the team leaders and then have them teach their team members. Or you could demo part of the software to some of the office and part to the others. Then have them teach each other. The important thing is that it be interactive. Conclude by doing a task together so the training is also an opportunity to get work done.
If your company is moving from paper or spreadsheet timesheets, I highly recommend having the team get together to enter the last two to three weeks worth of their time entries. 10-15 days worth of time entry at one time will help develop the muscle memory so when they enter time daily or weekly, they don’t have to figure it out all over again. Another big gain from having your team work together on this is you may find additional areas of improvement to time tracking for your projects.
If you are using Qfactor for Land Surveyors, you can set up a time with me to do a screen share session. I can walk everyone through entering their time and then we can do it together, thus helping staff members build that precious muscle memory.
Make it a Party
Implementing a new process is hard work for everyone involved. Host a lunch for the people who helped with the research and training or an office-wide roll-out party to thank people for taking the time to learn to software. If that isn’t feasible because you have teams scattered out in the field, make sure to show your appreciation in a thank you email.