People, it seems, don’t like change. There is a whole industry devoted to the management of change. When a workplace introduces new practices, there is an instinctive tendency for the workforce to dig its collective heels in and say it preferred the old methods. But time marches on and so does technology—unless a business adapts to new ways of achieving its aims, it will inevitably become uncompetitive and eventually go under. Look at Kodak! And unless the management can persuade the workers to embrace new ways, the business as a whole will struggle to adapt.
Management meetings can easily (sometimes too easily) be persuaded of the advantages of a new way of doing things. A slick presentation can make it very clear that the new approach will result in efficiencies, that it will save money and increase output. Perhaps it will.
The people who will have to work with the new system may not be so easily impressed. That may be a natural conservatism, or a fear that redundancies will follow, or that they will lose their jobs because they cannot keep up. But it may be that they can actually see the pitfalls, or they know from experience that there are bound to be unseen pitfalls which have not yet been spotted.
Any program for change has to work with the people who will be doing the job. You cannot simply replace them all, so if your new plan is going to work it has to have them onside.
See the Big Picture
Many members of your workforce are extremely good at what they do—that’s why you employ them. But as your company grows it gets harder for every member to see themselves as part of the whole, and to remember that it is what comes out at the end of the process, rather than their own contribution, that ultimately keeps you all in business.
Poor communication is the bug in every human organization, and if it is to improve it needs to be two-way. The managers need to hear what is happening on the factory floor, and the workers need to be kept informed of the aims of the company, and to understand how whatever new technology is proposed will help.
Does It Work?
Far too often, a company introduces some new technology to a suspicious workforce, only to find that the suspicions are well-founded and the technology does not work. That is why it is important to involve machine operators, for instance, in discussions with the designers of a new industrial process.
A good example would be the powder coating process used in many manufacturing fields. One of the specialist manufacturers in this field, Reliant Finishing Systems, makes a point of working closely with companies to build powder coating systems using new technologies. The design of the new equipment and the on-site training that follows installation are both better targeted if operators are involved in the consultations and convinced of the practicality of the solution.
New Technology or New System?
It will usually be assumed that older employees will be the most resistant to change because that’s what older people are like. But it may be that they are resistant to this particular change because they’ve seen it before. This is very common among large institutional employers like the health services. A new way of organizing the workforce seems very innovative, but to the old-timers it looks very much like what happened twenty years ago and was later dropped because it didn’t work.
On the other hand, if what is being proposed is a genuine technological advance, then you may well find that your older workers have long dreamed of a new process that would do the work better. You may discover to your surprise that your more experienced employees can turn into your greatest allies.
Culture of Change
What you are aiming to achieve in a fast-developing technological world is a culture where everyone is sharing the vision of looking for better ways to achieve the desired result, and where new processes are seen as something to enjoy and even to celebrate.
Your employees have devoted a large part of their lives to your company. They have invested their time and skills into making it work. If they can see that new processes will improve what you achieve together, and believe that they will share in the rewards of progress, you are well on the way to a successful change.