The manufacturing industry is no stranger to the concept of change – especially when it comes to technology. New technologies are constantly being introduced for many reasons, such as helping employees automate simple and routine tasks, enabling manufacturers to drive continuous improvement efforts, or to streamline production planning.
When embarking on a new technology project, like implementing workforce management software or HCM software, success is a top priority. But what defines success? Most likely you are already thinking about the implementation of technology on time and on budget, but as part of defining success, are you considering how the technology is perceived and accepted by end users – especially your front-line manufacturing workforce?
To help ensure that technology is accepted by your employees, it is imperative that you focus on change management. How do you get your entire organization away from “the old way of doing things” or using the “way it’s always been done” as an excuse?
What makes change management so successful? People. While it’s important to have handbooks, guides, and tool-kits when implementing a new technology or workforce solution, adoption is key to success.
Here are three tips for creating a change management strategy that not only helps drive adoption, but also achieves optimal return on your investment:
Tip 1: Prepare employees for the change – before it happens
Communicating to employees that there might be a change in the way they work is stressful. Especially when your workforce includes:
- Digital ninjas that welcome the opportunity to work more efficiently
- Employees who are open to change but not signing up to be the first group
- Laggards who are just plain content with the status quo
It’s important to let your employees know why things must change, in a way that they understand. Share with your people the benefits of the change. For example, are you implementing a benefits administration solution that will allow them to do open enrollment from their mobile phones or at home? Or maybe it’s a new employee scheduling software that will give your employees visibility to open shifts or the flexibility and control to swap shifts. By sharing the drivers of change along with the benefits employees can expect, you will help prepare employees for the change.
Tip 2: Involve employees in change management planning
Involving employees, especially those whose jobs will be affected, motivates them to get engaged and be proactive participants in the change. Employees – from the C-suite to local staff – should play an active role in the project, such as testing the software and help with training. During the planning phase, it’s crucial to create an open environment and allow employees to have a voice in the change. An approach that is inclusive of employees’ thoughts and ideas can be a good source of diverse perspectives and allow employees to get into the software, play in the sandbox, and provide feedback is going to leave them feeling more engaged and onboard with the project.
Consider using suggestion drop boxes, having open hours, and technology that allows employees to have input via surveys. By getting employees involved in the change management process and allowing them to voice their opinions and ideas, it will ultimately lead to faster adoption rates.
Tip 3: Drive change acceptance with clear, effective communication
Communication is key to getting your employees to adopt a new behavior. There are many ways that you can communicate with your workforce, and you should try and leverage as many channels as you can. While it’s easy to send an email communicating the change, that can often get lost. It is also not effective, since workers who are on the plant may not even have a corporate email address. Instead, maybe a recorded video from the VP of Operations or CEO that can be played on monitors in the breakroom may work best. Other ideas could be notifications or surveys on time clocks or an employee’s mobile device, and of course, face-to-face conversations. It is important to find what communication strategy works best for each group of employees. By doing so, it will help you:
- Build awareness and understanding of why it’s important to make this change, the drivers for the change, and key factors that have been considered
- Achieve a shared understanding of the steps needed to successfully adopt the change solution
- Gain employee commitment to support the change and be actively engaged
Manage change by managing (and nurturing) people
While change management process documents and tools are important, focusing on your people is critical to change management success in the manufacturing industry. People are the foundation of any business and after all, they are the ones who will need to adapt to a new way of working.