Internal Change Management - Why People Are Your Biggest Asset (Carpenter Box)

Talent Development
March 24, 2022 - Carpenter Box

This is a Talent Development article on handling change management from PrimeGlobal member firm Carpenter Box in the UK.

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Change management is arguably one of the most complicated elements of any digital transformation journey. Whether this is a small change, or a complete overhaul of a business process or department.

The reason why change management is so hard is because human beings are creatures of habit. Even people who are accepting and welcoming of change still require a degree of change management to ensure the new process, system or policy is embedded properly into the behavior of the team.  

Broaching change with staff

Regardless of your timing on this front, all staff impacted by the change need to be told eventually. From Carpenter Box's experience, the sooner that staff are told about prospective changes, the longer they have to come to terms with the change. As mentioned above, every person tends to have varying degrees of resistance to change. A long delay between being informed of the change and the implementation of the change allows people to become comfortable with any alterations. 

For comparison, imagine if you were asked to tie your laces or brush your teeth differently as of tomorrow morning. You would probably have a whole host of questions about how and why this was happening. Time allows people to understand and convey their reservations, as well as normalise the change in their minds.

Too often, we see rushed changes implemented, and a resistance from the people most impacted, as they haven’t had a chance to resolve the change in their own heads. This is very important for successful change management.

Another way to broach this change with staff is to involve the staff members in the process, both assessing the required change and developing the strategy. Where this is not possible, explaining the rationale behind the change is fundamental. Humans tend to want to work with the norm, and as a result, highlighting the bigger picture for the change is imperative in keeping everyone aligned.

Dealing with the naysayers

It is rare that even with the smallest changes, there will not be naysayers to some degree. A naysayer in this context is an individual who is deliberately acting like a stick in the mud, and is without just cause or reason challenging the change.

Naysayers make change management one of the most difficult things to successfully achieve.

In order to deal with naysayers, you need to understand why these people are so against the change. Some common examples of these include:

  1. “Office Furniture syndrome”
  2. Job security
  3. Improperly handled change management in the past

Office furniture syndome is a term that describes people who have worked in the business for such a long period of time that they could be considered office furniture. Often, this type of person spends a lot of time constructing or changing a process that “works”. Changing this process can be perceived as a negative reflection on their own abilities, or can feel like a mockery of the work that they have put in over the years.

Extreme care needs to be taken with people like this, as they often carry a considerable amount of knowledge about the business, and losing them can cause an administrative nightmare. Involving them in the process can help mitigate the agitation caused by change.

Job security is an important consideration. Scaremongering is a powerful tactic that is used by bodies who oppose technological advancements in business. This often correlates the increase in technological adoption with the reduction in ‘human’ driven jobs, particularly in relation to administration. Technology is often sold with an aim to make things more efficient and streamlined.

However, what is important to understand is that technology needs operators and individuals to keep checks and balances. Time that has been spent on more manual tasks can now be replaced with time on other tasks that can help the business grow or operate better. It’s a trade of time, not a replacement of time.

Last of all, experience with poorly managed change before can have a perpetuating effect on the desire to move forward with change in the future. People tend to logically avoid situations that cause them stress or harm. As change management can be handled quite badly, if this has happened in the past, this same person is likely to be very hesitant when it comes to change in the future. This can be a change at the same organisation or a different one.

To mitigate this sort of naysayer, it’s important to understand their concerns and try to avoid repeating the same mistakes in the past. Often, it just takes some reassurance to help with this. 

Why handling Change Management is so important

Considering all of the above can take a considerable amount of management time and and effort. Enough to even wonder if following through with a large change is even worth it!

However, it’s important to understand that the people in your organization are vital to the success or failure of the change. Whether you’re implementing a practice management system or just implementing a new process or smaller functional system, like OCR software, poor buy-in from staff will result in more management time and effort.

It would be doing change management an injustice to assume that the process stops once the new process has been implemented. There is an embedding period, which will make or break the change. Not spending time on getting your people on board with this change will have disastrous consequences on the embedding process. You will continue to face challenges with adoption, which can lead to building resentment and a delayed implementation.

Hiring an external consultant to assist you with the change management can assist, by allowing you to remove yourself as the facilitator of change. Consultants also tend to have experience with change management, and a good one will consider this as part of their implementation plan.

It can be too easy to assume that as the ‘boss’ you are able to force change in your organisation. However, it’s impossible to successfully manage change and development in an organisation without getting your people bought into the rationale and the process.

In some instances, you can have a successful change management strategy but still fall short - as some people will flat out refute change. However, you can mitigate this risk as much as possible by considering the points raised in this article and helping ensure as many of your team are aligned as possible. 

Content by:

Carpenter Box

Carpenter Box is an award-winning sector focused firm of Chartered Accountants, Tax and Business Advisers based in South East England, with a headcount of nearly 200. To best serve clients, the firm is organised into specialist business groups, offering a comprehensive range of services to businesses and private clients. By building strong relationships, the firm's specialist teams advise clients on growing their business in a profitable, sustainable and tax efficient way. At Carpenter Box, the team want to understand what clients want to achieve and work closely with clients to help them get there. They offer practical solutions which are right for businesses, business owners and individuals and the wider family. With a relationship led service, the firm looks to build trust to understand the opportunities and challenges faced by businesses.

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