5 Tips to Help Small Business Employees Adapt to Change

Change is inevitable.

For organizations of any size, it’s also a necessary part of doing business today. Everything is on the move –the economy is shifting, markets are changing, and technology is too –and companies that fail to keep up with the times will quickly go under.

But while most business owners are in-tune with the importance of change, employees aren’t always fully on board. To most workers, change equals bad news, often signifying upheaval, stress, and in some cases –may even indicate that their job is on the line.

As Robert F. Kennedy once said, “About twenty percent of the people are against any change.” If you’ve been in business for a while, then you know this is often the case. Even the most meticulously-planed upgrades are likely to be met with opposition from at least part of your team.

Still, having the backing of your team is important –and something that can directly impact your profitability. According to Towers Watson’s 2013 – 2014 Change and Communication ROI Study, companies that are effective in change management and communication are 3.5 times more likely to significantly outperform their industry peers that are not as effective in these areas.

Keeping your team on board with change is one of the best ways to keep everything rolling along smoothly, but how can you get everyone on the same page, ready and willing to go forward with your vision in mind?

Let’s take a look at five things that you can do to help your workers adapt to change.

1. Be Clear

Communication is key to keeping your team on board.

The worst thing you can do is embark on change as a top-secret, covert mission. Your workers will have to find out at some point, and when they do, they’ll be surprised –and fearful. Being secretive will only stress everyone out, causing speculation about whose job is on the line.

The time to tell your workers about change is sooner, rather than later. Be sure to talk with your employees personally and explain the upcoming disruptions, and let them know clearly and honestly what they can expect. This will give them time to adjust, and help them to handle the changes in a far more positive way –a much better option than springing things on them at the last minute.

2. Offer Training

Fear of the unknown is common. Many people fear change because they’re afraid of what they don’t know.

Regardless of how big or small your changes may be –employees who are thrust into a new situation –unprepared will be stressed, and overwhelmed.

Instead of expecting your employees to adjust to changes, or assuming that they will instinctively know what to do, ensure that they are equipped to handle the upcoming changes. Provide hands-on training to help them to feel more confident, and to thrive in the new environment.

3. Keep Employees Motivated

While business owners usually stand to gain significantly from new changes, employees usually see none of the rewards.

If you’re planning to introduce changes that will result in an increase in your employees’ workload, consider compensating them for their additional effort. Introducing a commission-based system or instituting bonuses is a great way to get your team on-board and excited about the changes.

4. Present Change Positively

There’s often an attitude of uncertainty and negativity that surrounds new changes.

Help your employees to feel better about changes by presenting them in a positive sense. In addition to the usual message that tells workers how the changes will make things better for customers, or for the business’ bottom line, be sure to inform your team how the changes will benefit them as well.

5. Reassure Your Employees

Finally, employees often resist change because of the uncertainty that often surrounds them.

To ease your workers’ fears, be sure to reassure them. If their jobs are not at stake, tell them so –this will help them to relax, and feel more positive toward the changes, rather than worried and ready to jump ship. Inform them that you are there to help them work through the changes and that you are all in this together.

If the changes are likely to result in layoffs, be honest and maintain open lines of communication with your team. Be upfront with them, and tell them that you’ll let them know as soon as you know of any decisions. Your team will appreciate your honesty –even in a difficult time.

As a good rule of thumb, clear communication, on both sides, is key to getting your workers on board with change. Take your workers’ questions and concerns seriously, don’t gloss over them or attempt to sweep issues under the rug. By reassuring your team that you will be meeting the changes together, and that you’ll do everything possible to ensure positive results for the entire team, and then keeping to your side of the bargain, you’ll win your team’s respect –and will be able to proceed with their support behind you.