How to change procedures
Companies change and the world changes, eventually too, our business procedures must change. Unfortunately, changing business procedures is difficult on employees and even on customers. Think about how you feel when your email system or a website that you commonly go to is updated. It's hard to make the switch and to get the "feel" of the new format or interface. Even if the change that you make is for the better, your employees and customers will have the same feeling that you have when that web page changes. Understanding that change is hard is half of the battle. The other half can be fought by following these steps.
Step 1: Change when you need to change and not before. Change is hard so you don't want to be making procedure changes unless they are really necessary. Of course, there are times when you have to make changes and if you wait too long, it can be bad for business. Think about the businesses that still haven't started to use the computer. True, they saved their employees and customers the drama of change but they have hurt themselves by not using the organizational and marketing capacities of the computer. It's a delicate balance, knowing when to change procedures. Just do your best to ensure that your timing is as good as possible.
Step 2: Research the details of the change. Before making the policy change or even hinting to your employees that there is going to be a policy change, find out all you can about the new system. If you can, go and observe a company that has already implemented a similar policy and find out what kind of problems they encountered making the change. You might also look to the internet to help you find out about the ramifications of your new policy. Meet with your department heads and ask for input when you are designing the new policy and have the professional people in your field give their opinions.
Step 3: Introduce the new procedure. Just prior to implementing the new procedure, you should have a meeting where you present it formally. You can give a date that the new procedure will become effective. Give as much information as you can, including handouts that the employees can study. Assure your employees that they will receive plenty of hands on training during the first days and weeks that the new procedure is in place.
Step 4: In-service training. Once the new procedure is in place, your employees will need training. Just having a meeting or a presentation to describe the new procedure is not enough. You need to make sure that each employee has hands on experience with all of the details involved in the new policy. Even if it seems simple to you, remember the analogy of a change to a web page. Once you are used to doing something a certain way, a new way will seem "wrong" and unintuitive. Go over every aspect of the new procedure several times. While you are doing this, ask plenty of questions and encourage your employees to ask questions.
Step 4: The break in period. Understand that employees will make mistakes immediately after a new procedure is implemented. Have people on site to help and to answer questions. When mistakes are made, don't discipline the employee. This is not the time for write-ups and improvement plans; this is the time for education. Mistakes implementing new procedures do not indicate laziness or incompetence on the part of the employee; rather it indicates a good opportunity to educate them about the new procedure.
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