Contributed Column

Personnel Points

by Dave Mount, Westaff

Time for Change

Change is stressful.

Let’s face it, the last two decades have brought about more change in business and in the way we do things than any other decades in history. I might speculate that we have had more change in business practices and procedures than in all of the last 100 years combined, but employees hate it. Employees have always hated it and from what I see, they always will.

I remember 30 years ago when my company was first in business. Every day, I would receive hundreds of resumes — all pieces of paper that would be plopped on my desk for my review. I’d better get the review done before tomorrow’s pile came or I would have double trouble.

Now, I want to be paperless. I heard, even 30 years ago, about the paperless office. I think I may have laughed off the notion, but I can’t stand having paper around any more.

So: How do we cope with change? How can we make it easier on our employees without compromising or losing the effect of the change we are trying to make?

First of all, let us examine the types of change. We don’t make change for its own sake; we have to have a good reason. For example, efficiency, new and better information systems, a new parent company that has different goals, or change because we are growing and we need to parse the duties of our employees.

The proliferation of new and better software has certainly given us reasons for change. New and better machinery on a factory floor or design changes to our product cause us to change. A new or expanded facility will also make change necessary. But there is always resistance.

Software rarely seems to work the way it is intended. There is one major software product that is universally known for its difficulty and yet, it is a wave of the future and everyone wants to have it even though it causes virtually everyone problems.

As I am writing this, the health care exchanges are being rolled out, and almost across the board there have been problems with them (Vermont’s seems to be an exception). But they are the beginning of one of the biggest changes in U.S. history: the complete change in the way we do health care.

Coping with change as a manager requires careful preparation and training of the people involved. I would advise any manager that employees need to understand fully the reasons for the change.

Next comes the training. Few small firms can afford to train everyone in a classroom type setting but one or more key individuals should be well trained in the change so that they can be key players in the transition.

Not all changes are software changes, but those are the hardest and longest to implement — my wife and I bought new computers a month ago with Windows 8 and Office 365, but I am still banging away on the old computer because the change is gradual and frustrating. But changing an office procedure or a filing scheme takes far less time. A change in filing systems can take hours or just a few days.

Some considerations:

• Change should be well defined and explained.

• Training should have plenty of lead time.

• Have your best people train on the new change in advance so they can be sub-trainers for you.

• Evaluate the results of the change regularly. In the evaluation process, meet daily to start and then reduce the meetings as the number of problems is reduced.

• Remember to keep a sense of humor — you are not the first one to have whatever problems you are having

• And don’t forget Murphy’s Law: Whatever can go wrong will go
wrong. •

Dave Mount is the founder of Westaff in Burlington.

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