Over at the Fast Track blog, we received the following reader question:
I work in an organization that has frequent changes in policies, which requires ongoing adaptation to our assessment and decision-making processes. How do I manage older employees who are struggling to learn to use new processes and technology, resulting in significant time lags in completing their work? Many of these employees have had an excellent track record in their work but are unable to adapt to new systems and skills. I get so frustrated that I wind up doing the work for them, but then too much burden is on me! In addition, how do I deal with employee resistance to and frequent anxiety around constant systemic changes?
Here's my answer:
The good news is, you are not alone. In fact, the issues you describe are so common that we recently addressed them in two recent Fast Track posts, How to Cope with Uncertainty, and 6 Types of Change Resisters Who Are Holding Back Progress.
Beyond the advice given there, I would say to make sure that you are explaining the big picture rationale for undertaking each new process, move to a new technology, etc. Employees, understandably, are less fond of change for change’s sake. Why is the organization moving in this direction, and what will the negative consequences be if the change is not implemented?
Next, you need to establish a clear deadline for incorporating the change into everyday operations. Do not allow employees to stall and do not take on their workload, as this will only prolong everyone’s pain. If necessary, secure mentors for the struggling employees to help get them on track, or take an afternoon to sit down with them yourself and go through the new processes step by step. Once this additional training has occurred, consider using a project management system like Quickbase to ensure compliance.
When faced with resistance of this nature, it’s always a good idea to motivate employees by turning the discussion to why adaptation of these new processes and skills is good for them in addition to being good for you and the organization. For instance, you might tell them that 100 percent of employees on the job market today are required to at least understand the cloud, and they will be neither marketable nor competitive if they don’t keep current.
If your employees seem genuinely anxious, show empathy. It is, after all, difficult to change your approach after you have been doing things a certain way for dozens of years. Let them know that you are a sympathetic ear and suggest stress management techniques to lessen strong emotions – but still insist that they get with the program. Your team’s productivity depends on it.
For answers from the other three experts, have a look at the full post on Intuit's Fast Track blog.