Change comes hand-in-hand with company growth. In fact, it’s imperative that businesses regularly assess their systems. They need to implement new work processes or update existing ones in order to scale operations. Businesses that stagnate and don’t keep up with industry innovation and developments are setting themselves up for failure.
In line with this, we’ll be discussing why improving or establishing better workplace processes should be part of your company culture. We’ll also tackle what major challenges you’ll face in their implementation and how you can address the possible obstacles in every stage.
What are work processes and why are they so important?
Company work processes can be loosely defined as a series of steps that an individual employee or team completes in order to arrive at a particular result or to reach a goal. These processes are developed to make operations highly effective and more productive.
Implementing workplace processes aren’t as critical in the earlier stages of a company’s life. But, it will soon be necessary as the organization begins to grow. Establishing processes and systematizing the workload is the only way to make scaling possible because it increases efficiency while lowering the risk of errors.
Why is it so challenging to implement new processes at work?
Despite the good that a well-designed process could bring to a company’s operations, it doesn’t mean that implementing it is going to be a walk in the park--especially when it comes to the people who will be affected by the change most: your employees.
When implementation isn’t managed properly, expect to encounter confusion, frustration and not a little bit of resistance from a disgruntled workforce. That’s a problem, but not one that’s unexpected. Some teams will struggle to adjust to a new standard, others will have a hard time developing a process in the first place. More obstacles present themselves if employees:
- Don’t understand why the change is necessary
- Don’t want or are hesitant to switch to an unfamiliar system
- Are overwhelmed by the massive amount of commitment needed to adjust
- Don’t want to be told how to do work that they’ve been doing just fine so far
So, implementing new (or updating) processes in the workplace is crucial if you want your business to grow. However, you can’t do it in a vacuum. You’ll need the buy-in and support of your people. The changes will only be worth it if employees accept the change and adopt it as part of their work routine.
How, then, do you get people in the correct mindset for change? How can you implement business processes and ensure that the rest of the organization complies? The answer isn’t just adding an extra step or two to your plans. In fact, it involves proactively working with employees every step of the way.
Before you start trying to implement changes, make sure that you have a sound strategy on how to get everybody on board.
How to successfully implement a business process
As a leader in the company, it’s up to you to take deliberate steps to ensure a smooth transition for your employees. This includes identifying possible tension points, communicating with teams and eliminating the hindrances that decrease the likelihood of the process being adopted across the organization the way it was intended.
Explain your intentions and the need for a new process
Introducing a change in work processes necessitates clear and transparent communication between leadership and employees. Begin by sharing your intentions for pushing for the adjustment. Inform your stakeholders of what results you want to come out from adopting the process. Also, show how the change will be advantageous for them in the short term, like how it can streamline day-to-day workflows.
Make the implementation steps clear, too. This way your employees can set reasonable expectations of what they need to do. It will also be invaluable for coordinating work and holding each other accountable for their tasks.
Lastly, let your stakeholders know that the initiative isn’t just changing for change’s sake. Tell them about the long-term benefits that the new process will bring about and how they fit into the organization’s plans to achieve a strategic goal some years down the line.
By letting your employees know of the how’s and why’s of the initiative and emphasizing the value it provides them, you can make a good argument for the workforce to willingly adopt the process. Employees who can connect the initiative’s objectives to a stabler future will likely be more open to getting behind a change.
Make the initiative a strategic priority in the company
Once you open the conversation about implementing a process change, keep the momentum going by making it a strategic priority and ironing out the details of your objective. Doing so will accomplish two things:
- Keep the project in the spotlight so it doesn’t get pushed to the backburner in favor of revenue-generating activities
- Reduce the friction on the end of affected teams by providing a clear roadmap for them to follow as the new process is implemented
As you push for the change and emphasize how you plan on adopting the new system from the old one on every level of the organization, employees become more familiar with the prospect. They’ll adjust faster if they can clearly identify how the changes have improved the workplace.
Ask for and consider feedback from your stakeholders
It’s important to note that developing a new work process isn’t just the responsibility of Human Resources, chief company strategists or the senior management team. Your employees’ input is also critical to implementing an initiative that everyone can get behind because it’s their daily tasks that will most likely be affected by the switch.
Open a conversation with your employees. Let them know that their opinions are being considered and encourage them to take part in the decision-making process. This raises the morale of workers and softens them up to the idea of change because they were part of the planning stage.
Additionally, it gives you a broader perspective of the initiative. Your employee’s unique input will be invaluable to anticipating potential problems with the new process, giving you ample leeway to plan how to avoid them.
Get the buy-in of your management and key employees
Once you have your process details, developed according to employee feedback and a thorough analysis of the company’s needs, you will need the buy-in of key people in the organization. Naturally, the business's top executives need to sponsor the change, but the process implementation plan should also be reinforced on the ground.
- Managers and process experts can ease employees into the new system by acting as a mentor or trainer
- Key influential employees can be appointed to champion the initiative by becoming a real-time example of how the new process benefits their workday.
Employees are more likely to adopt the change when given enough assistance and faced with evidence of positive results.
Development process training plans based on employee needs
Transitioning from one system to another requires training your employees to use the replacement. Having a master training module would be helpful in terms of keeping all the pertinent details in order. It doesn’t mean training should be conducted by the book, though. We highly recommend tailoring your plans according to the needs of your teams.
So, before you roll out the schedule for a training session, make sure to assess your organization’s current state, paying close attention to:
- People - identify the part of the workforce that will be using the new process
- Systems - learn which skills and knowledge they currently possess
- Resources - find out what tools are you working with to support the transition
Only after you analyze the elements you’re working with can you move on to designing an effective training setup. You’ll be able to address employee skillset and knowledge gaps, make arrangements for the tools needed to adopt the process and, most importantly, tailor the training according to the day-to-day needs of the workforce.
You have several options when it comes to training and upskilling depending on the people and situation. In general, you can consider tutoring or mentoring programs for those who need one-on-one or targetted training, peer-to-peer accountability systems for on-the-ground process execution, and group training such as workshops, presentations, and seminars.
Create a visual representation of the process
Implementing any meaningful change in an organization takes time. It’s certainly not going to happen in a day. It will take patience and continued, incremental adjustments to get it right. To help people stay on track, prepare and distribute visuals of the updated processes from the initial stages of development.
Visual aids like process maps, flowcharts, and even infographics are a great way to communicate complex information quickly and effectively. So, as a training tool, they’re extremely versatile. As part of the documentation strategy, they are incredibly handy.
You can utilize visual aids further to introduce the new process and the steps that come with adopting it. With them, you’ll be able to clearly show how each department, team, and individual plays a part within the new system.
Make process documentation accessible to relevant people
It goes without saying that you’ll have a record of your initiative’s implementation plans. If you want your employees to cooperate, however, you’ll have to take it a step further. You’ll need to share and make process documentation accessible to the people who need it.
By providing them with a quick way to reference the necessary information, they can keep the implementation steps at the front of their minds. This significantly cuts down the time employees take to adjust to a new process. Moreover, having the documentation on hand makes it easier for you to check in and see if any adjustments have to be made.
Leave room for failure
Allowing for failure in a business might seem counter-intuitive. It could even seem ludicrous when high-level performance is the ticket to succeeding in an organization. But not giving enough leeway for employees to settle into the new process is the same as allowing your initiative to fail.
Penalizing your employees’ inability to execute a new system perfectly as soon as it is implemented will breed a fear of failure. Such a rigid stance could ultimately dissuade people from embracing changes. They might even ignore the implementation initiative altogether. After all, they have no incentive to try and every reason to avoid making a mistake.
Create an environment where people are secure enough to fail even as they try to adopt the process. Acknowledge that there will be a learning curve and reassure people that the organization is working with everyone to make the transition as smooth as possible. This also means providing ample training and practice until the change becomes routine.
Provide adequate post-implementation support
Even when you implement a new system or standard, don’t expect that it’ll be the last time you do so or that you can’t make further adjustments. The way we do business is changing at a faster rate than ever; expect to keep fine-tuning your methods in response.
Encourage everyone in your organization to voice their ideas and opinions on how to improve new processes. Keep them in the loop and listen to their feedback. If they feel that management values their thoughts, they’ll be more receptive to working together to address any kinks in the new system. They’ll also actively participate in the implementation follow-through.
As a leader, you can make this stage of the implementation process easier. Give your employees the tools and support to make the transition with minimal disruptions. Also, check in with your employees regularly in case you need to make adjustments on the ground. Find out if the new process is:
- Increasing efficiency as expected
- Allowing employees to reach or surpass goals, or
- Solving one problem only to create a new one
Refer to the documentation for available data. By analyzing the way the new process impacts the workloads and workflows, you’ll be able to spot problem areas or even anticipate any hindrances to implementation. And, if the process is already sound, then you’ll be able to see areas that could still be improved.
Establishing new or improving upon existing work processes to achieve company goals more efficiently is a challenge. Getting people to see the wisdom of adopting them might seem like an uphill battle. But continuously implementing improvements to your internal processes is your ticket to staying competitive in the industry; in the long run, these initiatives will be more than worth the time and effort it took to establish.
Fortunately, with some careful prep work and a strategic implementation plan, you can gain the support of your employees. You can ensure that your processes will be adopted and carried out in the way it was intended as well as promote a training and onboarding culture that is consistent and aligned with the organization’s goals.