Change management can, frankly, be a chore. Whether you’re implementing a new piece of technology that is shaking up the status quo or re-imagining your company culture, you will likely encounter some form of resistance.
Sometimes this resistance can resemble a mutiny on a pirate ship; more often, it takes the form of quiet grumbling and perhaps a strongly worded email from a recalcitrant coworker (it’s an email because this person never really got on Slack).
You’ll likely never make everyone happy. Even new software or new processes that demonstrably save time and effort will have detractors in the beginning. There are several ways, though, that you can convince and inspire some of your toughest internal critics to give change a chance.
Here are six of them:
1. Understand the history.
Knowing your history is important for anyone in a change management role, but especially if you are relatively new to the team and are dealing with entrenched employees who have seen the company go through myriad evolutionary stages.
If the team has undergone multiple changes of direction, or been forced from one new productivity-boosting piece of technology to another, it’s understandable that they will be skeptical about the latest and greatest change you’re bringing to the table. Be clear about the problem you’re trying to solve, but also learn about the past attempts to find a solution.
2. Get (and keep) the bosses on board.
If you’re making any sort of sweeping organizational change, it’s nearly certain that your C-suite was involved in some capacity. Make sure they stay involved, and don’t just set the table for a big change and then forget about it when new priorities arise.
For any sort of change involving new technology, strong executive sponsorship will result in a notable increase in long-term user adoption. If you issue a decree that all document-sharing must occur in the cloud, any slow-to-adopt stragglers will only be emboldened if they find out that the CFO stashes files locally and sends documents as email attachments.
3. Marketing isn’t just for customers.
You presumably don’t just toss your product out into the world and expect your customers to get excited about it. Don’t roll out your next big internal change without a bit of marketing finesse. Make the stakes clear. Sell the benefit. Set expectations. How will success of your new initiative be measured? And, finally, have some fun with it.
When global communications firm FleishmanHillard rolled out a new cloud collaboration platform–not necessarily the most exciting change on paper–they designed a whole series of eye-catching “Coming Soon” movie posters to spread awareness and drive conversation. This sort of approach puts some personality into a process that can otherwise seem a bit bureaucratic.
If other companies have benefited from undergoing similar changes–whatever the change may be–sing those stories from the rooftops, or at least from your conference rooms.
Just as you’re likely chasing your customers across any number of platforms, try different ways to get the word out about your vision. Don’t just stop with hosting a conference call or sending an explanatory email.
4. Turn new hires into ambassadors.
New employees may have done things differently at their last job, but they won’t have the same pain point of disrupting their day-to-day work to accommodate whatever change you’re bringing to their tables. Successful change management is often reliant on internal cheerleaders, and enthusiastic new employees are natural fits.
5. Document your process.
Don’t keep everything in your head, or saved locally on a hard drive. Put your mission into words, share those words with everyone involved and affected, and, if applicable, write a step-by-step explanation of your new processes. This protect your team’s productivity after a Leftovers-type of scenario, and it’s a valuable way to see any areas that you anticipate turning into sticking points once you roll it out to your team.
6. Refine as you go.
Commit to change; for example, if you’re revamping your invoicing process, don’t preemptively offer to go back to the old system if your new approach fizzles. Establish a clear line for feedback, though.
Employees should know where to take their questions, and you’ll be able to make refinements and deal with any unforeseen complications. Even the best-prepared change champions are sometimes surprised by an unanticipated domino effect.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.