Oregon Small Business Development Center Network

What strategies can I use to help my employees cope with necessary changes in our business?

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A look at small business questions from the Southwestern Oregon Community College Small Business Development Center (SBDC).
By Arlene M. Soto CMA, CGBP, Southwestern SBDC Director

What strategies can I use to help my employees cope with necessary changes in our business?

Change is defined as any alteration of a situation or process. It can range from trivial, having to change coffee brands, to profound, employee layoffs or rapid growth. Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the most responsive to change.” Each person or organization reacts differently and in varying degrees to change but there are strategies that can be employed to lessen the stress of changes in the business environment.

The first step in adapting to change in business is to define what changes need to be made. Some internal indicators a major change is necessary include: breakdown in communications, missed deadlines, negative morale, lost customers, lower productivity, bullying in the workforce or key employees leaving.

The next steps are to rank how important making a change is; will the company survive if a change is not made? Once the survivability of the company is determined, analyze what needs to change? Anticipate the resistance that might occur if a change is made. Communicate with employees and key stakeholders the benefits and possible risks of making the necessary changes. People resist change for multiple reasons, some of which include: disruption of a comfortable routine, skepticism that change is needed, lack of time, perceived threat to their status, risk avoidance, insensitive change advocates acting pushy, cost to change or not seeing a reward. Plan for ways to overcome objections by assessing how important making a change is to the survival of the business and clearly explaining the importance to all personnel.

Part of making a major change is developing a plan of action. Identify any resources needed. Identify obstacles to change. Identify possible solutions. Acquire as much knowledge as possible then use that information to identify a strategy and timeline for making the change.

Finally, it’s time to implement the strategy chosen and evaluate the outcome. Will additional changes be needed? Is the change having the positive impact that was expected? Has staff feedback been heard by management? Adapting to change will take: accepting uncertainty, watching trends, losing prejudices about differences in others, being a fixer not a finger pointer, maintaining flexibility, persevering, continuing to learn and a willingness to get out of a comfort zone.

Change is inevitable. Environments change, technology improves, equipment wears out, customers look for better solutions, regulations change, employees move or retire and management must be aware of how these and other influences will impact future business success. Businesses and individuals that watch the trends, plan for and adapt to change find ways to thrive.

The SBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Oregon Small Business Development Center Network, the Oregon Business Development Department and Southwestern Oregon Community College. Arlene M. Soto has been the Director of the Southwestern Small Business Development Center since July 2007. To ask a question call 541-756-6445, e-mail, or write 2455 Maple Leaf, North Bend, OR 97459. Additional help is available at the OSBDCN Web page