Back in 1959, the American journal Produce Engineering published an article “50 reasons why we can't change anything”. It collected 50 objections, which are often heard by managers during the implementation of any innovation. Surprisingly, the same thing can still be heard today.
- We've never done that before.
- It's not going to work for our company.
- Our competitors don't do that.
- This will disrupt all other processes in the company.
- We're already doing the right thing.
And so on. The established opinion on this matter is simple — employees always resist innovations for various reasons, but mainly because they want to stay in the familiar comfort zone, to continue working according to traditional algorithms. However, this is not exactly what we saw after one deployment of MD Audit.
Why don't they want innovations?
One of our clients in the process of implementing the system faced active resistance from the staff. Technically, everything was done right: the company's structure has been compiled, checklists have been prepared, responsible employees have been appointed and user functions have been trained. However, despite following all the steps of MD Audit deployment, “it didn't work out the way it was supposed to”:
- audits were not carried out on time or at all;
- employees found reasons not to use the system;
- verification process was very formalistic;
- results of the inspections were unreliable.
The client claimed that he made every effort on his part, but the staff continues to bypass the system and does not want to change the usual style and work methods. After repeated unsuccessful attempts to influence the situation, he asked our Methodology Department to help “make employees work in a new way”. Having studied the situation on the part of both the manager and the staff, we came to an interesting conclusion: employees were confident that the system would bring additional concerns and problems to their work environment.
Perception depends on the words
It turned out that when the supervisor presented MD Audit to the staff, he used seemingly harmless terms: check, audit, auditor, but in the minds of store managers, whose work is evaluated with the help of MD Audit, these very terms have formed a negative attitude to the system. The word “check” was associated solely with the process of searching for defects in their work.
And we agree with them. The following definition is given in Cambridge dictionary: CHECK — to make certain that something or someone is correct, safe, or suitable by examining it. Not surprisingly, our client's employees have become disloyal to MD Audit.
Meanwhile, the sense of the system's work is not limited to finding errors and punishing them. The main purpose of MD Audit is to identify growth points, to influence them in order to increase the efficiency of business processes and company personnel. So, our methodology department decided to change the terminology, the word “check” is not appropriate, because it does not reflect the true purpose.
The term “assessment” is more appropriate in this situation. In the already mentioned Cambridge dictionary we read the definition: ASSESSMENT — the act of judging or deciding the amount, value, quality, or importance of something, or the judgment or decision that is made. If you use this word, MD Audit becomes a way of evaluating the employee's performance from a troubleshooting tool.
What have we done?
After studying the client's problems, our methodology department made recommendations on how to build staff loyalty to the MD Audit system. In general terms, we suggested that we do the following:
- Explain to employees that the goal of deploying MD Audit is to find solutions to optimize the entire company.
- Replace the word “check” with the word “assessment” and explain to the staff that the assessment shows the real work, to say that thanks to the system, a careless employee will not be able to “sit back”, and the work of the responsible person will be immediately visible to the company's management.
- Do not use the word “auditor”. It needs to be replaced by something neutral, such as a “manager”, or better yet, if the evaluation process is to be conducted with feedback. In this case, the “check” will become a “training” and the formidable “auditor” will become a fair and friendly “tutor”, who evaluates the work of the employee in order to help him do his job better.
- Explain to employees that unlike other control systems, MD Audit provides an opportunity to improve. A single score shows the current situation, but the system has a tool to track the situation over time. Thus, if an employee makes an effort to improve his work, it will be immediately visible to his supervisor.
We would like to write that right after the implementation of these recommendations the client had everything worked out, but it wasn't that easy. It took time to change the staff's opinion about the system, but most importantly, the result was achieved. Having formed the staff loyalty to MD Audit, our client began to receive all the benefits of using the system.
People don't resist innovation
From our story let us return to the general question of how to build staff loyalty to innovation. This is not difficult if you understand that employees resist only those innovations that they consider harmful to themselves. The most important thing is that this opinion may be erroneous, as we discussed previously. Our client staff did not understand the true purpose of the system and were confident that MD Audit would make the job more complex.
The first task in implementing any innovation is to ensure staff loyalty to it. You have to stick to simple rules for that:
- Explain the meaning of the innovation in the language of your employees. Use simple words, explain complex terms in detail.
- Pay great attention to the benefits that employees will receive when using innovations.
- Show the work of innovation in practice.
Thus, you will ensure the staff loyalty to the innovation and get the desired result.