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Dear Workforce How Do We Persuade Our Workforce to Take on More Tasks

What’s the best way to convince a stressed workforce that adding certain steps to a process will in the long run save time and increase the quality of their work? In a nutshell, we want them to do a better job of anticipating customer needs. Although this adds a step, we believe the net result should result in fewer requests from customers, thus saving time in the long run.
March 31, 2006
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Dear Meeting Resistance:

Two Dear Workforce experts, Carl Nielson and Scott Weston, weigh in separately.
First, Carl Nielson:
This sounds like a re-engineering effort in a way. Most re-engineering projects result in eliminating low-valued processes or tasks, usually by automation and/oroutsourcing. Any re-engineering effort can be met with resistance. In this case, adding steps to a process may receive even greater resistance. No matter what's changing,change is one of those nasty words that create stress for many people.
Involve the people who are being affected by these changes. Getting their buy-in usually provides significantly better results than something concocted in a vacuum. Form focus groups composed of employees from throughout the organization, especially those who will be directly affected by the changes. Identify and include stakeholders. Hold meetings--perhaps fun pizza lunches--to present the high-level goal (for example, the new process and the expected outcome).
During the meeting, present the proposed new steps in appropriate detail as an idea you are exploring to accomplish a specific goal: improving the ability to anticipate customer needs. Ask the same specifically worded questions in every focus group, such as:
  • What about these proposed added new steps can we improve?
  • Are there other steps, methods or ideas that might be implemented?
  • How would you want the new steps implemented?
  • What barriers do you see to a smooth implementation?
Use all the information gathered from the focus groups to improve upon steps before rolling them out. Also, identify those in attendance at the focus group meetings who respond positively to the proposed changes. Consider inviting those people to be part of the implementation team. Also include the most vocal opponents to the changes on the implementation team. Have team members provide ongoing input into all aspects of the new steps.
Implementing the new steps requires preparation and communication. Start with clear, upbeat communications. Consider building an entire PR campaign around the new steps.Incentives may be appropriate, but remember that employees want to improve if given the right tools and training. Putting incentives into the mix may or may not be effective.
Move to training after everyone has received appropriate communications about the impending changes. Set up a hotline to answer questions during the initial phase. As a follow-up, hold a final focus-group lunch meeting to celebrate the successful implementation and get feedback for improving what already is in place.
Now, Scott Weston's view:
Sales trainer Tom Hopkins has said it well: "If I say it, they can doubt me. If they say it, it is true."
Rather than trying to just "sell" the change to your staff, the best approach is to explore with them the truth of your hypothesis and then involve them in identifying a solution. By doing this, instead of just convincing them of your conclusions and why change must be implemented, you involve them in creating a solution they're much more likely to embrace.
There are two parts to this equation:
  • You're probably right, but even if your assumption about saving time is true, you really need to base it on facts. Saying "just because" won't win anyone over.
  • If you haven't gathered the facts yet, start collecting them along with your team. This also will help sell any changes.
Depending on the size of your workforce, this might be best accomplished by selecting a team of frontline staff to gather data, analyze it and then draw conclusions. For example, you can gather customer requests from a certain time period. This could be for a day, a week or a month. Then you can organize them into two basic groups:
  • Customer requests that could have been avoided.
  • Customer requests that could not have been avoided.
Look at the requests that could have been avoided and organize them into groups based on the reasons. Next, you should prioritize these groups based on a) their volume and b) your ability to avoid them. The groups with the highest volume and the highest ability to be remedied should be your first priority. Then you can address the lower-priority groups.
It sounds like this will be a work in progress and your staff's anticipation of customer needs will improve as they find ways to prevent these requests earlier in the process.
Taking the time to explore the requests you are talking about with your frontline staff and involving them in devising solutions will help persuade them to become advocates of change. Be open to other possible outcomes too. A different solution may emerge from your discussions.
SOURCE: Scott Weston, Falcon Strategic Group, San Francisco, May 13, 2005. Carl Nielson, principal, theNielson Group, Dallas, May 12, 2005.
LEARN MORE: How Do We Get Workers to Embrace Change? Also, the role ofincentives in changing behavior.
The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.
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 The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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