Handling change resistance when implementing new systems

Routine can seem mundane, but in a workplace it can also be a great backbone of productivity. However, with routine can also come some negatives - an over-reliance on how things are done, an attitude that the established ways are the best ways…basically, a resistance to change.

It’s more obvious in some industries than others. We’ve taken a look at the insurance and legal industries in previous blog posts a little more in depth, identifying the obstacles that these fields face in the digital transformation journey.

And that’s exactly what it should be - a journey. There’s no final destination when it comes to the right/best/safest/time-saving solutions that are in use by a company. There is a reason there seem to constantly be new solutions coming to the market - they’ve identified weaknesses or missing features in current systems and aim to provide a more comprehensive, often game-changing option.

With new options being put on the market at a pace never seen before, selecting the best solution is just part of the process. Implementation of new systems often goes against the comfortable routine with which many employees have become familiar, making resistance one of the most common pitfalls of introducing new systems.

Thankfully, there are steps that can be taken to help smooth over the introduction of new software or tech in the workplace and make the transition considerably smoother and more likely to stick.

But we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves - let’s take a closer look at how to identify when new systems are necessary.

When you know you need new systems

Even software considered the top of its game at introduction can quickly become dated without the proper updates, the needs of companies can change, or businesses can simply outgrow what the system is technically able to offer. In any case, this is often one of the major signs a new system is needed: it becomes difficult to use properly.

Whether it’s small technical issues, glitches in the software due to the provider not managing bug fixes well, or whether it’s simply that the software cannot perform in the way a business needs to work, it’s usually pretty clear that a new solution needs to be found.

This often goes hand-in-hand with another reason that underperforming software is kept around well past its efficacy: that it’s what has always been in place, it worked really well at one point and all the employees are familiar with it…it's a legacy solution that many are unwilling to give up.

It’s easier to say that this wouldn’t be an issue in a company than to deal with the reality of software that has a stronghold and a long history of use within a company. Often, this leads to internal resistance to any newly introduced systems.

The final indicator that it’s time to start looking for new solutions is more on the practical side and, in theory, makes it easier to implement a new solution: due to policy or regulation changes, the current solution does not meet the latest requirements.

Changes in regulation, depending on the industry, can be frequent and sometimes quite sudden. Being able to adapt by implementing new systems quickly that help a company stay compliant is crucial in today’s rapidly moving business world.

Why employees don’t like new systems

Now that you’ve identified why a new solution is necessary it’s time to do the research, make the selection, train employees, and implement the new software. It’s a process but surely the staff will be grateful for a new and improved solution, right?

As mentioned above, employees are often the main reason a new system is not implemented successfully. This is not usually due to wanting to be stubborn or make things difficult, it’s linked to a more general resistance to change.

While that might be too big a topic for this blog post, to simplify it greatly, change resistance generally boils down to lack of understanding, which causes uncertainty and even fear.

In the case of ceasing the use of a system well-known and used by employees, and introducing something completely new, resistance comes from not fully understanding the reasons behind the change.

When they are comfortable, confident, and arguably efficient at using an existing system, a new/different system means a learning period fraught with feelings of not being able to grasp how something works, which could potentially threaten their ability to do their work as effectively as they could with the previous system.

Change resistance is inevitable in a workplace, especially when it comes to new systems that can easily be seen as complex or unnecessary. But there are a few ways to help ensure the change is successful.

How to encourage adoption of new systems

Because resistance is to be expected, there are a number of things a company can do when implementing new systems to help ease the transition and set the new system up for a better, faster rate of adoption amongst employees.

1. Communicate why the new system is necessary.

As mentioned, resistance to change often stems from not understanding the need for change. By making it clear to employees that a system is out of date, doesn’t meet company needs, or does not adhere to the latest regulations, they are kept in the loop and can more easily understand the need for a new solution.

2. Involve them in finding a new system.

Show employees that you care about their opinions - get feedback on the current system: what’s working well? What isn’t? What are some features they like about it? What features would they like to have? This can help them feel heard and can help guide the decision-making process for the new system and also make them more open to a system that was chosen based on their experience and preferences.

3. Take it slow and train in groups.

Make sure that proper training is provided and don’t implement company-wide, all at once. Provide a clear timeline of how training will be structured. Break training down into smaller groups and start with groups most likely to embrace the new system - this can have a positive internal impact on how readily the system is adopted by other groups. Encourage employees to help one another with working with the new system.

4. Don’t stop offering training.

Providing introductory training is just the first step in the process of implementing a new system. It might be off putting for many if they feel pressured to have it mastered with just the first set of lessons. Instead, offer ongoing support and training for employees who find it more difficult to work with the new system. This can make a world of difference in their ability and readiness to accept the change.

While the thought of overhauling the systems a company works with can seem intimidating, the steps above give a clear outline of what to be prepared for, why change resistance occurs, and some simple actions that can be taken to help ensure a new system is introduced successfully.