Change is a natural part of life for any sales organization, and with it is the need for strong change management. If you’re not seeing consistent change, you’re probably stagnating. But just because it’s normal doesn’t mean it’s any less stressful when big changes com up on your team.
Change requires everyone to make adjustments, but it doesn’t have to be catastrophic for team morale and productivity. Here are seven change management best practices for facilitating smooth transitions:
1. Cultivate a culture that is comfortable with change.
When a procedural change creates tension, it’s oftentimes because your sales team has grown complacent. To protect against this tendency, managers need to foster an environment where change is expected.
A few ideas:
- In the hiring process, communicate clearly the need for adaptability in your employees.
- Switch up where your employees work and what their daily routines look like.
- Experiment with having team members work under different managers.
- Challenge reps to carry out new projects and responsibilities.
- Periodically adjust and improve compensation plans with the input of your reps.
By doing a few critical things like these, you communicate to your employees that your company is a dynamic organization that not only rolls with change, but thrives because of it.
2. Keep team members up to date on upcoming changes.
Employees understand that changes happen, but it’s hard to recover from a lack of transparency.
Make sure you are forthright with your team throughout the entire transition process. Announce new policies, personnel departures, or other shifts as soon as you can to avoid rumors swirling.
Explain the thought process behind it, and demonstrate how the team stands to benefit from the change. This shows that you consider your employees as partners who are invested in the company’s success.
Keep your employees informed throughout the entire process. Let them know about major milestones in the process as soon as you can.
3. Create a plan in place for day-to-day activities.
Major changes can leave team members feeling on the outside. To ward off confusion, create a detailed plan for how day-to-day sales activities will proceed during the transition period. No one should have any questions about what they need to do.
Put the plan in writing.
For procedural changes, it can also be helpful to implement changes gradually. For example, you could ask employees to do one process differently. After they’ve gotten a chance to get used to it, implement the next step.
If you’ve fostered a workplace where change is the norm, they’ll be able to pivot to new processes with relative ease.
4. Delegate tasks appropriately during the transition.
Major changes oftentimes mean a heavier workload for all, so everyone should step in to fill in the gaps. It shouldn’t fall on one or two people alone, even if they volunteer for it. While some managers may feel inclined to step in and try to do everything themselves, that’s a recipe for burnout.
Try to evenly divide the new workload so that no one is in danger of being buried in work.
Keep an eye on everyone who has an increased workload or new tasks to make sure that they’re able to handle it. When necessary, suggest that struggling reps or managers delegate tasks to ease the burden.
5. Check in with employees regularly during transitions.
Even a well-planned transition will run into hiccups along the way. Ensure that your employees are comfortable with the changes by staying in close communication with them.
During the transition process, managers should be particularly visible to the rest of the sales department. Make yourself available to anyone who has concerns.
It’s not enough just to open your office door. Be proactive and meet with employees one-on-one. Ask them for honest feedback on how the process is going. Listen to their concerns carefully and follow up with a plan of action if necessary.
Keep in mind when there’s a major change, most people are going to be concerned about how they personally will be affected. Give them the information they need so they can feel comfortable.
6. Involve employees in the change management process.
Involving employees in the change management process fosters a sense of ownership over any transition. Instead of being relegated to the role of passive observer, they can feel like valued members of the team.
Try to include employees of all levels on the committees that will be making major decisions–their input can help refine and enhance your new process. Additionally, once you implement a major change, these employees will be able to act as ambassadors for the new process to their coworkers. Approach it the same way you would implementing a major software program.
Even employees who are not decision makers during the change should be consulted in the planning stages. You do not want them to feel as though large changes have been imposed against their will.
7. Demonstrate appreciation for employees’ extra efforts.
Everyone is going to be under some additional strain during large transitions. Let your reps know how much you appreciate them stepping up. People will be more willing to take on additional work if they feel like their efforts are being recognized.
During the transition period, don’t try to forgo any of the fun and relaxing activities you do to de-stress in the workplace. Ice cream Fridays, motivational videos, and all of that fun stuff should still be a part of your workplace environment. You might even try to throw in a few extra goodies that remind your team why they enjoy working at your company.
There’s no doubt that change is hard. But by following these change management guidelines, you can turn a potentially damaging event into an opportunity to shore up your team.