The word ‘change’ captures the essence of what is happening in the world of business today. Organisations are fighting for survival, cutting costs, downsizing and reorganising in order to move forward. This can have a significant bearing on morale and productivity across every industry – non-less so than the call centre industry.
The only constant in a call centre environment is that things are always changing. These changes can take many forms, have varying timeframes and can often be disruptive. Change is inherently ambiguous and is often met with resistance from staff as a result.
Some of the common changes call centres are faced with include:
- Changing shift patterns
- Rearrangement of floor plans and workstations
- High rates of people coming and going
- Launching new projects/campaigns
- Rolling out new IT systems or software
So how do you instigate and manage change effectively, without having a negative impact on business and the teams involved?
A fundamental technique is to make sure that all individuals involved are fully supported and given time to adjust to the change. This is called ‘transition’.
Change can happen overnight, but the transition period can take much longer. If your workforce is neglected during this process or not helped to adapt properly, change will not have the anticipated effect upon the business.
Keeping transition in mind, the following are 7 simple but effective ways for managing and implementing change in your organisation:
An obvious factor, but clear communication is absolutely vital to things running smoothly.
However, you must choose which communication channels to use – will the change be communicated at a centre-wide brief, a meeting, via email, in a newsletter, or on a notice board? Senior managers should consider using a variety of channels in order to help people better understand what you are telling them.
Consistent and timely communication is also key in helping people digest the change and helps to get their approval. Always highlight the goals and direction of the company as a result of the change, ensuring that you use sincere language, such as: “I’m fully committed to ensuring that everyone is supported throughout this challenging process, but without everyone’s support we cannot move forward…” Then continue to explain the benefits.
2. Manage resistance
Humans like doing things the same way – we are creatures of habit. Taking people out of their comfort zones will inevitably create a bit of panic, negativity or resistance.
Emotions play a large part in the resistance of change. People often associate change with risk to themselves or their job and worry that they won’t be competent to deal with the change once it has been introduced. Some people are naturally sceptics and simply won’t believe that change can or will be done.
Firstly, you need to appreciate that these reactions are human – we can all relate to some point in time when we have resisted in our lives. Secondly, seek out opinions and weigh them up with the people involved in the change, before coming to agreed conclusions.
In doing so, you are avoiding the ‘fight’ and working together, respecting everyone’s input.
Express that you are aware the changes may bring difficulties for individuals but that while you have tried to consider most of the obvious problems, not every eventuality will have been thought of. Subsequently, create opportunities to vent and encourage people to voice their concerns. Letting people talk about their concerns will help deflate the fear of change.
Remember: Silence is NOT golden when communicating change.
3. Demonstrate that change is advantageous
Change is often inevitable, but by encouraging your staff to take a bird’s-eye-view of the landscape, it won’t be so disorientating and will help them keep perspective at all times. Achieve this by having clarity around the future direction of the company, which will allow people to:
i. Feel inspired
ii. Be actively involved in moving the company forward
iii. Hear consistent positive and optimistic messages
4. Ensure senior management are committed to the change
The entire management team must be involved in the creation of the change strategy and on board with the changes you wish to implement. Senior managers should be seen as inspirational and unified – acting as a team to communicate and roll out the changes. Your workforce will naturally be looking for any inconsistencies during periods of change and will be examining the management’s commitment in detail. Should cracks appear, people will begin to have doubts and morale can plummet.
Combat this happening by sharing the roles you expect the management team to have and provide a detailed set of actions.
5. Encourage feedback
People who feel voiceless during periods of change are more likely to drain the energy out of other employees, decrease staff productivity rates and even cause increased turnover. Give people savvier ways to open up than suggestion boxes, and most of all – don’t be offended by the feedback they provide.
Common questions to seek feedback for may include: What is communication with management like? Do you feel satisfied in your job? What tools could be used to help improve your job? How engaged are the workforce?
Another thing to consider during periods of change is to issue a sheet of frequently asked questions (FAQs), demonstrating that the workforce’s questions have been considered.
In conjunction with this, contemplate creating a document with a pictorial illustration of the change and how it will unfold. This type of document is being implemented across various sectors, including the health service, as an effective way to deliver new processes.
7. Establish a Change Team
Choose people who have a high level of credibility within the organisation to lead the way in deploying the change process. Be sure to let them know you fully understand that they have a heavy workload, but that you are confident in their ability to make a huge difference in the company. Explain to the team that they are expected to identify problems and highlight or offer solutions.
Make sure to celebrate their successes, no matter how small they may seem.
Change can be revitalising for an organisation. It can breathe new life into old procedures and remove barriers that have had a substantial impact on productivity.
When embarking on a change process, always remember that in order for it to be effective, you must allow for transition.
People need time to adjust to different things and this often happens at different speeds.