Managing change: how should you implement the changes that automation brings to people’s jobs?

Technology is developing at a rapid pace, which means that in many industries, jobs that people used to do will be automated and handled by robots. So where does this leave people?

One area of business operations that is certainly not going anywhere in the near future is customer relations and add-on sales. This means that new responsibilities could be added to the tasks that experts do, and some of these could well be closely linked to customer service or even add-on sales. Both the organization and the employees will need to make a lot of changes.

Getting supervisors and employees committed to the change

Supervisors will also be facing changes. Whereas earlier there was no particular need to coach a professional expert – all you needed to do was to ensure that their expertise was kept up-to-date – changing roles will mean that supervisors are going to need coaching skills, too. These skills can be helpful when supervisors need to ensure a smooth transition to new responsibilities. Because of this, it is a good idea to introduce changes and initiate discussions with the supervisors at an early stage. The goal of these discussions is to find out what they think and to get them involved in the coming changes.

Together with the supervisors, you can brainstorm about the challenges and solutions that the change will bring. You can also use this opportunity to start planning a clear and detailed schedule for the changes. When do you want to have the change process completed, and what does that mean in practice? Once everyone has a clear vision of the change and a plan for implementation, it is time to get to work.

In practice, a good way to start this is by having one-on-one conversations between a supervisor and an employee. After this, you could arrange an info event for everyone and then move on to organizing various work groups and giving each of them areas of responsibility in the implementation of the changes. It is best if participating in the workshops is voluntary and participants are chosen based on their interests. If this method sounds too intense, there are definitely other ways of encouraging participation as well. The key is to implement the changes together and to ensure that everyone who is interested has a chance to participate.

Invest in training and coaching

Training is definitely worth investing in. Supervisors need training on how to take a coaching approach to their work and to change management. The training should be extensive and very practical. It should offer opportunities to practice the future changes. It is also worth including emotions as one of the training topics. Changes always trigger emotions, and it is crucially important that supervisors understand the employees’ feelings. In this area, I can warmly recommend Emergy Oy’s services based on my own experiences. The training focuses on understanding the emotional atmosphere and learning to control it through practical exercises.

The training that employees will need is highly dependent on what the change will be like. If the aim is to add more tasks related to customer management to the job description of your experts, they should receive training on the basics of customer service. Customer relationship management training is also useful in this situation. Even if the new activities are more sales-oriented, customer relationship management training where sales activities are presented as a part of customer service may be an easier way to approach the matter. At the early stages, sales training as a concept can startle people and create a strong resistance to the changes.

Living and developing among changes

Once the change has been initiated, development begins. Development should be monitored through goals set for the entire organization. An easy way to set goals is to create work groups for different topics. Once these groups have their goals, they can be turned into goals for the entire organization, which are then monitored together. This encourages people to commit to achieving the common goal. Make the goals as clear as possible. There should not be too many of these large-scale goals; four should be considered as a maximum. Under these four major goals, you can add several smaller goals that will lead to achieving the main goal. These smaller goals should be monitored in the work groups, and they will also help guide everyone’s actions.

Coaching as a focus

One-on-one meetings between an employee and a supervisor should be arranged at least once a month. This gives the employee an opportunity to open up about how they feel, and the supervisor should listen, try to understand and offer help to the best of his or her abilities. The goal for these conversations is to identify concrete actions that the employee can take to develop his or her skills for new tasks. In these meetings, the employee should also receive recognition for successes! The contents of these discussions should be recorded in writing, in particular the agreed improvement actions, so that it is really possible to monitor them together.

You should also do some side-by-side coaching. This means that an employee’s supervisor supports the employee throughout the workday, listens to customer interactions and gives the employee regular feedback on the work he or she does. This also gives the employee an excellent opportunity to ask about any challenges he or she faces and to mention potential issues in, for example, the organization’s processes. Once again, all observations need to be written down so that processes can be improved and the employee receives feedback on how he or she is performing and, most importantly, developing.

QualityDesk provides an excellent coaching tool whose highly intuitive user interface makes it simple to use. Therefore, you do not need to spend time learning to use the tool. It can be used to record information on, for instance, coaching sessions and the agreed actions. Everyone can see these in their own user interface, which also allows them to write down any observations they make during their workdays. Our software is also well suited for side-by-side coaching, since you can create a separate evaluation form for these assessments. The form is used to collect observations on the way people are working, which is valuable to the organization and makes coaching a lot easier. It also provides a clear view of the organization’s development, thus promoting successes and good practices! So contact me, and we can support you in change management!

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Ville Mikkonen

Ville Mikkonen

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