Let's take this down to a personal level. When you left school, quite some time back for many of us, you were preparing for the transition into the workforce or tertiary institution long before you sat down to write those all-important final exams.
For those of you who have kids – when baby number two was on the way, did you go out of your way to ensure that your first child was well prepared? Chances are you involved many family members and friends
with a view to their helping with the adjustment.
Now let’s apply this principle to the workplace.
Scenario: A paint manufacturer, Company A, is bringing a revolutionary new product to market. It is the result of many years' research and everyone at the Head Office in Johannesburg is very excited. It rolls off the production line and the telesales people and reps are eager to start promoting it. Even the receptionist has been trained on its efficacy and feels like part of the team. A lot of thought has been put into incorporating this new product with their existing line and it’s all stations go for the Johannesburg office
Now, let’s look at how well briefed their large Cape Town office has been. Their stock of the new product is already on the trucks on its way down to them. Given how well they had prepared their head office staff, it should follow logically that their Cape Town and Durban offices have been kept in the loop
In actual fact, no one has really thought to thoroughly brief these offices
– it has been kind of taken for granted that the coastal branch staff will have absorbed all the new knowledge by some kind of telepathic process. Why? Because the team that handled the introduction in Johannesburg hadn’t done their homework with regards to briefing, training and promoting the new product to staff countrywide. They just assumed that someone would be doing it....
Well, no one has done so. A huge delivery of the new product arrives at the Cape Town branch, is offloaded and packed somewhat haphazardly, because the warehouse manager hadn’t had notice of its impending arrival
. The Branch Manager, who knows a little about the amazing benefits of the product, calls his team together and shares his sparse knowledge. They are then sent out with a brief to push this new paint with all of their customers. After all, it’s done so well up country!
Now, remembering that this is a highly technical product, how enthusiastically do you think the Cape Town reps are going to punt it, given their lack of training
? Add to this the fact that no one in the branch feels the least bit excited and tends to view this whole process and something HQ has autocratically imposed on them – typical of Head Office! Why do they need another roofing paint, they have been selling the other ones for years and know and trust them. And so the resistance builds.
After three months, Johannesburg can see that the branch is not moving the paint – sales are very slow
and they are continuously phoning Head Office with questions and complaints. The General Manager finally decides to send one of the research specialists down to Cape Town to help them decipher the complicated instruction manuals which accompanied the product. However, no one is free to travel for the next six weeks, so there’s a further lag in training.
They’re in a highly competitive business
and another huge paint company has been developing a product very similar to their own. They push to get their new product to market ASAP after thorough training and promotion has been done within all their employees. The product starts flying off the shelves.
By the time the Johannesburg representative from Company A has arrived to train their Cape Town Branch, Company B has already cornered the market.
This is not an unusual scenario and plays out in different incarnations within companies all the time. It’s all about understanding that anything new or different requires adjustments, even if it’s positive. These adjustments need to be handled in a structured and systematic fashion. Staff need to be kept informed, engagement must be fostered.
A clear and well defined model needs to be put in place to handle all the possible risks and build on the positives of the change.
Depending on the scope of the change taking place, there needs to be a dedicated team
for whom the process becomes a core function. As with any project, they need to see it through to completion.
All companies/departments are living entities and change is and should be part of the landscape. If the importance of managing this process is not recognised, it’s inevitable that your staff won’t buy in and without them on your side, it really doesn’t matter how good the new product is likely to be.
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