Thoughts on how to help members of staff accept a new WMS

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Installing a new Warehouse Management System represents a significant investment in both money and time, so it can be frustrating when some members of the workforce reject change before it is even introduced. Here, Tony Liddar from MACS Software, looks at how companies can help their staff embrace new technology.

Nobody really likes change. The familiar is comfortable, understandable, trusted. But keeping up with the latest technology is an essential part of every business, like it or not. Some people embrace it: especially the young who have lived most of their lives in an environment of constant change. Others might not feel the same way.

Senior members of staff are the ones with the experience. They have been the bedrock on which the business has thrived; the driving force that has created success. They must be cherished, encouraged, and above all, their knowledge should be valued. But how can you encourage someone who might be comfortable with things the way they are, to embrace change and use their knowledge to ensure that change is always for the best?

Some people tend to be nervous of computers, they don't trust them; they are frustrated by them. If a new system is introduced they might be unwilling to accept it, finding unnecessary fault or even being deliberately obtuse in the hope of demonstrating that the 'old ways' were better.

When managing change within a corporate hierarchy, employees in relatively junior positions, brought up on a diet of Xbox, PS4 and social media, could overnight become the 'go to' people for advice on how to use a new system. Change for them will be natural, intuitive. This can undermine more experienced people's authority and demoralise their morale. Similarly, having a more transparent system removes the need for 'local knowledge', something that would have been jealously guarded by staff members with longer service.

That said, experienced people provide the stability, loyalty, sensibility and solid structure that companies need, especially those that are growing rapidly. Managed properly, they can be encouraged to embrace change, to see the value of technology for both themselves and the company and to use their experience to ensure the most constructive blend of the new and the old.

How best to prevent resistance to change

Companies need to take an holistic view when introducing new systems. There is no point in imposing a system from on high with little or no consultation; this is bound to cause resentment. Instead, by involving people from all areas of the business right from the concept stage, it is possible to achieve full buy-in throughout the process. Senior staff members are likely to respond well to this approach as it demonstrates that their position within the organisation is respected.

During a period of significant change it might be necessary to take a more dynamic approach to the typical job functions in a business to make the best use of the talent employed. It must not be assumed, for example, that managers are the most appropriate trainers, they may not be. Very often the impression a manager has of the way things are done, for example, might be very different from the practice on the shop floor.

Trainers will need to be trained anyway so the people who are selected as trainers need to be those who are most able to fulfil the role. It might not be a manager but someone in an operational role who is easily accessible, available and happy to help on a day-to-day basis. If more senior people have been part of the selection process they will be happy to receive instruction from someone who, in other respects, is junior to them.

It should be acknowledged also that different people learn in different ways. Some might prefer classroom instruction, some a more hands-on approach. Some will be happy to follow written instructions while others might prefer to be taught in a more visual way. A person who is dyslexic will need appropriate help to ensure that the information is presented to them in the best way. Older people might need a little extra time as some do not have such a natural affinity with technology as youngsters. However, that time will be well spent when the person is able fully to embrace the new system and have the background knowledge, gained over many years, to provide additional depth of experience.

Whilst all employees have their own interests at heart, most also understand the fundamental relationship between the company's success and their own. They know that by achieving greater efficiency and improving customer service they will be helping the company grow; as long as they can see that there are also benefits to them, in the form of better working conditions, better remuneration or career enhancement, they will be happy to accept new technology.

Most people, will blossom with new technology. With a little extra planning to keep everyone engaged from the beginning it's possible to make the transition smooth, keep staff happy and, ultimately, ensure the future prosperity of the organisation for the benefit of all concerned.

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