Dealing With Employee Resistance to Change

June 1, 2012

Shop owners should strive to create an organization that is a true asset, with habits and behaviors to attract more customers, says Bill Park of consulting firm mpowerU. Changes in the shop will have to occur periodically for that to happen. You can’t keep doing things the way you did years ago, whether it relates to administration, production, or sales and marketing processes. That’s how you outperform your competition and win in business.

FenderBender talked to Park about how to implement change within your organization, and how to get your staff on board to avoid employee pushback.

You have to test your organization’s values before any change can happen. Every business should have a set of core values that employee behaviors need to align with. So it’s important for shop operators to identify those values, and test employees to understand who is in alignment and who is not.

There are resources available to do that. Websites such as have free tests to administer that will determine the values within your organization and employees. That will help you determine which of your employees might cause problems when you attempt to implement change. For example, it will reveal who comes to work each day with self-interests. Those are the people who are likely to resist change.

It’s a huge benefit if you know that information up front. You want to make sure you have the right people in place before the change process begins. That’s because employees who are not in alignment with your business values will cause commotion behind the scenes, and will try to convince other employees that changes are bad. So testing employee values helps to build a team that will make you more successful moving forward. Implementing change becomes much easier once you do that.

Still, you will likely experience a little bit of employee resistance to change. New things often feel uncomfortable for employees because you’re asking them to alter the way they’ve worked for several years. Employees commonly resist change because they don’t feel part of the decision-making process or purpose behind doing it. In addition, employees often believe that management has a hidden agenda driving new initiatives, and the benefit of the change is rarely expressed to them. They will resist any type of change that they either don’t understand or don’t see the benefit of. It requires time, effort and communication to jump that hurdle.

Communication between employees and management is the biggest factor when it comes to implementing change. Leaders have a responsibility to be honest and blunt about why they’re making certain decisions. It’s critical to explain the reasoning behind the change based on financial or historic data, how you plan to do it and how you expect it to work out.

Shop operators often try to spin the real reason why they want to make a change, rather than to simply be honest. Necessary changes to improve the business are not always beneficial to employees, but you have to make decisions that will best serve the organization as a whole. For example, you may need to make a change regarding labor to increase gross profit. Of course, nobody wants to make less money, and shop leaders tend to be afraid to say that for fear of losing employees. That causes owners to pitch new ideas to employees in weird ways. But employees can sense that, which leads to mistrust within the organization. And that ultimately results in poor customer engagement, decreased production and diminished work quality because people stop caring about what they’re doing.

Long-term success of the business is the main component to focus on when introducing changes to employees. The primary purpose of any business is to grow customers; it’s unlikely you’ll be around for the long haul if that’s not happening. People want to be affiliated with a successful enterprise, so they should have legitimate concerns that risks might be on the horizon if the business isn’t growing. Convey that message to your staff.

You can’t expect people to suddenly change overnight. It takes time to get used to new processes. It helps to set expectations throughout the phase-in period. Acknowledge to employees that you may experience a few setbacks and poor results in the beginning of the change process, and that you expect that to happen. But it’s important to set an expectation that you want 100 percent participation.

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