Is Your Staff Ready?

Oct 1, 2004

Katherine Spencer Lee

Your IT staff are no doubt used to dealing with rapid technological changes, however, they may be less prepared for larger and often unexpected business developments, such as mergers, acquisitions and company reorganizations.

Even when the news is positive, some employees may still show signs of resistance. That's because everyone reacts differently to change. Many people become accustomed to the status quo and don't want to alter the way things are done -- regardless of the potential benefits. Some may have a fear of the unknown. Still others may be concerned about the ramifications on their jobs.

So, to get everyone on board with change, you need to have a clear strategy.

What follows are some techniques that can help:

Start early. Share as much information as you can with your employees and solicit their input on key decisions. For instance, if your firm is planning to expand into another country, ask your IT staff for their ideas on how to manage the increased demands.

Do they feel much of the necessary service to that country can be handled remotely? Are they aware of unique technological issues that may arise? What are their initial concerns about this business move, if any?

By encouraging involvement and open communication, you will help them feel a part of the change and increase their support of the initiative.

Just be sure that you wait until the proposed business development is a certainty before informing staff. If there is a chance it may not materialize, you don't want to cause undue concern. Employees will take future news far less seriously if they believe the change may not actually happen.

Take the lead. Your team will be looking to you for guidance, so it's up to you to set the right example. If you complain about recent developments, managers and staff are likely to take a cue from you and adopt a negative mindset.

While you should acknowledge potential hurdles, reassure employees by sharing your plans for overcoming these challenges. And be realistic. If you tell already overworked staff the spike in IT demands after another firm is acquired "won't be that bad," you may appear insensitive to valid concerns and employee resistance may grow.

Ongoing communication is critical. Even if there's nothing new to report, it's better to say so than to let people draw their own conclusions. Some employees will assume the worst when they receive little information. Encourage your managers to also keep employees informed and to remain approachable should anyone have questions.

Tailor your talks. What you say is often not as powerful as how you say it.

Pay attention to the way you present information and solicit feedback. Some employees may prefer to participate in group discussions about the change, while others may want to offer their comments to you individually. So, be sure to allot time after larger department meetings for one-on-one discussions.

Additionally, take note of the group dynamic. Who are the most respected employees on the team? These are the individuals who can play a role in gaining acceptance for company developments, so you should try to enlist their support early on. They may be able to turn reluctant staff members into supporters through their own enthusiasm.

Be consistent. As the saying goes, "Actions speak louder than words." If you ask staff for their suggestions, you must give serious consideration to the input received. While you don't have to use every recommendation, you should make sure the best ideas are implemented or employees may believe their opinions were never truly valued.

It may take some staff members longer than others to adapt to change. Strive to communicate information about developments early on and then provide ongoing updates to keep employees in the loop on the latest activity. Include everyone in the process by soliciting their input and addressing their concerns. You will help increase acceptance, maintain staff morale and ensure the successful implementation of the new initiative.

Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a provider of IT professionals for initiatives ranging from e-business development and multi-platform systems integration to network engineering and technical support. Robert Half Technology has more than 100 locations in the North America and Europe, and offers online job search services at


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