A Change Management Process that Works

To smooth technology adoption, win employees' support through communication, training and listening.

In today’s construction industry, if you’re not changing, you’re falling behind. Companies that find smart ways to incorporate digital technology into their operations will pull ahead of their peers — and better position themselves for an industry downturn — by working more efficiently and effectively.

But change doesn’t happen with the push of a button or turn of a key. Identifying the right technology to adopt is one thing; rolling it out and getting employees on board is another.

“Change is hard,” said Melissa Hanna, United Rentals director of talent management, at the United Rentals 2019 Total Control & Innovation Conference in San Antonio, Texas. “The path of least resistance is appealing.”

A strong change management plan is key. It should outline not only how to execute the change but also how to inspire employees to buy into it.

United Rentals is no stranger to implementing change. Since its inception in 1999, it has grown by more than 4,000 employees and navigated through more than 280 acquisitions. To get its own employees on board with changes, it follows a set of best practices it developed. Hanna, along with Jenna Lansky, United Rentals customer digital sales manager, outlined those best practices in a conference workshop aimed at helping customers adopt Total Control, United Rentals’ cloud-based worksite management solution.

Consider these tips the next time you roll out new technology at your company.

Communicate the vision

Change starts with a clear vision of the change needed and the reason behind it. Without that vision, employees won’t follow. Senior leadership should understand the vision and communicate it through high-level messages. Executive sponsorship of the change is essential to broad acceptance.

Local leaders must be champions of the change, explaining to team members not just how the organization will benefit but also WIIFM — what’s in it for me. These leaders should address how the change will impact the way work is performed and outline how each employee’s responsibilities will be affected.

It’s helpful to prepare an elevator speech, a 30-second to 60-second explanation of what’s changing and why, to help sell the idea whenever the topic comes up.

Use a variety of methods to spread the message, such as emails, conference calls, in-person meetings and group texts. United Rentals uses an internal message board, Workplace by Facebook, to post announcements about changes and provide employees a forum for asking questions about them.

melissa hanna united rentals presentation tcic 2019

Jenna Lansky, United Rentals customer digital sales manager, presents at the 2019 Total Control & Innovation Conference.

Train or hire the talent you need

Identify the experience skillset and capabilities employees will need to make adoption of the change successful. If your existing talent isn’t sufficiently equipped, you may need to hire new people with the required skillsets and/or identify employees who could be trained to help implement the change.

All employees will require some level of training for every type of change, from simple awareness training — what the change is and why the organization is making it — to more detailed training on how to perform new tasks or use the new technology. A knowledge guide that explains the benefits of the new technology and how it works is a good resource for employees.

“If someone has had a positive experience with change, they will be more open to it. If someone has experienced a negative consequence of a change, they’ll be less likely to receive it. So you need to understand that people don’t accept change the same way, and meet them where they are.”

Jenna Lansky, United Rentals Customer Digital Sales Manager

Listen to feedback

Listening is the most important, and most overlooked, factor in change management. When managers listen, stakeholders and employees affected by the change have the chance to voice their concerns and also contribute suggestions that may be valuable.

Don’t simply appear to listen; really pay attention. Wait until the person has finished speaking to respond. If necessary, ask for clarification to make sure you truly understand what they’re telling you. 

“Watch for non-verbal cues, which can reveal a lot about whether someone is open to receiving the information or whether they’re closed off,” advised Lansky. Gear your interactions to what the other person appears to be feeling. If you see or hear hesitations or concerns, ask for suggestions on how problems could be addressed.

Establish success metrics

Before an organization begins to implement change, it should determine how to measure the success of that change. What KPIs will you use to track how successful the implementation is and whether or not you’re realizing the desired benefits? What reports or reviews will be needed during the change adoption period and beyond?

Remember: What gets measured and inspected gets respected. The KPIs you choose to track will be the ones employees pay attention to.

Implement in stages

Consider introducing the change in stages to avoid overwhelming employees. If you’re introducing a technology tool, you might focus on a few basic features first.

Consider having one key player or a group of people test-drive it before you roll it out to everyone. If they have a positive experience, they can communicate that to their peers and serve as change agents.

Allow sufficient time

Maintain realistic expectations about how long it will take for employees to adopt the change. Recognize that people accept change at their own pace.

“If someone has had a positive experience with change, they will be more open to it. If someone has experienced a negative consequence of a change, they’ll be less likely to receive it,” said Lansky. “So you need to understand that people don’t accept change the same way, and meet them where they are.”

Winning employees’ hearts and minds is key. When you take the time to make sure they understand the reasons for the new way of working and the benefits for them and the company, and you provide enough training so they feel comfortable with it, you’ll be well on your way to implementing lasting change.

Mary Lou Jay is a freelance writer who has been covering business and technical developments in the residential and commercial construction industries for more than 25 years.

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