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Cliff Holste is Supply Chain Digest's Material Handling Editor. With more than 30 years experience in designing and implementing material handling and order picking systems in distribution, Holste has worked with dozens of large and smaller companies to improve distribution performance.

Logistics News

By Cliff Holste

April 9, 2014



Direct Communication Can Dispel Fears Associated With Operational Changes

Best Practices for Gaining Employee Buy-in



When planning improvement projects, in addition to solving all of the highly technical design and business related issues, addressing worker considerations upfront can improve project success. Operational improvement projects, especially those that include automation, no matter how well intentioned they may be, can run up against resistance from those employees whose jobs will be affected. The “FUD factor” (Fear, Uncertainly, & Doubt) can impede progress and when left unchecked – jeopardize project success.

Based on surveys of recently completed DC improvement projects, we assembled a list of the best practices that can improve the chances of employee buy-in:


Holste Says:

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Operational improvement projects, especially those that include automation, no matter how well intentioned they may be, can run up against resistance from those employees whose jobs will be affected.
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Previous Columns by Cliff Holste

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Sorting It Out : Product Sequencing - The "Smart" Way to Build Mixed SKU Pallet Loads

Sorting It Out: What Kind Of Investment Does It Take To Implement Sortation In A DC?

Sorting It Out : Laser & Camera Based Scanning Solutions

Sorting It Out : The Challenge of Incorporating a Business Within a Business

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If consultants and/or corporate level employees are on the project team, make sure that they get along with and work closely with DC operations managers and supervisors. DC system implementations are most successful when they involve people throughout the company across departmental lines supporting and driving the implementation.

 

 

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Early in the planning and development stage, have HR meet with employees to explain what changes will result from the project and why management feels those changes are necessary. Reassure that professional on-site re-training programs will be made available to all affective employees.

 

 

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Get any new labor standards completed early so that employees know well in advance what the expectations will be.

 

 
Create enthusiasm by providing those directly affected with specially made Tee-shirts, pizza lunches, or other appropriate ways to celebrate important project implementation milestones and show appreciation of their team efforts.

 
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Do advance trouble-shooting with your IT department to anticipate issues like host interface and RF coverage for handheld and mobile devices making sure you have enough capacity to cover peak periods. Consider lessons learned from the October 2013 launch of ObamaCare!

 

Form teams of on-site trainers. It is often helpful to have actual users conduct the training. Classroom and hands-on training should be a part of your continuous improvement program.

 

 
There can sometimes be a generation gap between long-term employees and newer “younger” employees when it comes to their willingness to embrace change. By involving front-line workers who can speak to both groups (young and old), companies increase the likelihood that all employees will adapt to the new MHS technologies.

 
Devise some type of label and tracking method for all user equipment such as handheld and/or wearable scanners and create a problem-tracking log, especially in the beginning. Also, ensure that support processes are well established and in-place prior to the system going live.

 
If you have, or are considering, a BYOD strategy, make sure you have specific an enforceable security and HR policies in place.

 
Supervisors may need additional coaching/training on managing with real-time performance tracking data.

 
Position your improvement project as an asset in your recruitment and retention efforts. This is especially important if automation technologies are deployed.


The logistics executives we interviewed strongly recommended a proactive approach to including key DC associates in the implementation process. The following are a few examples of messages you may want to communicate to your workforce leaders to help counter some of the most common employee objections:

 

For employees fearful of losing their jobs due to increased productivity: Instead of stressing the productivity benefits of the project, emphasize how easy the MHS is to use, and how it will make their jobs more enjoyable.

For employees fearing for their safety: Emphasize the number of workers across the industries that use similar technologies. There are, for example, thousands of DC workers using Voice Systems around the world every single day. You’ll also want to talk about the safety benefits of wearable computers, and how the headsets free up both hands and eyes, allowing employees to pay more attention to the surrounding environment.

For employees who are uncomfortable with change and new things: Be certain to make employees aware of the on-going training and mentoring that will be available to help them adapt to the change. Also, convey that technologies like RF, Pick-to-Light, and Voice are user-friendly, and that many employees also find them enjoyable to use.

For bilingual workers who do not understand or speak the company’s main language very well: Reassure them that the deployment will not put their jobs in jeopardy; in fact, because of the many text and text-to-speech languages that are available, it will help them be even more effective and successful on the job.

For employees showing resistance after the changes has been installed: Employees might be concerned that the voice system (for example) will prevent them from talking to their co-workers, or that all their actions will be monitored. In that event, tell them you aren’t going to stop them from talking with each other – that there are ways of putting the system on standby temporarily. From a management perspective, the primary goal is for employees to meet their accuracy and productivity levels, while giving them some freedom in their on-the-job peer relationships.


Final Thoughts

In today’s hi-tech rapidly changing world, alleviating employee technology adoption concerns may seem unnecessary. Still, some will be slow to adapt and require a more gradual adoption process. By bring good, but somewhat hesitant employees along thru properly structured re-training programs, the dreaded FUD factor can be put to rest.



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