When you implement a new quality management system, the ideas and theory can be great – but if your workforce aren’t sold on the idea, you’re set up for failure. Managing a positive shift in culture change when looking at improving your quality and risk management approaches will enable you to impact on overall employee satisfaction, project success, and – ultimately – business growth.
When it goes wrong
American healthcare provider Aetna experienced a huge requirement in cultural change when the company went through a merger with U.S Healthcare in 1996. The company had already been struggling with change resistance – to the point it was losing money at the rate of $1m per day. The merger involved a huge culture clash but eventually became a success by stepping up the individual accountability required from leadership teams down to the most junior employees.
Lessons learned from examples such as the Aetna cultural shift can be applied to the successful implementation of an enterprise quality management system.
However, many companies struggle with managing behavioural change, whether for a full company culture overall or to integrate software into daily use. A 2013 study showed that a huge 96% of companies believed culture change was needed in their organisation - but 57% agreed that past failures were the main contributing factor to change resistance.
It’s tricky to gain full stakeholder engagement at all levels, so our services director, Chris Owen, has developed a 7 step guide to help you prepare your organisation for success during the culture shift.
#1 Frame change as a sustainable success
Blame culture is all too familiar – especially when it comes to low adoption rates of new processes. By shifting the focus away from blame and putting a positive spin on it, you’ll encourage behavioural change. Rather than highlighting the ramifications of bad behaviour (such as not using new software), demonstrate the positive shift, i.e., the new software will reduce your time spent on administrative tasks and boost your profit margin.
#2 Admit vulnerability to ensure change is taken seriously
It may sound counter-intuitive but a common barrier to uptake of cultural changes is the ‘top down’ form of communication. Leaders who instruct, rather than open a dialogue, are less likely to set their team up for success. Managers who admit they, too, have struggled with changing habits in the past will humanise the process and enable to staff to see that your company recognises change can be difficult – but possible.
#3 Separate objectives from financial incentives
Having financial incentives can be a great motivator – but it can also suppress true employee engagement. Leaders and employees are less likely to admit they have a problem with something if it will affect decisions on their individual finances at year end. Someone whose objectives are not linked to their financial compensation is more likely to reach out for help.
#4 Find your quality champions
Cultural change is a huge part of implementing high quality standards across a company. How people think, act, and feel while they are at work will have a direct impact on quality standards. Find the person in each department who is your quality champion and use them to help spread the word. The more enthusiastic your champions are, the more believable change can seem, and the more likely it is other staff will follow.
#5 Snowball small habits into overall cultural change
It’s much easier to make lots of small changes than flip a switch for total change all of a sudden. Think about crash diets versus lifestyle changes: a crash diet can be effective in the short term but doesn’t teach the positive lessons required for maintenance of health. Lifestyle changes, however, mean continued and cumulative benefits over time. Encourage small habits by setting tasks, such as requesting a weekly report from your EQMS module of choice. Or set different tasks each week – anything that will encourage users to access the system. It could be something as simple as uploading your weekly company newsletter to EQMS Document Manager and requiring an acknowledgement from every user.
#6 Manage accountability by assessment
Reviewing the change process means assessing how leaders and teams are managing their approach to the culture shift. A regular review – at 60 days, 90 days, 120 days, whatever interval you feel is necessary – helps individuals take accountability for their engagement. Knowing that their behaviour will be reviewed on a regular basis will encourage staff to fully commit to the project.
#7 Don't be afraid to challenge hard liners
Every company has their stick-in-the-mud when it comes to culture change – there are usually a few. Give everyone a chance to adapt to change, and monitor with the reviews mentioned above – but those who continually refuse to align with company values will not be committed to helping your organisation achieve its growth potential. You may need to consider replacing those who continuously flout the change requirements, if you truly want a totally committed workforce (and successful attitude towards growth).
What you should do now
Employing software to improve your quality and risk management processes inherently means greater efficiency, clearer processes, a huge reduction in administrative time. All of this adds up to lower operational costs – which not only looks great but allows you more freedom to plan ahead with your business strategy for increased growth.
Stakeholder engagement is essential if you want a new quality management system: without end users and administrators understanding the cultural alignment of quality management with their individual goals and overall business objectives, things will falter. You can set yourself up for success with your quality management system implementation, cultural shift, and overall business growth success with just a few champions to start spreading the EQMS gospel.
Engaged employees from day one: