Change is good, granted you can pull it off. Small business owners know change is inevitable but getting their staff on board and changing successfully may be easier said than done. Arming workers with the skills to effect change may help but according to Forum, the consulting company that links learning to strategic business objectives, it’s not enough.

“Change is absolutely a core element of what needs to happen in business all the time,” says Beth Griep, vice president, advance workplace learning at Forum. “Businesses are spending quite a lot of time focused on giving people new skills but not spending the same amount of time setting up the environment for the change.”

Instead of pouring all the resources into training employees for new tasks, Griep says small business owners should focus 20% of the time equipping employees with the tools for change, 40% of the time getting the staff aligned with the change and the other 40% making sure that change is sustained.

While it’s true that an employee may need to learn a new skill in order for the change to happen, just giving them the skill won’t ensure the change is successful. Rather, Griep says the skill has to be seen in action and has to be practiced in order for the change to continue.

“Just because we know how to do something doesn’t mean will actually do it,” says Griep. “It takes trial and error and it takes practice.”

For small business owners the first step to exacting change is creating what Forum calls “the alignment.” That means helping employees relate to why they need to make this change and why it has to be done together from the top all the way down. Griep says it’s all about creating a sense that the entire staff is going in the same direction with the change.  Beyond that, employees need to know what is at the end of the tunnel when the change is said and done. 

“The reward may not be financial, it may be a party, or an extra day off,” says Griep. “The business needs to go into how to measure how it’s doing along the way.”

Once the team is aligned, the next step is to define what behaviors are needed for the change to be a success.  That could mean one person has to change a certain behavior while another may have something different he or she needs to shift.

“If you’re going to get where you are going (employees) need to know what things to start doing and what things to stop doing,” says Griep.

After the change is implemented the final step to it being a success is to build a model to make it sustainable. To sustain change, Griep says employees have to practice the change and be held accountable for whatever behavior had to be tweaked. Let’s say your small business is trying to increase its customer retention. One employee may ask another to make sure he or she implores each customer to recommend the organization during a service call while another employee will be held accountable for handling complaint calls in a different manner. The co-workers can de-brief on how they are doing afterwards, which makes the two vested in the outcome.

“Change is not just about money it’s also about time and energy and the success of the change,” says Griep.