How to manage IT changes and boost employee engagement and productivity
Wholesale staff may feel threatened by the introduction of new technology. Here’s how you can win them over.
The trend towards adopting new technologies in wholesale distribution is gathering pace. Wholesalers are increasingly harnessing the latest technologies to deliver growth, profitability and streamlined operations. However, despite the competitive benefits, many wholesalers will encounter stiff internal resistance to new system.
There are always people in an organisation who don't like change. However, there will be employees, managers and senior leaders who will have legitimate concerns about the IT changes you wish to implement. To win their support, you will need to understand the source of their concern and take effective steps to overcome their reservations.
We've identified the top four issues you are likely to face and what steps you can take to promote buy-in.
Wholesale distribution has lagged behind other industries in its adoption and use of new technologies. A survey by McKinsey revealed that for as many as 25% of companies, lack of understanding of digital trends was a main barrier to adoption. Many businesses believe that their current system offers the functionality they need to support them into the future.
You need to demonstrate that confidence in your current IT systems, whether that’s legacy systems, manual processes, or even spreadsheets, is based on a false sense of security. As Deloitte has pointed out in their recent 'Wholesale Distribution Disrupted' report, the industry is fast reaching an inflection point — it is undergoing fundamental changes that will rapidly introduce complex new challenges into the business environment.
The foundation of competition has now changed, with customer experience as the new focus. Wholesale customers have become heavily influenced by their experiences as consumers and apply those high expectations to the businesses they buy from. They want mobile, user-friendly ordering platforms with advanced search options that allow them to compare items. They expect real-time visibility of stock availability, a consistent experience across a range of channels and a variety of fulfilment options.
Outdated IT systems cannot keep pace with these demands. Only an integrated, easy-to-use, automated platform can provide the functionality, agility, real-time responsiveness and analytical capabilities that wholesalers need to deliver the experiences customers expect.
Although your proposed IT changes will deliver significant efficiencies, for example by eliminating manual, spreadsheet-based processes, many managers believe that the severity of internal disruption may outweigh any benefits.
You will need to demonstrate to your staff early on how you plan to keep disruption to a minimum. Early engagement (before implementation) and 360˚ communication are key: be upfront and honest about potential impacts but always show how they will ultimately deliver improvements. These best practices can help you mitigate disruption:
Initial risk assessment and proactive risk management: This will allow you to identify potential issues, including any knock-on effect to other systems and process, as well as to put robust plans in place to monitor and control them.
An industry-specific system: Choose a solution that has been developed for wholesale distribution. It should fit in with the way you do business, not the other way round, be easy to use and be designed with the end-user in mind.
Vendor support: Your vendor should fully support your implementation and always be available to answer your queries and provide best practice for change management. It always helps to have a vendor who truly understands the wholesale market and the challenges you face, so the system you deploy will meet your business requirements.
Many staff members will be set in their ways and will see the need to adopt new working practices and learn new technologies as too burdensome.
Educate the staff about how technology will make their tasks easier and help them to be more productive. As a result, the company benefits as a whole as it grows with more sales, more profit and greater customer satisfaction but with less paperwork to hamper processes.
Make change more personal and responsive to encourage adoption amongst staff. Digital dashboards that allow employees to see their progress in real-time, as well as personalised messages that offer the right information when the person most needs it, can be very effective.
Many employees will believe that the efficiencies delivered by an automated, integrated system will eliminate their jobs.
To reassure your workforce, you will need to show them how IT changes will enhance their job roles. Many onerous, manual and paper-based tasks will be eliminated so that staff will be able to focus more on activities that add value to the business. Technology allows you to:
- Reduce the need for time-consuming stocktakes with real-time inventory visibility.
- Incur fewer delivery errors with the ability to check and amend deliveries onsite.
- Increase picking volumes while reducing errors with a voice-directed and Radio Frequency warehouse management system.
- Eliminate paper-based processes and enable delivery staff to fulfill customer actions, record customer feedback, manage stock uplifts and optimise journey route.
- Reduce the hassle from correcting errors due to wrong picks or shortages
- Allow staff to answer customer queries and take orders while at the customers' site leading to happier customers and increased job satisfaction thanks to Mobile CRM.
- Be aware of substitutes if an item is out of stock.
- Hold more informed meetings with customers with access to stock and customer account information using mobile CRM tools
By taking this approach to overcoming resistance to system change, you will begin to create a sense of opportunity rather than threat. Once the wider business understands that your proposals are about giving them the technology they really deserve to make their tasks easier, staff will feel more comfortable about IT change and will buy in to its benefits.
Topics: Wholesale Distribution Solutions