Continuous improvement and development are necessary for any organization to succeed. However, in order to improve, policies must be changed, and change is never easy. This especially holds true in the manufacturing sector where practices and processes have often been the same for many years, and employees can be very resistant to change. In order to overcome the “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality, there are certain steps you should follow in order to implement policy change.
Identify the Need for the New Policy.
Necessary policies are needed to maintain a safe, organized and efficient workplace. Therefore, you need to make sure the policy is being created for a majority of employees and not just a few exceptions. For example, if a small group of your employees prefers using Brand X machinery over Brand Y machinery, it wouldn’t be necessary to develop a new policy that only impacts Brand X. Here are a few examples of good reasons for a policy change:
-To keep the company in compliance with government policies
-OSHA or other safety regulations have changed
-To establish consistent standards and rules across the organization
-To provide fair treatment for all employees
After You’ve Identified the Need, Inform Your Staff.
Your task as the change agent is to communicate to your staff how the proposed policy will benefit both employee and company. Asking your employees for input and stressing how the change will benefit them, is the best way to reduce resistance to change. Being involved in the decision making gives employees a sense of ownership in the process, and they’ll be more willing to adapt to and welcome the changes being made. Asking for employee suggestions will also give you better insight on how the changes will affect people at steps of the manufacturing process you’re not typically involved in on a day-to-day basis.
Put the Policy on Paper.
Now that you have your goals and employee feedback in hand, write down the policy. Use simple wording and speak directly to the people who will be reading, enforcing, and adhering to the policy. Select a small group of employees to review the policy before sending it out to the entire organization. Allowing a few individuals to read the policy ahead of time will ensure that it is clear and understandable, and will give you an opportunity to revise the policy based on feedback if necessary.
Get Management Buy-In.
Call a meeting with the managers who will lead policy implementation. Make sure they are trained on the policy (especially if it has to do with government and safety regulations) and that you have their support of it. If your executive level employees aren’t fully onboard and engaged, their reports will be more resistant to the change.
Provide Adequate Training and Practice in Any New Procedures.
After communicating the new policy across the organization, it is essential to provide training. Training is required to develop a new comfort level and replace the old. Studies have shown it takes an average of 4 weeks to develop a new habit so schedule training with this in mind. Don’t just give a 2 hour demonstration on a new procedure or tool and expect everyone attending to be proficient after one or two days. It will take a few runs through the production cycle to ensure that everyone is comfortable.
Monitor the Policy Over Time.
Monitor the policy changes after they’re implemented to make sure they’re effective. By doing so, you’ll be able to anticipate problems and make adjustments where necessary. If the goal of the new policy was to reduce production cycle time by 5%, assessing and measuring your efforts on a regular basis is necessary to ensure that you’re achieving the predicted outcome.
Just remember: No matter the policy implemented, everyone is initially resistant to the idea of change. As long as you follow the steps above and present employees with the personal benefits of the policy, changes will happen more smoothly in the manufacturing sector.
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