This past February Yahoo!’s fledgling CEO Marissa Mayer made her first misstep. In a company-wide email, she announced Yahoo! was changing its telecommute policy. Effective June 2013, all employees were required to work in the office. The email shortly went viral as the modern workforce gasped at her audacity. A former Google executive- wasn’t Mayer supposed to bring new energy to Yahoo!, and maybe some of those famous Google perks? How could she possibly hope to retain and/or attract top talent with such draconian policies?
As blogs and news columns debated the pro and cons of the move, a thoughtful article in Forbes pointed to some other facts. Of Yahoo!’s roughly 12,000 workers, around 500 worked remotely. And of these remote workers, insiders said they were largely disconnected from Yahoo!’s business, and not contributing to its resurrection. Mayer enacted the policy because Yahoo! needed to reinvent itself and establish a shared mindset and vision as a company. This collaborative effort required workers’ interaction on a day-to-day basis.
So the real misstep was not revoking the telecommute option at Yahoo!, but was improperly communicating the message so that employees would understand the change. Part of being a leader is managing change. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus, but a molder of consensus.”
Innovation has always been what makes good businesses great. And innovation does not happen without change and risk. Great leaders know this. Great leaders turn “I can’t work from home anymore,” into “I’m part of company that is preparing for greatness.” Here are five ways to turn your doubters into doers:
1. Communicate new opportunities. Whenever changes are made at work- an employee is given a new task or a new way to do a current task- there will be resistance. It’s human nature to resist new responsibilities or rules. Respond to that resistance by outlining and reinforcing an explanation and list of payoffs.
2. Focus on the positive. Most employees, especially engaged ones, care about their work. When presenting a new process, task or policy, also present how this change will solve problems. Your business is adding a new time-management system, which requires employees to log their hours on specific projects. Initially, it’s seen as a burden, however point out that the system will help workers and the business streamline its tasks and pinpoint areas that can be improved.
3. Create a vision. The unknown can easily create a sense of uncertainty, resistance and even fear. Mayer certainly learned this in the backlash from Yahoo!’s new telecommute policy. However, if she had stressed from the beginning that this was an effort to bring the company together; that as a reasonable employer it would consider individual situations; and that down the line Yahoo! might even reinstate remote working– the news would have been better received.
4. Get employees involved. It’s much easier to bring people on board with a new task or process if you get them involved from the beginning. For instance, a business wants to expand its social media marketing. Start by creating a lead team responsible for posting content. To generate ideas for what to post – have all or a group of employees give the lead team three to five possible topics each week. Armed with ready ideas, the lead team can decide who will post what and when, creating a consistent, time-efficient social marketing strategy.
5. Manage perceptions. Don’t allow employees to blame changes on someone or some trend. Pushback and negative perceptions can quickly spread, hurting employee morale and engagement. From the beginning, communicate openly and often. Use meetings and internal communications – emails, newsletters, flyers – to explain the changes in a positive light. Welcome questions. Espouse and reiterate the reasons and the benefits of the change until every employee is on board.