Let's talk about six basic concerns of employees when a new process or procedure is introduced in the workplace. If you anticipate and deal quickly with the critical issues your people have about change, it's possible to launch a new initiative with more participants and fewer resisters.

Why is the change needed?

This is perhaps the most obvious issue to address, but it's often overlooked. Answer the question: Why is the new approach better than the old way? This is a matter of education - explaining the rationale, theory, or principles behind the change.

Remember, there's a difference between "education" and "training," as I discussed in my November 1996 ISHN article. Training programs that only teach step-by-step procedures can be perceived as a top-down "flavor of the month." Educating people about the principles or rationale behind a new safety policy, program or process enables understanding and critical thinking. It also allows you to customize procedures for particular work situations.

What's in it for me?

Everyone tunes into radio station WIIFM - What's In It For Me? So it's important to clarify the costs and benefits of any new program or process. Don't let your people speculate on how a particular change will affect them. Be honest about the extra effort or adjustment involved in making the change work, and emphasize the positive consequences that can be expected. If you can't define positive gains and/or negative consequences avoided due to the new process, you'll have a difficult time motivating participation.

What will I have to do?

People want to know what they will need to do differently. Do they have the knowledge, skills, and resources to accomplish their role in your change effort? It's important to convince potential participants that the new responsibilities are within their capabilities. If they don't currently have the ability to perform these tasks competently, assure them they will be taught relevant procedures.

Who else will be involved?

This question targets issues of collaboration and teamwork, and personal versus interpersonal control. Does the success of the new process depend on input from others inside and outside the work culture? From people we don't know, or people we have little influence over?

Spell out the degree of coordination and cooperation needed for success. If interdependent support is needed, suggest ways to make it happen. Remember, if success hinges on cooperation from people on different work teams, individual participants will perceive they have little personal control over the outcome, and will be more uncertain of success.

How will my participation be evaluated?

People are naturally concerned about accountability. Everyone wants to know how their performance will be judged. Employees want to participate competently in worthwhile endeavors, but their feelings of competence are influenced by the methods used to observe and rank performance.

Be prepared to answer these questions: "Will the external measure of competence be objective?" "How much of my effectiveness score will be determined by factors outside my personal control?" "If we feel an evaluation is unfair, can we suggest another approach?"

Can we suggest improvements?

If you convince your audience that change is called for and their participation is needed, you better anticipate suggestions for customizing and refining the new process.

In fact, you might skip giving specific step-by-step procedural instructions completely. Instead, give your vision for breakthrough improvement and a general structure or set of guidelines for accomplishing the desired change. Leave plenty of room for individuals and work teams to derive specific procedures. Tailoring a process to one's own work area spurs creativity and ownership - and also provides the most suitable procedures for a particular situation.

It's important to encourage continuous refinement of a new safety process. When people gain competence at performing a task they believe is worthwhile, they will develop new and better ways to succeed. Make it clear from the start that this is expected. The start of something different is only the first phase of continuous improvement. Indeed, change is a constant. And the more people you have participating, the better each change will be.