Change. Change is one of those words we both love and hate.
We love to cause it for other people, but hate it being done to us. We know that change isn’t just inevitable, it’s desirable – an organism which doesn’t change doesn’t grow – but how can we make it less scary?
We work with experts in a variety of fields – amongst them world renowned engagement coach Richard Merrick.
Richard has a varied background of leading change in fast moving environments, and has made an extensive study of it. Richard observes that “It is easy to make assumptions, particularly in organisations dealing with the vulnerable like charities, that we can somehow protect people from change. Not only can we not protect them, we do them a disservice by trying”. If we try to protect people from change, are we limiting their opportunities to grow?
At PXtech we are in the enviable position of bringing change into many large organisations. We have experience of working with people at all levels, from the board room to the stock room, to help them come to terms with change. We find that, regardless of people’s background, what they fear isn’t change – it’s the unknown. Talk to people, engage with them, give them all of the information they need, and the fear of change evaporates. Where you have naysayers, listen to them! Their concerns are valid, and often your loudest critics can become your most vocal supporters once they understand the reasons and the drivers for change.
The assumptions that volunteers in charity shops are resistant to change is often based on people’s experiences with poorly planned rollouts, badly implemented solutions, or inconsistently designed solutions. Volunteers aren’t fools – they know that their time is valuable, and a new system which slows them down while providing no clear benefits is bound to be met with reluctance, and in some cases outright hostility.
Looking at this from the outside, it’s easy to mistake these reactions for a general antipathy toward change; it takes empathy to understand that this isn’t the root cause. As Richard says, “The most important skill we can develop is to empathise with people. Empathy is not a “soft’ skill, and it is not sympathy – it is about understanding, about walking a mile in their shoes and helping them see a way through.”
In our previous EPOS rollouts for major charities like Oxfam and Save the Children, we have had our engineers and helpdesk staff volunteer in charity shops, speak to volunteers, and role play challenging interactions – all to build empathy with the people they will be working with. Just as your volunteers are your front line, so too are our service staff. Where the two interact is of key importance. If volunteers’ first encounter with a new till was with a surly, disengaged agency engineer, they would be unlikely to go on and sing its praises. A PXtech engineer who knows the software, understands the needs of a charity shop, and believes in the solution will give a very different outcome.
As Robert Gallagher points out, “change is inevitable – except from a vending machine”. Rather than attempting to resist the inevitable, we must learn to work with it; even embrace it. Only by working