Change isn’t easy. And it’s not usually fun. But in today’s competitive and fast-paced business environment, change is essential if your business is to survive.

Don’t believe me? When is the last time you drove to Blockbuster and rented a video? Or called your local travel agent to book a vacation?

Today, we’re going to talk about one of the more difficult parts of any change initiative, and one that doesn’t get as much attention as it should—the process of getting your employees to buy in.

Let’s acknowledge reality: most employees don’t like the idea of change. It’s not comfortable for anyone. And while it’s certainly understandable that your employees are skeptical of change, it’s critical that you bring them on board. I’ve seen change initiatives fail for no other reason than that key employees didn’t buy in.

Resistant employees are not only slow to adopt the changes themselves, but they often have a negative impact on those around them. Whether it is by making disparaging remarks or through a more passive form of resistance, one skeptical employee can often be enough to undermine the entire effort.

What can you do to overcome the objections of your employees and secure the buy-in of even the most resistant as you implement change?

  1. Start by pitching the positives, but don’t ignore the negatives. It is important that you explain the reasoning behind your changes, and that you point out the positive impact it will have. That said, if you refuse to acknowledge any of the drawbacks of the project, you will lose credibility with your skeptical employees. Acknowledge that your initiative may make things difficult for a short term, but explain that the positives outweigh the negatives.

  2. Address any objections, spoken or unspoken. Discuss your plans with your employees and take their objections seriously. Let them know that you do care about their opinions. It is particularly important that you pay attention to body language and other subtleties that may indicate passive resistance. Passive resistance is often more damaging than outspoken resistance—so seek it out and address it.

  3. Commit for the long haul. Despite your plans and your best efforts, change is never easy. You are going to face unforeseen obstacles, and depending on the magnitude of the change you are seeking to implement, you may face exceptionally large challenges. If you show any signs of regret, or of defeat, your team will spot them and will lose the will to press on.

Change is rarely fun, but is often necessary. Innovation is the only way to keep your business moving forwards year after year. And it won’t happen without employee buy-in.

Management systems guru, W. Edwards Deming, once said, “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.”