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Airport Change Management: Principles To Follow When Changing Your Supplier

16 Nov 2023
Marc Ive

Switching suppliers at an airport is a substantial move that touches every facet of the airport’s services. From leaders to frontline staff, airport employees will be impacted by a supplier change in different ways — but not all of them will be on board with it.

A 2023 survey showed that employees have different reasons for resistance to change:

  • 41% don’t trust their organisation
  • 39% aren’t aware of why the change is being implemented
  • 38% are afraid of not knowing what the change will bring
  • 23% feel excluded from change-related decisions

An effective change management plan can address this resistance proactively by involving those affected to minimise resistance and encourage engagement. It steers the organisation through the change while keeping everyone informed, prepared, and on board with the new direction.

Early planning and stakeholder identification

In the early stages of supplier change, change management teams must identify every party with a stake in the airport’s operations that will be affected by this change. The aim is to compile a list that goes beyond the usual suspects of executives and department heads. Ground staff, with their first-hand experience, can provide valuable insights into the practical aspects of switching suppliers, ensuring the transition remains grounded in operational reality.

The early inclusion of these stakeholders ensures that, as the transition unfolds, it considers their needs and concerns, converting early feedback into actionable intelligence. Their participation makes certain that the final plan isn’t just a top-down directive but a collective strategy informed by those who know the day-to-day workings of the airport as well.

This initial investment in stakeholder identification pays dividends throughout the change management process. When stakeholders are brought into the conversation early, they become advocates for the change. Their buy-in is crucial in driving the transition forward, as their support can influence others and set a positive tone throughout the organisation.

Supplier selection and evaluation with stakeholder input

Choosing a new supplier for an airport is about finding a partner that aligns with the airport’s service expectations, operational needs, and plans for the future. The selection and evaluation process should be thorough, straightforward, and should involve input from people at different levels within the airport.

A key part of this process is making sure that the new supplier’s technology can work with the airport’s existing systems. The goal is to ensure that information can move smoothly from old systems to new ones, and that these systems can talk to each other without hiccups. Having a solid team in IT on both sides that’s ready to tackle any tech problems as they arise is essential to keep things running smoothly.

Involving stakeholders from the start means listening to the insights of those who will use these systems every day and make decisions based on these insights. The people working directly with the systems can offer first-hand knowledge about what’s needed for daily operations, while management can assess strategic fit. This collaborative approach ensures that the chosen supplier is not only the best on paper but also the best fit for the airport’s unique ecosystem.

Developing a comprehensive change plan

A well-crafted implementation plan provides a blueprint for integrating the new supplier’s services into current operations, addressing each step of the transition. It delineates responsibilities and timelines, ensuring all teams understand their roles and deadlines

The importance of including front-line staff in creating this plan cannot be overstated. Their daily interaction with the nuts and bolts of airport operations can ensure that the plan is both actionable and grounded in the realities of the airport’s environment. They are often the first to spot potential oversights that could create roadblocks and offer workable solutions that might not be immediately apparent to higher management.

Drawing on the experience and knowledge of front-line teams strengthens the strategy against unexpected challenges and fosters a shared sense of accountability among those who will implement it. This structured approach strengthens the plan and allows for flexible change management.

Sharing the change plan across the board

Crafting a layered communication strategy can address the distinct needs of the various stakeholders involved. Each group requires customised information that speaks directly to their daily operations and concerns with the incoming supplier.

Transparency is key in these communications. A clear outline of why the change is happening, the benefits it brings, and the processes it involves is critical to gaining trust and commitment at every level of the organisation. Consistent updates about the stages of the transition also help to maintain this trust.

For the leadership team, communications might focus on strategic alignment and business outcomes, delivered through formal reports and presentations. Operational staff will need more practical information, such as training schedules and procedural updates, which might be best delivered through hands-on meetings and digital updates.

Sharing the message across different channels is also vital. An airport’s staff likely receives information in a variety of ways — from email bulletins and internal social networks to noticeboards and team meetings. A multi-channel approach ensures that no one misses out on vital information, regardless of their role or preferred method of communication.

Structured training and ongoing support for staff

During periods of transition, management must develop structured training programs and support initiatives for the supplier change to succeed. These programs should cater to the varied roles within an airport, ensuring every employee becomes adept with the new systems and methods brought in by a new supplier.

Effective training programs often combine practical training sessions, which allow staff to interact directly with the new technology, with instructional workshops where they can ask questions and address any uncertainties. This dual approach can enhance their overall comfort and proficiency in using the new tools at their disposal.

Leadership plays a critical role throughout this period, not just in overseeing the rollout of training but in championing the change itself. Leaders must encourage open dialogue, provide reassurance about job security, and clarify the ways in which the new systems will benefit the day-to-day activities to help maintain morale.

Support mechanisms must persist even after the initial training phase. Ongoing support resources, such as helpdesks or dedicated ‘champions’ within teams who can provide peer-to-peer guidance, can provide long-term assistance. This approach ensures that the transition is less daunting and becomes a path to enhanced skills and smoother operations.

Setting and monitoring performance metrics

In change management, shaping Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) with contributions from a broad range of stakeholders ensures that they reflect management’s vision and are also practical and applicable to the teams who work directly with the new supplier.

For instance, ground staff can identify practical performance aspects like turnaround times, while the customer service team might focus on satisfaction scores post-implementation of the new supplier. Management, on the other hand, might focus on how the new supplier affects the overall business, like increasing sales or cutting costs. By combining these perspectives, the goals set will cover both the practical implications and the strategic objectives.

Regular reviews of these KPIs provide a structured framework to measure the ongoing performance against the initial expectations. Airports are dynamic environments where conditions change rapidly, and regular reviews enable quick adaptation to these changes. They also provide a framework for continuous feedback and improvement, ensuring that the supplier’s performance is always aligned with the airport’s operational goals and passenger expectations.

This can help ensure that KPIs serve as a tool for dynamic and responsive management rather than a static checklist, allowing airports to maintain high operational standards and customer satisfaction through periods of change.

Partner with Rezcomm

Airports of the future need a strong partner to help guide them through change and rapid innovations in technology. Rezcomm is here to support your team for long-term, sustainable growth and success. Download our brochure, watch our video, or get in touch to see how we can help you navigate change without disruption.