How to shatter the fear-of-change culture in business

by Heat Recruitment

By James Ackland

Change is a fact of business life – whether it’s a rebrand, a restructure or a revolution in the form of digital transformation. Yet, change can be a challenge in itself, and rolling out new processes, practices or products can be a daunting prospect – especially if there is a reluctance from the workforce to retire old habits. But the fear of change has filled the UK psyche for too long – dragging its metaphorical feet through businesses across the nation and breathing a far too audible sigh at each mention of a new initiative.

According to a recent study from Microsoft, 61% of UK workers said they felt anxious when bosses brought in new technology, while a further 59% were worried about the impact that automation would have on their jobs. On the flip side, the report also pointed out the risk of failing to adopt new technologies in a digital economy.

If they are to increase efficiency, business leaders must help the workforce to overcome the fear of change that prevents them from progressing. But how can you combat employee resistance and shatter the dread associated with new solutions?

Encourage learning and development

Over time, your employees have grown comfortable with the extent of their knowledge, the skills they have mastered and the day-to-day nuances of their job. This is what creates a sense of competency, a critical thing to avoid for any productive employee. Throw new practices into the mix and raise the bar and your employee can easily feel threatened by the impending change in what’s expected of them.

Leaders must address this concern directly by demonstrating a commitment to their staff and promoting change as an opportunity to develop their careers further – an opportunity, not a challenge. In doing so, your team members will feel encouraged rather than forced to change.

Harness the power of emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to positively harness emotions and social interactions for greater impact. For a business leader, a strong EQ is increasingly becoming an essential in successfully managing and retaining talented workers – it allows for a greater understanding of what motivates and demotivates an individual. While change in a business is factual, it’s the transition from A to B that is emotional, and there may be no logical explanation as to why an employee is reluctant to change. This is where emotional intelligence is paramount in reducing the fear of failure and providing support at each stage of the transition. It’s a skill that employers need to develop further.

Focus on soft skills

While leaders typically focus on the ‘hard skills’, it is in fact soft skills that allow resilience to new implementations in businesses. With automation already taking over a range of low-level tasks, jobs of the future will primarily rely on a sound emotional frame of mind, the ability to problem-solve, self-awareness, outstanding communication and a positive attitude to change. These are all the qualities that leaders should instil within their teams as we move away from the days of hard physical labour into an era of emotional intelligence and culture prioritisation.

Developing culture: Lead from the front

In some cases, reluctance to change stems from a negative culture that has risen over the years and caused the business to become “stuck” in its old ways. This can occur when your staff are jaded and there is an absence of fresh perspectives flowing through the organisation. Rather than seeing change as a refreshing solution, it’s treated as another task on an ever-growing to-do list and employees will be quick to dismiss it in favour of “what they know”. In order to transform the corporate culture, managers must lead from the front and set the bar by signalling their commitment to change.

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