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Think your employees aren't ready for change? Think again

June 28, 2019
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The future of work continues to expand beyond our wildest imaginations. Consider that in 2009 you couldn't use Slack to communicate with your team or navigate to a meeting using GPS on your smartphone, and few people worked remotely. Who can even predict what might be standard for the workplace in 2029?

Two key factors are driving this transformation: First, of course, is the growing use of technology. Second is the evolving workplace and the workforce that supports it.

Most people assume that employers are the ones invested in capitalizing on technological advances, but Colorado workers say otherwise. Recent research by Pinnacol Assurance found that just 29% of Colorado workers say their companies are keeping up with industry changes, with less than half believing their companies are innovative.

That's a remarkable turnaround from conventional wisdom, which assumes employees resist change. Given the low unemployment rates in Colorado, as well as the challenge of attracting and retaining top-tier talent, the last thing you want is for your employees to defect to a company they perceive as more cutting-edge.

Here are three ways you can show your commitment to an innovation culture:

1. Embrace technology wholeheartedly

Are you wavering on incorporating new modes of technology because you worry that valued workers might not be on board with the changes? You might be surprised to hear how positive most employees are about these advances.

According to new data from Robert Half, 88 percent of employees believe that new technologies such as AI will either have a positive effect on their jobs or no effect at all. Surprisingly, managers took a more negative view, with 82 percent saying they believe it will be challenging to get staff up to speed on new tech.

The bottom line? Don't underestimate the willingness and interest of your team to learn new technology skills. More often than not, they're eager to embrace innovation.

2. Commit to upskilling in words and practice

Today's employees seek professional development as a hedge against the future of work—but also to keep their jobs fresh and meaningful. One way you can address this need is to establish a learning culture by developing a robust roster of upskilling opportunities, which can include everything from providing on-the-job training to enabling employees to take outside courses.

A learning culture is particularly important because employees feel uneasy about the possibility of other workers taking their jobs, according to a study conducted by Harvard Business School's Project on Managing the Future of Work and the Boston Consulting Group's Henderson Institute. Therefore, it's important to assure your team that you are committed to helping them grow into new positions, rather than turning to new employees who already have the desired skillsets.

Remember that this loyalty is a win-win for both you and your staff. By creating a cohesive team that learns together, you put your company's interests first. And by helping your employees grow, you help prepare them for the future of work.

3. Foster open dialogue to better understand your workers' needs

What these studies underscore is that management is inclined to make assumptions about their team's interest in innovation, which might be completely off-base. Fostering an open culture where employees can freely share their thoughts and ideas allows you to determine what aspects of their jobs or the company concern them, so you can proactively address each worry.

Talking to employees about the “how “and the “why" of changes also makes them feel as though they have an integral role in the transformation.

Overall, avoid making negative assumptions about your staff's willingness to embrace change; instead, approach the future of workers with a sense of optimism and confidence as you prepare for the changing workplace.

As Jill Dark of office-furniture manufacturer Steelcase told HBR, “If you give people the opportunity to learn something new or to show their craft, they will give you their best work. The magic is in providing the opportunity."

The future of workers starts today. Employees are asking for innovation, and Colorado employers can benefit from assuring their teams that they intend to not only survive—but thrive—in the changing world.

Committing to innovation today will assure your employees that they are in the right place, both now and for the future.

Read more about building your future workforce.

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