Change is inevitable
Yet many British businesses are suffering because employees are fearful of change, according to a study released by Microsoft.
Microsoft’s study, a collaborative effort involving YouGov, Goldsmiths, and the University of London, investigated an important yet understudied element of the trend toward digital transformation: Employee fear and anxiety. According to the report, entitled “Creating a Culture of Digital Transformation,” 49 percent of the more than 1,000 businesses surveyed felt employees were anxious when hearing about digital transformation initiatives. Task automation caused job security fears according to 59 percent of surveyed companies, while 61 percent were concerned about employee anxiety when new technologies were introduced.
Clare Barclay, Microsoft UK’s Chief Operating Officer believes we’re witnessing “a growing divide between those organisations that are geared towards driving the cultural change that supports technology investments, and those that aren’t.”
This is a major concern – evidence suggests that if you don’t address the human elements of change, successful transformation is unlikely to happen. Organisations must have the right culture and change programme in place to unlock the true value of technology. Creating a culture in which technology blends with human potential is where the magic happens.
Although anxiety concerning technology is high, the study found that companies are doing little to smooth the transition to more digital technology. Only 23 percent of companies surveyed are currently investing in cultural change programs to help their workforces adapt and to communicate to employees how these changes will benefit the business.
Furthermore, only 53 percent of organizations are investing in digital transformation programs despite the fact that 53 percent of respondents expect disruptions in the industry over the next two years.
The report also released tips for companies to help assuage employee fears. Clarity and transparency can go a long way, as explaining the company’s goals and motivations to employees can lead to a healthier work environment. Companies can also let employees know that failure is acceptable; experimentation is important for making the most of new tools, and some experiments will inevitably fail. Perhaps most importantly, companies need to have empathy. It’s normal to feel anxious when dealing with change, and companies must consider employee well-being when communicating.
Patrick Murphy, Director of Finance and Corporate Services, British Medical Association believes its about creating “a sense of engagement, which enriches the experience” of corporate life.
Four years ago, our workforce had not experienced technological change like what we hoped to undertake. We needed to pave the way for change and invest significantly in change management to see the transformation required. It takes time to embed itself into people’s daily work lives but, by getting an insight into how people use our systems, we reframed the way our staff do things.
Also discussed in the report is the importance of the digital transformation process. Companies can benefit by encouraging employees to work together to make the most of new technology on the job. Managers should also expect employees to struggle on occasion. By regularly asking employees if they’re having difficulty with new technology, companies can develop better systems for getting both new and current employees up to speed with new technologies.