We are currently in the midst of the ‘Industry 4.0.’ era wherein the implementation of smart technologies continuously changes the way we work and live. Devices and machines communicate with each other through the Internet of Things, automation processes become smarter and autonomous and technologies such as Artificial Intelligence become part of daily life. These developments impact all types of industries and economies worldwide and are needed by organizations to face the rapidly changing consumer demands.
As with the previous industrial revolutions, resistance exists against these new technological developments, especially amongst people who fear that new technologies and machines, such as robots, will infiltrate their workplace and make their jobs unnecessary. This blog discusses what causes resistance towards new automation technologies, and how resistance to change can be prevented or taken away.
Why resistance against technologies?
People have always experienced fear for the unknown. As psychology suggests, people like to be able to anticipate consequences. Once they cannot anticipate consequences, they have trouble developing a vision of what life looks like on the other side of a change. They start to feel insecure, powerless and threatened by new (technological) developments, which can lead to resistance to change.
Even though it has been researched that automation and robotics have a positive impact on productivity, create a safer working environment, improve working conditions and eventually lead to an increase in labor demand, many employees still fear that robots will take away their jobs and chances of finding work, which is why resistance towards these new automation technologies remains.
Managing employee resistance to change
Introducing new automation developments to your employees should be treated like any other organizational change. It is important to apply change management from the very beginning. After all, you want to prevent resistance to change as much as possible, rather than taking away the resistance once it already exists.
- Communication is key
The most important part of change management is communication. A mistake many organizations make is completely leaving employees out of the loop. This lack of communication increases fear of the unknown, but also leaves legitimate questions unanswered and concerns unaddressed. Hence, transparent communication from the beginning of the change process is key.
- Engage your employees
Besides transparent communication on why and how the change is happening, you should also engage your employees in the change process. Researches show that when it comes to implementing change, engaging your employees in the change process is of great importance.
- Training to overcome fear and develop new skills
Automation developments often result in changing jobs and roles. Employees may believe their skills are not relevant or sufficient for these changing jobs, making them feel powerless, threatened and increasing their resistance to these changes. In addition to clear communication and engaging your employees, it is important to help your employees through the change process and ensure they are ready for the future. If possible, invest in upskilling and training sessions for your employees to ease the transition and make employees feel more positive and confident about the implementation of new automation technologies.