In the face of technological change—or any change—people often resist. It’s a normal response that’s partly driven by physiology. But other factors fuel resistance to change, and they can sometimes be the hardest to overcome.
Specifically, employees often fear that not knowing how to use technology will make them seem incompetent. Bearing in mind the rapid pace of technological change, the remarkable increase in individual employee responsibilities, and the growing skills gap, this can be a significant hurdle in the workplace. Consider the results of a few recent studies:
- In a survey of workers conducted by Sitel Group, 26 percent of respondents said they have not attended, participated in or completed training in the past because their manager did not encourage them to attend or they felt their manager did not think it was important.
- In the same study, about half of the respondents said their employer penalizes them for not having the right skills, and about one-third said they have avoided asking for training for fear of seeming incompetent.
- In a 2018 survey conducted by EdX, only a fifth of respondents consider their education from their college major to be translatable to their current field.
- In the EdX survey, 29 percent of respondents said they have completely changed fields since starting their first job after college.
When people are too embarrassed to admit they don’t know how to use technology, they will not use it—and that’s bad news for organizations. According to the World Economic Forum, the skills gap is growing—the organization predicts that technology will disrupt 1.4 million U.S. jobs by 2026.
When people are too embarrassed to admit they don’t know how to use technology, they will not use it—and that’s bad news for organizations.
While employees themselves must assume some of the responsibility—after all, the squeaky wheel gets the grease—organizations must also take steps to close the skills gap.
Companies need to assess which skills are currently lacking in their organization and which ones they will need to cultivate for the near future, and then respond quickly with a robust learning strategy.
Additionally, organizations must ensure employees know about and know how to find learning resources in their organization. These efforts will enable business leaders to foster a company culture that makes it OK for employees to admit they don’t know something.
In a recent blog post, change management organization Prosci sums up the challenge organizations must overcome: “The question is not if we will encounter resistance to change, but rather how we support our employees through the change process. …” The time to act is now.
Jen is an award-winning journalist who writes about workplace productivity and technology for Vitalyst. She believes in the power of using plain language, especially when writing about technology, and lists “achieving and enabling clarity” among her life goals.