Four ways to get your staff to stop fearing automation and embrace change

Thirty years ago, when demonic alien robots warned that “Resistance is Futile” in Star Trek: The Next Generation, the quote became an instant classic. It’s a perfect TV villain line, but a more accurate real-life version would be “Resistance is Natural,” especially when it comes to innovation and automation.
History shows us that every single major transformation or technological breakthrough has been widely met with skepticism, fear, and resistance. And neuroscience tells us why: our brains are naturally hard-wired to crave control and avoid change at all cost. We can’t help it; fear of change is evolutionary.
If unchecked, this fear can be catastrophic to business growth and longevity.
Forward-thinking companies are implementing automation at ever-increasing rates, as the astounding benefits of hands-off production and Artificial Intelligence become apparent. Yet we can’t escape our own DNA. That’s why the biggest impediment to change is not technological or even monetary; it’s the human aspect that can really throw things off course.
Your ability to motivate your employees to embrace automation and the disruptive technologies that they may perceive as threats to their jobs will be critical.
Here are four things you can do to get your staff to welcome automation and become champions of change:

1) Find your Advocates

Select staff representatives and pitch to them the benefits to the organization of investing in new technology and automation. When employees have a say in the company’s direction, they feel more invested in the firm’s future and the results will be welcome. If there’s a choice of software or integration vendors, perhaps get this team involved in the selection and procurement process. As momentum grows, consider gradually adding new individuals to this “early adopters” team, or even breaking the team into subgroups to manage automation adoption at different levels.
Ensure that the team is not just made up of the youngest or tech-savviest folks in your organization. You’re the longest-tenured employees are more likely to resist this kind of change, but it’s important that these seasoned individuals have a stake in the business case as an example to everyone else. This will build enterprise-wide trust for the initiative and improve your chances of success.

2) Show Them the Power

One of the most obvious benefits of automation to the employee can be the elimination of mundane tasks, and the re-assignment to a higher-level function, one that cannot be done by a computer or robot. For example, a prepress operator with newly found time on their hands could be sent out with a sales team on new business pitches to demonstrate some technical aspects of the pitch to answer questions, or to generally promote the firm’s technological savvy to encourage a sale.

3) Start Small

You might consider methods of encouraging automation such as making one everyday business function only accessible through the new system. Perhaps it’s as simple as a digital suggestion box that’s only available on your new or developing platform. Or make it something more compulsory like having staff use a particular module to request vacation days. The more they interface with the new technology or platform, the less chance fear has to rear its ugly evolutionary head.

4) Be Open

Remember that our innate fear of change is amplified when we don’t see the whole picture, potentially causing crippling doubt and inertia, or even provoking sabotage. Ensure that management, as well as your early adopter team(s), keep the lines of communication open. Consider regular staff meetings, newsletters, blogs, or other such communication tools to alleviate any doubts. Few things are as detrimental to company morale as enterprise-affecting or direction-changing pronouncements that are confusing, lack details, and create more questions than answers. Allow staff fears to be voiced and keep the updates flowing. Success will soon follow.

There are compelling business reasons to embrace change. And not taking action will bring inevitable hardship to the business. So, enlist and empower staff, demonstrate the benefits, be innovative and invigorated about it, and commit to open dialogue. This will allow you to boldly travel to brave new frontiers.

Enlisting and empowering staff, demonstrating the benefits, being innovative, and committing to open dialogue will allow you to boldly travel to brave new frontiers.

Author: Vince De Franco is a 25-year veteran of the printing and graphic communications industry. He began in the industry as the editor of PrintAction magazine and has since held senior sales, sales management, and marketing roles at leading Canadian printing companies. He is currently the Sales and Marketing Manager at Toronto-based large format printer Digitalwon Imaging and continues to write business and technology articles for industry publications and freelance clients in the printing and packaging industry. He can be reached at vdefranco@sympatico.ca or via LinkedIn.

About Significans Automation

Significans Automation Inc specializes in delivering next-generation automation to the Printing and Packaging industry.

We offer programming and expertise in custom workflow development, communication and project management, color management, prepress training, and end-to-end business integration.

Our customers gain integration and optimization that enable unmanned production.

The level of sophistication that is provided increases profitability, improved quality control, and enhanced production efficiency, enabling Artificial Intelligence while also facilitating new revenue opportunities in web-to-print and e-commerce.

We are driven by the conviction that customized automation in a pre-robotic era is the only path forward.

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