Overcoming the Resistance to Reskilling
Innovations always demand change
We live in interesting times. Whether a blessing or a curse (according to the famous Chinese proverb), in any case, we need to be flexible and quickly adapt to the new realities. The Covid-19 pandemic significantly enhanced the process of technology integration and the introduction of new standards and procedures.
Although not the first force-majeure situation in the tourism industry, current conditions forced the tourist business to quickly react and change to survive. Owners and managers had to reorganize their activities and introduce new ones to keep their business running and viable, requiring new skills and competencies. In this process, employees had to change too – some of them changed their positions, for others the obligations and responsibilities were modified, whereas a third group started to work with new devices. Thus, to keep their jobs, people had to learn new skills and become more qualified.
By default, we consider that managers and employees accept and adapt to the new reality without any resistance, just because they are forced to do it. However, in a closer exploration of such cases, we will notice many invisible problems that accompany this process and hardly receive due attention. Reskilling is a necessary change that might provoke resistance, and in this regard, it should be introduced very carefully to the employees.
Why do people resist changes and learning new skills?
“Humans are instinctively designed to react to novel things in a way that aims to protect oneself,” said Calestous Juma, PhD, professor at the Harvard Kennedy School and author of Innovation and Its Enemies: Why People Resist New Technologies.
Threat to lose their jobs
The ultimate goal of new technology inventions undoubtedly is to facilitate humans in their work. On one side, technologies ensure fewer efforts and more efficiency, but on the other side people “translate” those effects as a job loss for them. Therefore, often people refuse to work with new devices, to learn how to deal with them, and insist to stay within their own “box of comfort”. Learning a new skill, or requalification is considered as such enforced change, so many employees resist and reject to do it. At one point the issue with digitalization might lead to the unwillingness of people to acquire digital skills. Examples from the tourism industry are numerous – e.g. housekeepers refusing to learn how to work with robot-cleaners, because the latter are perceived as a threat to their jobs.
Fear of the unknown
Hospitality employees may show resistance to internal reorganization in the kitchen or the restaurant, to learn green skills and be more efficient. In such cases, employees claim that “greening the kitchen” might have negative effects on food quality. But behind this claim lies the unwillingness to change and adopt a new behaviour. People have been working hard for a while and have elaborated or followed certain procedures to become more efficient and facilitate their job. In one moment a new change disrupts their world and makes them feel unsure and anxious because of the uncertainty of the environment.
They need to invest efforts
Yes, sometimes the reason for resistance is quite simple – people just do not want to work harder. A driver of the resistance could be the corporate culture or the personality of the employee. People tend to be conservative and stick to traditions “as we have always done it this way”.
Too many changes happening simultaneously
Our world is changing dramatically, and so is our life. Every day a new device is introduced, or a new procedure applied (especially during COVID times). Sometimes people cannot get in line with the pace of the changes happening around them.
How to overcome resistance?
Communication, Communication, Communication. The only way to persuade people to do something, or accept novelties, is to make things transparent and explain every tiny detail. Communicate the change clearly and simply. For example, explain simply that the inclusion of robots for housekeeping would eliminate some boring tasks and could also be fun. At the end of the day, robots are just a tool, similar to the vacuum cleaner.
Before introducing any change, do your homework and elaborate a preliminary system of procedures and standards. Then present it to the staff, again clearly explaining the benefits not only for the company but also for the employees (e.g. less dirty work, no repeating activities, etc.).
Finally, do not expect a revolution to take place overnight – small bites are easier to swallow. Proper training is part of the process. When people go into the details of the change and have fun learning new things, they would most probably change their minds and would get used to the new. In this regard, the NTG Toolkit training materials provide excellent step-by-step courses to study.