AI is the next big thing in the workplace. But how do you manage employee fears and resistance to this huge organizational change?

Technology is turning dreams into reality. From interactive robots that take care of your daily chores to self-driven cars, all that you could only imagine a decade ago now actually exists. Artificial Intelligence is making all this and a lot more possible.

Voice and chat bots, guided analytics and smart home appliances are some of the most common applications of AI. It is slowly creeping into our daily lives and in our workplaces too.

Businesses worldwide are now adopting AI based robots and automation to optimize business processes, enhance productivities and improve customer engagement. However, implementing AI in the workplace is not a cakewalk. It is a huge organizational change; a structural and cultural change. One of the biggest challenges to successful AI implementation in workplace is the resistance from employees and the fear of change.

Why do employees resist change?

Whether it’s something as minor as a move towards day-light saving, or something as big as a change in senior management, organizational change of any sort leads to resistance from employees to some extent. But why do people fear or resist change?

Loss of job
This is the primary cause for panic and unrest among employees during organizational change. They usually think the new change is being done for cost-cutting, and hence their jobs would be at stake.

Fear of the unknown
The introduction of something/someone unknown into the organization instills a sense of fear in their minds, since they’re not sure if the upcoming change will work for their better.

Stepping out of comfort zones
They’re used to a pattern of working; with certain people or certain technology or even workspace. The idea of giving up their comfort zones creates an unwillingness to accept the change.

Lack of competence
When the upcoming change calls for a higher qualification, say learning a new technology or using new equipment, they get insecure of their competence to excel in the new environment.

How to implement change management?

Implementation of AI and automation in the workplace is a huge transformation, and certainly triggers a lot of fear and resistance to change among employees. So, how do you cope up with this resistance and implement a smooth transition?

Break the myth
There are several myths associated with AI in the workplace. People believe that the bots are meant to take over them, and automation will dilute their control on operations. The fact is that Artificial Intelligence is a friend and not a foe. It is implemented to create a digital workforce that works in sync with human workforce to improve business efficiencies and simplify mundane activities. You must generate awareness about the concept of AI, bring out its value for the organization and break the myth effectively.

Prepare for the change
Your employees must be prepared for the change to be able to cope up with it and perform well in the new environment. As a part of the change management, you must provide ample training to your employees with appropriate resources to get thorough with AI and the new procedures that would follow the change. You can use several methods like demos, mock sessions, periodic tests and Q and A sessions to ensure that your employees are well prepared to deal with AI in the workplace.

Communicate effectively
Despite the awareness and preparation, people will always have their own ifs and buts. Effective communication is critical to change management, and must be done throughout the transition phase. If employees are well aware of the intention of AI in the workplace and secure about their positions, they will find it easier to accept the change and adapt to it. You must guide them through the journey, keep assuring them that the change is for good and update them about the progress at each stage of implementation.

Take one step at a time
Sudden changes always create chaos and panic. An organizational change as big as implementing a digital workforce must be carried out gradually, taking one step at a time. It is best to follow a phased strategy to AI implementation, and create a clear roadmap for the project. That way, employees will be able to deal with the change as and when it is implemented; getting accustomed to the AI with each step.

Monitor and improvise
Change management goes beyond AI implementation. Even after the implementation of AI in the workplace, employees might face challenges getting used to the new technology. Successful implementation of a digital workforce demands constant monitoring and improvisations. It is important to closely monitor performance post the implementation, address any issues and resolve them immediately.

Resistance is a very common part of change management, but it also affects the success of the project and might hamper business performance if not addressed properly. Successful change management is possible when you strategize your AI framework effectively, address employee fears, guide them and support them throughout the journey and beyond. It is a lengthy process and must be carried out considering both employee concerns and business goals.

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