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Chris Farmer

Corporate Coach Group

Founder & leadership and management trainer

Read more from Chris Farmer

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Rebuild, reskill and renew: how L&D can encourage employees to embrace change

How L&D can encourage reluctant employees to reskill and embrace change in the aftermath of the pandemic.

With many businesses still recovering from the economic damage caused by the Covid-19 crisis, employers have to find innovative ways to maximise the potential of their staff. In many industries the priorities of entire workforces have totally shifted in the last 12 months, resulting in employees having to adopt new and refined roles.

It is critical that your managers become ‘adaptive change champions’. 

Here, we’ll discuss how businesses can present their employees with a vision for success, encouraging them to embrace and react positively to change.

The success formula

In order for employers to motivate their staff to adopt new roles they must first overcome two psychological factors that cause people to resist reskilling and taking on new roles:

  1. Humans are creatures of habit, so we all feel uneasy whenever asked to act outside our normal comfort zones
  2. We don’t like change because it creates uncertainty, and uncertainty is a demotivator

These two factors combine to act as a ‘psychological brake’ on people’s willingness to take on new roles, so managers need a way of taking off the brakes. Managers should learn, teach and talk about ‘the five-part success formula’, and its evil twin, ‘the failure formula’. As the names suggest, the success formula leads people to succeed, and the failure formula causes people to fail, and each person gets to choose which formula to live by.

The success formula can be summarised in five words: purpose, plan, action, setback, change:

  1. Purposes are the goals we want to achieve
  2. Plans are how we intend to achieve our goals
  3. Actions are the daily implementation of our plans
  4. Setbacks are the inevitable things that go wrong and that mess-up our original plans
  5. Changes are the adaptations, adjustments, modifications and updates that we must make to our original plans and actions in order to achieve our purpose and to prosper

We must understand that setbacks and change are inherent in the system and cannot be ignored.

The failure formula is the exact opposite of the success formula:

  1. No purpose = drifter mentality
  2. No plans = dithering and the repetition of obsolete methods
  3. No action = inaction, apathy, delay
  4. Ignore setbacks = evasion, willful blindness, head in the sand
  5. No change = stubbornness, refusal to adapt, modify, evolve, respond or retrain

Employers have to ask their staff to take on new roles because practically every organisation on the planet has reached the ‘setback’ stage of the success formula and our response must be to make adaptive changes. Failure to adapt can have serious consequences.

Applying the success formula

Show the success and failure formulas to all your employees. Explain to them that they must choose which formula to live by. Success only comes to those who apply the success principles, and failure will always come to those who apply failure principles.

When faced with these two opposing models, everyone understands them immediately. They see that there is greater danger associated with failing to change than there is associated to making adaptive changes.

Once you have ‘sold’ people on the need to make adaptive changes then they can start to make detailed plans for the change in roles, (part two of the success formula) and to implement the plans as soon as practicable (part three of the success formula).

Visual and verbal representation of ideas

To persuade the team to retrain you must first ‘sell’ the concept of adaptive change; explain what it is and why it is absolutely imperative for everyone to accept the discomfort of change. In order to do that, change must be set into the context of the five-part success formula and should be presented verbally, in writing, and as visual images.

Most people need to see an idea as well as hear it. The majority will in fact need to see and hear an idea multiple times before it sinks in and becomes accepted by the subconscious portion of the brain and acted upon. By doing this you are also presenting people with a ‘vision of the future’ developing a framework for everybody to follow and succeed in.

Ask questions rather than issue orders

If you tell people what you think they should do then they tend to fight back, but if you ask them the right questions and they answer, then their response is better because they hear the sound of their own voice. You can use this fact to encourage people to consider retraining. It is important to emphasise to your team that failing to adapt can have severe consequences for businesses, especially in difficult circumstances such as now.

It is critical that your managers become ‘adaptive change champions’ by implementing the tenants of the five-part success formula, and by empowering every other member of the group to do the same.

Interested in this topic? Read Learning and development: three ways to close the rapidly expanding skills gap.

Author Profile Picture
Chris Farmer

Founder & leadership and management trainer

Read more from Chris Farmer

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