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How to Survive a Changing Workplace

Digital workplace

The modern workplace is changing at an accelerating rate. Big advances in communications technology, artificial intelligence and automation are driving efficiency and productivity, changing our roles and the way we do our jobs.

The workforce is getting younger

Millennials, or ‘digital natives’, are set to become the majority demographic in the labour force, and disruptive technology is impacting traditional industries such as transport, logistics, recruitment and media. The director of the Oxford Martin Programme on Technological and Economic Change, Professor Ian Goldin, says the pace of change in the world is at levels not seen since the renaissance. 

Given this technologically-advanced and constantly-changing environment, it can be a real challenge for the average worker to maintain a sense of control and stability in their career. Forced change can cause stress and anxiety, as you struggle to let go of old habits and try to get to grips with new ways of doing things. But there are actions you can take to ensure you don’t get left behind. Don’t run and hide, but adapt and thrive by adopting these smart strategies in your workplace:

Nurture a futuristic mindset

Assuming the change is out of your control, you can choose to resist it, or you can choose to embrace it. You can choose to look back, or you can choose to look forward.

Fighting change can lead to feelings of resentment or anger, and won’t lead you anywhere constructive. When you choose to embrace change, you can see opportunities to refine that change to suit you and your workplace that will get you more engaged in your job.

Ask Growth Questions

Asking a lot of ‘how’ and ‘what’ questions will help you to discover potential opportunities for organisational improvement and career advancement. For example:

How can I use this change to drive efficiencies?

What action is needed to improve my IT knowledge?

How does this change open up new opportunities?

What can I do to make this work for me?

I’m currently coaching a client who’s going through a major transformation in his role at work, where his responsibilities have changed quite a lot. He was feeling very insecure and uncertain about the future, and his thinking was centered around all the things he perceived he had lost, and not on what he might gain. After working on his mindset for only a couple of weeks, he has a completely different view of what lies ahead, and is now excited and energised by the possibilities.

Look for the good stuff

There may be positive outcomes from modern workplace change that will make your job easier and give you a better lifestyle. New remote communications technology can give you the flexibility to work from home more often, travel less and spend more time with your family. Better software may free you from performing mundane tasks, allowing you to focus on more important things. Change can bring you into contact with new people with new ideas and different perspectives. This can help you to grow your interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence, as well as potentially open up new avenues on your career path.

Prepare for change before it happens

Auckland-based People Engagement Expert Terry Williams suggests getting ‘Change-Fit’ before change happens so you’re not blindsided by outside forces. He says, “Technology and people changes are only going to accelerate. There will be drama, damage and cost if we wait to react to change. Deal with change on your terms and timetable. And stop using the saying, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

Williams says you can take more control of the future by applying critical thinking skills to the status quo, and heightening your senses around potential changes over the horizon.

If you’re not particularly ‘tech-savvy’ and feel like you’re getting left behind in the digital age, there are plenty of affordable and free IT courses available to you. Digital platforms like LinkedIn, iTunes U, Udemy and Open Polytechnic NZ, and institutions such as universities and technical colleges can all provide practical courses to give your IT knowledge and skills a boost.

Become a valuable asset

Sometimes new technology comes with restructuring or redundancies. If you don’t want to be a casualty of progress, then try to make it difficult for your employer to let you go. Be proactive in learning about new tech relevant to the business; read about the future direction of your specialist field; volunteer to train your colleagues in using new software. When you’re an expert in the future of your industry, you’re a valuable asset to the organisation.

Ask for help

Finally, if you’re still struggling to adapt to change in the modern workplace, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Most large organisations have people and programmes in place to support staff with these types of issues, so make use of them. If your workplace is lacking these support services, try talking with your manager or colleagues, your friends and family, or a professional coach to get some outside perspective and advice.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

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