In today’s rapidly changing workplace environment, people are understandably expected to respond to change, challenge and uncertainty with adaptability and flexibility. This potential to withstand pressure and thrive and respond effectively to emerging trends, opportunities or threats, is only possible if they are given the right knowledge, skills and mindset.

When was the last time you were given the skills to navigate change mentally and emotionally?

Imagine you were given a car but were not taught how to drive it. Would you feel confident about driving it? Some would, most wouldn’t. We would also expect to see an increase in the number of accidents if everyone was in the same situation. This is no different from when people go through change. Some are OK that they don’t know how to navigate change, most do mind and they suffer mentally emotionally and socially as a result. 

A company acquisition, a new environment with a new boss, new team dynamics, new goals or new technology systems are all transitions that can undermine and erode mental, emotional and social strength.

Expect people to go through change without showing them how to navigate it, then expect to see an increase in anxiety and stress mirrored by decreases in engagement and productivity.

Change and challenge: The New Normal

According to Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends, the rate of change in modern businesses is alarming. Thirty years ago, most companies undertook a couple of change initiatives a year. By 2017, this had increased to 20-25 change initiatives a year, and that’s without the disruption of COVID-19.

This rapid rate of constant change, together with the rising concerns over workplace mental health, suggests a significant skill gap that urgently needs addressing

What recent events should be demonstrating to everyone is that there is a significant skills gap in society. “How do I transition from one environment to the next and still thrive within it”? Without the appropriate training and skillset to do it, then we shouldn’t be surprised that many struggle – should we?

It’s easy to say be positive and control the controllable and get on with it but if you don’t know how to do that, then it’s just words. And people can’t just work through it, its that mindset that causes high stress, poor relationships, anxiety, burnout etc.

Expecting you people to go through change without showing them how puts unnecessary pressure on leadership

Despite impressive accomplishments, even the most inspiring leaders can experience a team of people feeling disengaged, disenchanted and isolated. The previous feelings of confidence and a love of taking on new challenges are replaced with frustration, stress, self-doubt and a team teetering on the edge of burnout.

The processes have not changed, and technical skills have not changed, still in reality, everything has changed because the team don’t have the mental, emotional and social skillset needed to maintain performance and wellbeing through change.

People have the potential to grow and transform, but they need the skills to do it.

One of the most prominent examples is when someone from an organisation’s talent pool gets the opportunity to take on new responsibilities as a leader. Whether its a promotion or a more informal leadership opportunity, this transition is often regarded as the natural “next step” for a talented performer. But we all know, in reality, how difficult this transition can be.

Despite having excellent technical skills and outperforming key deliverables, it’s understandable that top talent begin to feel overwhelmed as conventional leadership training fails to give them the skills they need to address the new situations and obstacles they face. They find themselves micro-managing and struggling to communicate their ideas effectively to the team. They lack the skills to make the transition and make the “step up.”

The scary thing is that these mental and emotional symptoms of change are not exclusive to just significant changes. Change comes in many forms, and everyone reacts differently. It could be the upheaval of changing offices, a different strategic direction or a change in a deadline that tips people over the edge.

When it comes to change, technical skills are often the least of peoples worries

Change is hard, but it can be made easier. The biggest challenge will always be getting people to invest and embrace change mentally and emotionally. We call this resilience and its essential when adapting to new situations and overcoming challenges with confidence.

People need to be armed with these skills, so they don’t fail — or worse, burn out in moments of transformation. Without resilience, your people can’t excel and perform. The world of change today requires new skills and a new perspective. Harnessing human potential starts with equipping your people with the skillset and mindset to be resilient and agile in the face of change.