old skl“I don’t know if that applies to me because I am just old school.”  We hear this quite often in business when new ideas and technology are introduced.  And it is not just from the older workers.  So when you hear this, flags should go up because what the term old school usually implies is resistance to change and quite often fear.   Someone is holding onto their old ways of doing things because it is safe.  Change is scary.  Old school could also mean that we perceive the old ways of doing things as the best way, regardless of the truth of it.  But success in business requires the ability to handle change effectively and manage the resistance to it. 

So how do you address these “Old-Schoolers?”

1. Acknowledge That Change Happens

Do you remember the technology of the 1980s and 90s?

  • DOS
  • 3.5 and 5.25 inch floppy disks
  • 64 Kb of RAM

Today’s workplace does not resemble any of the technology from back then, and neither do the workers.  Recognize that this ALWAYS happens and whatever change issues your workforce is going through is completely natural.

2. Respect the Fear

There are many forces at play when you hear these two simple words.  In today’s multi-generational workforce, many older workers feel as though their skill sets are becoming obsolete, but most often this is a misguided fear. Also, this fear applies to all age groups.   The fear is also one borne of learning a new skill.  “Am I going to be able to do this?  Will I look stupid if I don’t understand?” 

It takes a high level of self-awareness for people to admit they might not know everything.  You may have older workers who acknowledge a skills gap and work hard to learn something new because it is important to their job.  And you may have younger workers who don’t want to learn something new because it may expose them as not being competent in their jobs.  This may just be an insecurity issue.  So don’t confuse “old school” with just being OLD.

3. Don’t let it be a Cop Out

Change is dangerous ground when it comes to high-performers.  You don’t want to disrupt their performance, but if you are making changes to the business, then everyone has to be involved.  No exceptions or you will have slow progress.  Don’t exempt high performers from learning new technology or processes because they refer to the old ways of doing things as having a perceived higher standard.

Don’t let “We have never done that before and have still been successful” be a crutch.  You need to show them how these new changes will positively affect their job performance and even demonstrate how they will benefit. Show them how the strategy can actually help.  Read my other article on implementing a new CRM.

3.1 Cultivate a Change Culture

“We have been successful doing it this way for many years” may be true, but with changing marketplace and customer demands, today’s business has to be nimble and receptive to change.  All employees must feel as valued members of the team and the company must re-assure them that the change process is a good thing.

One way of encouraging adoption of new technology or process is through the power of peer pressure.  I will explain this concept in detail in a later post.  Essentially, you leverage the power of the employee peer network to showcase when someone is implementing the new ideas.  Not just the results, but the ACTIVITIES.  Everyone will see that they can get recognition for doing these new things, and will be interested in finding out more.

Be transparent about the goals and explain from the big picture how the change will affect the entire organization.  Ask for feedback and listen. 

When employees are learning something new, put them into two categories:

  1. Those that don’t know how
  2. Those that don’t want to know

Those that don’t know how – TEACH them. Those that don’t want to – they have two options. ONE: start wanting to and be open to learning. Or TWO: leave.

One thing that will never change is the fear of change.  Embrace that concept.  Realize that it doesn’t matter how great an idea is or how beneficial new technology will be, people will be hesitant.  So if you understand that, you can plan for it.  And if you do it right, you can outpace your competitors by having a business that adapts to the changing markets the fastest.

image:  Nino James

Joe Girard
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    4 replies to "3.1 Steps for Dealing with “Old School” Employees"

    • Michael

      You say "old school" is often from old workers. I think that is plain prejudice. Age has little to do with it. There are plenty of young hip workers who are too cautious or inexperienced to venture out of the old school ways of doing things.  Many of our most creative people are older, becuase they've had the experiences they can them combine into new ideas. I am sorry to see yet another marketer offering poor stereotypes of older workers. 

      • Joe Girard

        Hi Michael, I had hoped the post was clear that the term "old school" does NOT refer to old workers specifically. The second sentence of my post says, "And it is not just from the older workers." I reiterate that a few other times with other phrases like, "So don’t confuse 'old school' with just being OLD."

        The reason I actually wrote the post was because of a comment from a sales rep in their late 20's who was reluctant to learn some new technology and processes. They hid behind the guise of being old school. The purpose of this post is to acknolwedge that change, at any age, is scary and that people will use phrases like "old school" as a way out of having to learn something new. The challenge I see today in the multi-genarational workforce is that people are too quick to label and stereotype each generation, and even put them into a neat little box. What needs to happen is better understanding of how each group sends and recieves information. While there may be diferences, everyone still wants to feel valued. I love the feedback and that you fel so strongly! I would love some feedback on another post "Generation Y and Baby Boomers – Together at Last!" https://joegirard.ca/?p=437

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