Monday, December 30, 2019

Dealing with Employees Who Resist Technological Change

In today’s world, people use some form of technology in their everyday lives, especially when it comes to the workplace. If you think about it, there’s a high probability that every single job industry requires employees to use some form of technology in order to complete their jobs completely -- and there’s nothing wrong with that. This is simply the world in which we live.

To keep efficiency and productivity high, employers often want to implement the most up-to-date technology, whether it be software, programs, or machines, into their workplaces. However, there are some employees who aren’t too happy about these technological advancements to the point that they will resist using them. 

The idea of employees resisting technology in the workplace is not a new idea. In the early 1800s, Luddites were English workers who were so opposed to new technology, like machinery in cotton mills, that they destroyed it. Modern-day Luddites don’t necessarily destroy the new technology, but they certainly share the same unhappiness as their 19th-century namesakes.


black and white sketch of craftsmen destroying machinery
In the 1800s, Luddites, who worked mainly in the textile industry, destroyed the new machinery because they felt it threatened their jobs. Image courtesy of

This raises two questions: why are employees resisting change, and what can employers do about it? We’ll answer those questions and more in this article:

  • Why People Might Resist New Technology in the Workplace
  • How You Can Alleviate Employee Anxieties and Get Everybody on Board
  • What to Do If an Employee Still Won’t Cooperate

Why People Might Resist New Technology in the Workplace

While new technology can often make an office, a branch of a company, or even a whole company more efficient, there are still employees who resist technological change. To know how to deal with those kinds of employees, you first need to understand their reasoning, which can be summed up in one word: fear. 

A Fear of the Unknown

A big reason why people don’t want to switch to a new system is that they are afraid of the unknown. Even those who use technology on a daily basis can be resistant to change, and the sole reason is because of familiarity. Plenty of people value routine and are used to doing the same tasks every day, so introducing something new that will cause change will also cause anxiety. With a loss of familiarity also comes the uncertainty that they might not be able to use this new technology.

A Fear of Making Mistakes

In addition to the disruption of their familiar environment, employees also fear they will seem incompetent in front of their peers. People who are used to a certain system or program often know the ins and outs of it and can consider themselves experts. With a new system/program, there is a high probability that they will make mistakes.

Is Technological Resistance Age-Related?

You might assume that older employees are the ones who aren’t as fond of new technology in the workplace, but that isn’t necessarily the case. This is proven in The Technology Fallacy, a book about how to deal with technological disruptions based on a four-year study of 16,000 participants. 

According to Gerald Kane, the lead author of the book, 76 percent of people in their 50s believe it is crucial that their employer is a technology leader. This may be surprising to some people, as there is the assumption that older people are more resistant to technology. However, they seem to agree with employees who are in their 20s.

How You Can Alleviate Employee Anxieties and Get Everybody on Board

What do you do as a leader if one of your employees doesn’t want to accept the new technology? While there isn’t one set solution that works for every employee, if you take the time to explain how the new technology can help your company, people might be more willing to engage with it. Here are a few strategies to help get your employees on board:

  • Optimize the Timing
  • Provide Resources
  • Be Accepting of Mistakes
  • Communicate with Each Other
  • Encourage Employees to Actively Participate

Now, let’s dive deeper into what each of these steps entails.

Optimize the Timing

When thinking about the implementation of a new system in your workplace, stop and ask yourself: is this the right time to do this? If you’re uncertain, maybe take a step back and wait a little longer.

When you decide the time is right, make sure to take it slow. Start off by introducing a few changes at a time -- your employees won’t be as likely to accept the new system if you just throw it all at them at once. Make changes gradually, and let your employees adapt. This way, your employees will be less intimidated by change and more willing to take on new challenges.

Communicate with Employees

Before implementing the new system or program, sit your employees down and talk to them. This is the time to explain what changes will be occurring and what they can expect. They will probably have a lot of questions, so be patient with them and answer as many as you can.

As your team moves along with the implementation of the new system, encourage them to share their thoughts. Your employees might be afraid to do so, though, especially if they aren’t as positive reactions as you hoped. However, you need to know what works and what doesn’t, so have them be honest. Sharing thoughts will help both you and your employees in the long run.

clipart of someone giving a presentation to 3 people
Your employees should know that they can come to you if they have problems and that you will help them.

Provide Resources

When learning how to use a new system, program, or software, having resources at your disposal often makes people feel more at ease. People all learn differently, so make sure you have diagrams and images for visual learners, written instructions for verbal learners, and informational videos for audial learners. 

Classes or informational sessions might be helpful, too. This gives your employees a chance to learn together and to ask questions of you, an instructor (if there is one), and each other.

Be Accepting of Mistakes

Like mentioned earlier, one of the reasons people might oppose new technology in the office is because they are afraid to mess up. While everyone hates them, mistakes are a part of the learning process. 

When an employee makes one, it shows they are putting forth effort and attempting to learn. The main takeaway here is to be patient with your employees when you implement a new system of some kind.

Encourage Employees to Actively Participate

Your employees are the main ones who are reacting to and using new technology in the workplace. Why not ask for their thoughts? Put them in groups and have them come up with ways to better implement a new technological change. Since they are the ones who experience first-hand the change, they know what works well and what could work better. 

group of people sitting on a couch by a laptop
Employees can share thoughts about the new technology and brainstorm ways it can work more smoothly. 

What to Do If an Employee Still Won’t Cooperate

What do you do, though, if you have an employee who is truly stuck in their ways and unwilling to learn? 

Firing them seems the logical choice, as they are hindering other employees and the growth of the company, but sometimes it isn’t always that easy. Perhaps that employee has been there since the beginning of the company or is your best employee, so losing them would be detrimental. 

Talk to the employee and try to gain an understanding of their concerns. Ask them why they won’t accept the new system, and see if there is a way you can make it easier for them. Hopefully, after that, they will cooperate. If not, you may want to inform them what could happen if they continue to resist the new technology -- A.K.A., termination of their employment.

Introducing new technology into your workplace can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. All you really need to do is understand the reasons behind your employees’ worries. Once you figure those out, you can take the necessary steps, such as gathering various educational resources, in order to relieve those worries. 

Integrating data analytics into your company is no different. Using data to analyze your risks and benefits helps you to make better, more informed decisions concerning the overall productivity and well-being of your business. Most importantly, that data needs to be up-to-date. 

Change comes whether people want it to or not, so the best thing you can do is be prepared for it when it does.

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