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4 Strategies to Overcome Staff Resistance to Digital Transformation.

Top Reasons for Resistance


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Sophie Zoria

3 years ago | 7 min read

2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic created a tangible sense of urgency around digital transformation in all industries around the world. The failed attempts of huge corporations from the past have taught modern companies many lessons, so this year businesses adopted the idea much smoother.

Yet, every transformation, especially a digital one, has many obstacles even for the tech-savvy companies and employees. While Tendayi Viki, a PhD in psychology and business consultant, names only three barriers on the way to digital transformation: inertia, doubt, cynicism, there is a greater one – fear. The easiest way to overcome all of them is staff augmentation, but first things first.

This article focuses on the reasons employees oppose digital transformation in healthcare and other industries, the stages a business goes through while transforming, the strategies that can help on the way, and the best practices for companies to adopt. Read on to learn how to effectively battle staff resistance to digital transformation and gain the upper hand.

Top Reasons for Resistance

The main reason people are reluctant to industrial digitalization is the fear of change which is caused by the fear of the unknown.

Employees are afraid that the new duties will be too tough for them, or that they might not grasp the new way of working and get fired, or generally that the digitalization will make their position redundant completely. All these fears are the main fuel for staff resistance to digital transformation. Besides them, you will likely to face the following:

Self-interest: some employees might feel they are losing control and power due to the change; others will see that after one change will come another one and another one. Such changes might seem to put at risk their jobs, and such people will definitely oppose any changes.

Lack of trust: when employees don’t trust their managers, it creates a gap in their relationship, and the former is likely to resist any proposed changes.

Inadequate information: when management tries to hide particular aspects of the change from employees, it is always felt among workers and leads to the lack of trust and significant blocking of the initiatives.

You should expect resistance to change; it is absolutely natural. But if you face serious opposition, staff augmentation from a digital transformation company can be a magic wand to determine the cause of your issues. Such consultations frequently help to prevent the resistance as early stages and resolve them amicably, because the longer it builds up, the harder it is to neutralize.

The 4 Stages of Industrial Digitalization

August Turak, an entrepreneur, author, and marketing consultant, names four stages of change:

Anticipation: the benefits of the change are still expected, and the business makes transformational plans

Regression: the moment when everything goes south before it gets getter

Breakthrough: the light at the end of the tunnel gets visible and tangible

Consolidation: all the changes become BAU

Knowing these stages should help businesses understand that there will be a time of regression, it always comes. However, it is essential to go forward to the breakthrough because sooner or later it comes. And remember, employees are afraid that everything will stop at this regression stage, especially when it comes to manufacturing digital transformation, so this is the moment your greatest support will be needed.

4 Strategies to Overcome Staff Resistance to Digital Transformation

#1 Soft Coercion

This strategy is best when you know that the change is inevitable and the high ranks of the company have already decided that it will happen. However, not to scare the employees, you need to share the news via soft communication and education. The idea is to work within the staff augmentation approach, prepare educational materials, marketing programs, places of knowledge to which employees can turn to whenever required.

Moreover, there should be employee-based help centers where several experts from the same departments will be sharing the knowledge and helping the rest get around the digital transformation.

Always keep in mind that the rumor mill is vicious, so it is much better to open the cards from the start than deal with the guesswork of your employees later on.

#2 Development of the Common Change (Inclusion)

Whenever employees feel excluded from the process (especially when it comes to digital transformation in healthcare), they begin showing their resistance even to the greatest ideas.

So you can set up groups, committees, and organize seminars during which the expected change will be defined and adjusted. The people will feel that they have a say, and it is much easier to accept a decision you made yourself rather than accept a change brought from above.

This strategy takes time and patience because there will be many alternations to the original plan. But this is the most natural and harmless transition without fear.

#3 Fake Development of the Common Change (Co-exclusion)

This strategy to overcome staff resistance to digital transformation is tricky but might work. It works when all decisions have already been made, but you want to fool your employees into participating in the change. It means selecting the voices from several groups or departments and letting them into the decision-making procedure.

In this way, these selected individuals will communicate the changes to their groups and lead them into it seamlessly. The idea is that such a position is symbolic since all the changes have already been accepted and the voices are needed for mere manipulation only.

The co-exclusion strategy does exist, but it can easily backfire once your voices learn that they play no role in the decision-making process whatsoever. Use this option only for small and fast digital transformation in logistics, and only when the rest of the strategies cannot be of use.

#4 Hard Coercion

Extreme circumstances might need extreme tools. At some point, there might be a moment when there is no time for meetings and discussions, and quick action must be taken. In such cases, the management team simply informs the employees about the change without any space for negotiations. And those who refuse or fail to adapt will be fired.

This strategy is a risky one, yet when the change is inevitable, must happen quickly, and you anticipate a lot of resistance, this might be the only way.

Which strategy should I choose?

There is no simple answer since everything depends on your business goals, the scope of the change, expected resistance, budget, time allowance, and market conditions. Of course, strategies #1 and #2 are the preferred paths for a major digitalization transformation in any business but if the circumstances do not allow for a long-lasting smooth change, consider strategy #3 or even #4 for a quick result.

Staff Augmentation Insights: Smooth Digital Transformation

The digital transformation business is a change that can go smoothly if the management, as well as higher management of this business, understands the fears of its employees. Any fears are hard to overcome or break, so it is not sufficient enough to say “it will be fine, trust me”. Instead, it is essential to entice the trust and will of the employees. Here are a couple of tips to do so.

1. Explain the future: do not just say “it will be great for the business” because most of the employees will not buy it. With manufacturing digital transformation you need to always get into specifics about how everyone’s daily operations can become easier and faster because close is the shirt, but closer is the skin.

2. Set the roadmap: always outline the plan before you hit the road. An unknown future is what causes the greatest frustration and fear among employees.

3. Switch to learning: change is not like pushing a button; it is a continuous process of improvement and learning something new. Let people feel they will gradually acquire new skills in a daily learning mode.

4. Make gradual changes: do not change all the operations at one because it might lead to the collapse of all operations. In the process of digital transformation in logistics, go from one department to another, or from process to process to introduce the step-by-step changes rather than a box of new technologies at once.

5. Be the leader, not the boss: the management team needs to set an example to their charges. Be the leaders of your digital transformation because if you ask your employees to use emails and yourself continue using the written letters, this is not a great example of the transformation.

6. Start with the influencers: staff augmentation can help you find influential employees who can spread the knowledge further to keep the energy high and start your transformation with them. Staff is much more compliant with a change when their peers are already onboard.

7. Get employees the voice: work the transformation from the bottom with a consensus; give your employees the freedom to vote for their representatives who will participate in the change. This way, people feel included and are less likely to resist the changes (3/4 of companies reported having “extremely successful” transformations with staff members participating in shaping those change initiatives).

8. Have support: if you are adopting a new piece of software, always ensure there is a tech support department that can help your employees with all the queries. When it comes to human support, you can consult staff augmentation experts on which groups require which assistance.

9. Give feedback: the power of transparency is a miracle in transformation. Be open about the progress, celebrate successes, show that you know about the difficulties, and have a strategy to overcome them. And do not forget to ask if there is any other assistance needed. Openness is the key to collaboration and a faster transition to the new processes.

Bottom Line: Change is Hard

Transformations are difficult, and it is only natural for people to push back when something new is on the horizon. You already know that after anticipation and regression always comes a breakthrough, and one day the digital transformation becomes your business-as-usual work process.

The adoption of the new industrial digitalization normal in a company can be reached with several strategies but remember that openness, communication, and truthfulness with your employees are the best armor needed to fight staff resistance.

Pay attention to the best practices above, and try to adopt as many as you can. And keep in mind, the path will not be easy, but the benefits definitely outweigh the bumps on the way to the new reality.

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Sophie Zoria

Sophie Zoria is a passioned journalist writing about tech and marketing trends, mobile apps, and design. Check out her Medium page: https://medium.com/@sophie_65309


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