people standing at the edge of a cliff
PHOTO: Valdemaras D.

When trying to transition to a more digital workplace, business owners will face a number of challenges. While some of those might be related to new hardware and new software, other complications will come from the human component: Employee resistance to digital change is common.

Distress about new digital practices — or even outright rejection of these new methods — can be avoided if the digital workplace is introduced with care. Like a software glitch, these issues can be handled seamlessly with the right approach and tools.

Addressing Resistance: Find the Why

If employees are demonstrating resistance or discomfort with your digital shift, it’s important to identify why they feel this way. It can be easy to assume the resistant employee just struggles with change or doesn’t want to do the work of learning a new system. But, if you’ve been careful with hiring, and built a team of responsible employees, this is likely not the issue.

What's more probable is the employee doesn’t have enough support, doesn’t have the right kind of support, or doesn’t understand how this shift will positively impact their job function. If you want to successfully transition to a digital workplace, you will have to provide a clear explanation of how the change will improve the lives of your staff, and also provide plenty of support and training for the new technology. 

Related Article: Why Human Behavior Is Key to Successful Change Management

1. Be Explicit About Benefits

For employees to embrace any change, they need a clear understanding of how that change will benefit them on a personal and individual level. The primary reason for any business owner to pursue a new technology for the office is because it will increase productivity and efficiency, and your employees need to know that.

Take the time — preferably in person, rather than in a memo or email — to explain exactly how the introduction of new technology will benefit your employees. This might mean having individual meetings with different departments, because a new CRM software will benefit HR in a much different way than it benefits IT.   

No matter how explicit you are, just telling your team that the digital workplace is going to make their jobs easier and increase productivity isn’t enough. Employees need to see and experience that firsthand. Not all of the tools that you implement as you go digital will have immediate results that all users can see, so it’s important to gather some tangible evidence of the improvements to share with your team. That evidence might be increased sales or leads, or even decreased time spent on a certain task with the same outcome.

It’s also worth explaining to your staff that the process of learning a new tech is valuable in and of itself. Digital dexterity, the ability to familiarize oneself with a new tool, is a highly marketable skill that provides long-term career benefits.

Related Article: Key Skills Every Digital Workplace Practitioner Needs

2. It Starts With Training

For better or worse, training will dramatically influence your staff’s perception of the digital workplace. When training staff to use a new technology, education best practices apply. This means you need to offer each employee multiple opportunities to learn a new task in a variety of different ways. Everyone learns differently, and the more learning modalities you can accommodate, the more likely your digital transformation will be successful.

Some employees might respond well to a lecture-style training session on a certain technology, while others will want to learn from a peer. Some employees may want to spend a few days playing around with the new software or strategy before they engage in any formal training. Ask your staff how they learn best and do your best to offer a strategy that works for them.

Related Article: Poor Digital Skills Hinder Digital Workplace Progress

3. Make Support Available in Excess

Employees should know exactly who to call or email when they need help with a specific software or tool in the workplace — their confusion and tech woes shouldn’t be coming to you. If they have a point person that they can use as both teacher and assistant for new technology, they might be less resistant to the change knowing they won’t have to bother their boss about it all the time.

Not all tech gurus are going to be great teachers. While some of your staff will demonstrate more tech-savviness than others, and peer education can be useful, be wary of identifying a “go-to” digital workplace employee who has to field everyone’s questions. This person might become resentful of such an identification and furthermore, they might pass on some fundamental misunderstanding of the new technology. Instead, rely on support staff who are specific to the new technology you’re using.

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Create a Digital Culture

As your workplace evolves, your company culture needs to evolve, too. Find ways to embrace the digital world in your culture. Make high-quality, productive technology one of your values as a company. By identifying the digital workplace as a fundamental component of your business, employees are more likely to buy in to the digital experience.

The transition to a digital workplace will not happen overnight. As with any worthwhile initiative, it's an ongoing process requiring monitoring and management to ensure it is always improving. That said, clear communication of the benefits, along with proper training and support, will make the transition to a digital workplace much quicker and easier.