Why do employees resist digital transformation?

Leveraging new technologies to improve our current processes will help us work faster and more efficiently? Sounds good, but it does not work all the time. We live in a time where digital technologies hold the key to reshape the future success of many industries, from business management to customer experiences. However, it is a common challenge for executives that employees resist digital transformation. Let’s dive into the why and how to solve this issue.

Why resist digital transformation?

The risk of digital transformation is the biggest concern for executive leaders in 20191. In fact, 70% of all digital transformation initiatives do not reach their goals2. New technologies promise efficiency gains and better customer experience. However, employees’ unwillingness to change and poor organizational practices lead to an unsuccessful transformation. Before trying to overcome resistance, leaders need to understand the causes of it.

Fear of losing status or job security

Employees do not like the idea that Artificial Intelligent (AI) or bots will now do their jobs. The fear that new technologies will threaten their jobs will cause them to consciously or unconsciously resist the changes.

fear of job security

Fear of failure

New technologies usage also means new digital skills are needed to accelerate change. It comes with formal training and practice. For instance, as discussed in a previous blog, 72% of finance hiring managers expect an increasing digital competency gap in the next three years which exacerbates the inability to take advantage of digital investment. 

However, many organizations fail on rolling out good planning for training and have high expectations of the new solution. As a result, employees feel pressure to perform with a completely new tool that they do not know yet how to control. 

The digital tools do not prove their efficiency.

When the promised benefits of new digital solutions have not yet materialized, employees still spend a lot of time interceding. For example, many organizations adopted RPA to automate tasks in customer service, HR, and finance. Unfortunately, most RPA implementations automate stand-alone tasks and still require humans to operate bots to complete a simple process. Digital tools that do not meet up with their promised benefits will cause employees to resist or not open up to future solutions.

Not able to see the bigger picture

Aiming to boost organizational performance through digital technologies, executives often focus on the specific technology. For instance, they think the organization needs to make use of AI services or machine learning strategy. However, achievable goals, expectations, execution plans are crucial elements for leaders to consider before deciding which digital tools they should adopt. Thus, the lack of envisioning from leaders would lead employees to get frustrated easily with obstacles during the transition. 

Overcoming the resistance

The reasons for resistance to digital transformation are enough said. Let’s look at how business leaders can overcome these challenges.

Digital transformation is not about the technology.

Moving away from the technology focused mindset is necessary because any organizational transformation can only work alongside the human workforce. Employee experience and customer experience are what we should try to enhance. No single technology will be able to bring outstanding performance. Hence, the combination of human and digital workforce needs to come hand in hand. Technology is there to make our lives easier in the end.

The right digital strategy for your organization

Having the organizational goal set right often lays a good foundation for the right digital strategy. For instance, simple RPA bots which operate stand-alone tasks can be efficient for a mid-size organization. Tools that allow employees to do what they do best will enhance their productivity and satisfaction.

Motivate employees to move along in the right direction

Leaders need to acknowledge employees’ fears over job security and failure. Thus, emphasizing that the digital transformation is an opportunity for the employees to expand their expertise for the future can be a way to motivate them. Similarly, focusing on their personal development goals is another way. Figuring out with them what they enjoy doing and what they can do best for the company. Employees’ strengths need to match with elements of the digital transformation. When the employees recognize the new technologies will expand their performance even further, they will feel more secure and open. 

Communicate the bigger picture

Communicating with employees and getting them involve in the whole transition process will help them see the benefits. Everyone should know where the business is moving toward, and his or her place is in that bigger picture.


To conclude, accelerating digital transformation will succeed when leaders focus on the changing mindset of the employees alongside the organizational culture and practices. The right strategy in advance will help leaders to choose a suitable digital tool. And most importantly, inclusive culture with all members looking at the same direction will drive digital transformation and not vice versa.

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