Overcoming Resistance to Change During Digital Transformation

Overcoming Resistance to Change During Digital Transformation

Confucius says “They must often change who would be constant in happiness or wisdom”. Albert Einstein says “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change”. Change is inevitable; to be remotely successful we have to change. Change however becomes more difficult and almost frustrating when we are getting other people to change alongside us, now we face double the resistance because even though humans know that change could benefit them no one likes to leave their comfort zone which is the exact thing that change insists that you do – leave your comfort zone.

People resist change, however, when it has to do with their source of income, the fact that they are obliged to change and that they may fail in an attempt to change or may not be able to manage the new way of doing things as opposed to the traditional way, it becomes a major concern. Therefore the employer must have a great measure of empathy, you have to put yourself in these people’s shoes and understand that it is not just their pride and self-esteem on the line; it is the very support of their livelihood. Your ability to understand the root cause of their resistance and empathize with them during the digital transformation creates the very safe environment that is needed for their change.

Below are some tips that could help in overcoming resistance to change during digital transformation.

1. Developing Psychological Safety:

Indeed, even the most skilled and experienced team cannot do their best work without psychological safety; just the same way your children cannot do their best when the environment does not tolerate their mistakes.

A psychologically safe environment is one where people are not afraid to take risks and make mistakes. Psychologically safe teams are more likely to come up with better ideas, have greater well-being, learn continually and consequently, improve the organization’s performance.

Ideally, there would hardly be any need to overcome resistance to change during digital transformation if your work environment has hitherto been psychologically safe because resistance to change would be minimal. However, my guess since you are reading this article is that your work environment has hitherto not been the safest place on earth psychologically, hence the resistance to digital transformation.

All hope is not lost however, in fact, no hope is lost, for “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago but the second best time is now” (your company was probably not in existence 20 years ago). Do you want to plant the tree of psychological safety in your company? Start today, so that you are not just able to overcome resistance to change during this digital transformation but also so that in the future you do not begin afresh to overcome resistance to any future changes.

To achieve a psychologically safe environment you must

  • Reframe mistakes and honour them as providing essential feedback for success. Acknowledge mistakes in your team when they happen and avoid showing anger when they do happen. Instead become the role model in teaching your team members to be more understanding and accepting of the mistakes of one another, after all, mistakes are inevitable since we are humans.
  • Help team members correct their mistakes. Give them pointers on how to do better next time.
  • In a meeting, no one’s ideas should be disregarded as useless. Of course, not everything should be accepted but everyone should be respected and since their ideas almost represent them at that point, dismissing an idea as useless is almost equal to dismissing the originator of the idea.
  • Encourage everyone to speak up and appreciate contributions.

2. Emphasize the potential long-term benefits of the digital transformation to the company and the personal benefits it has for the staff:

While change is difficult, people are more likely to accept change if it will positively affect more than just a minute area of their lives. This means that not only should the company provide the necessary training to help staff interpret outputs and understand the new technology, but strategies should also be implemented to enable staff to see the bigger picture.

Let’s use a bookkeeper as an example. A bookkeeper that keeps his books in the traditional way of writing down what is sold and the price and then balancing his account at the end of the day. If you were the owner of the business and you wanted to implement a new technology that scans the product, automatically records the price and prints a receipt, the bookkeeper would resist change for some reasons. They may include his doubt about the technology’s ability to never make mistakes, and his uncertainty that there would always be power to ensure that the machine keeps on working. He may also feel that if the machine takes away his job where then is his job security. Apart from the fact that you would have to be empathetic enough to clear all his doubts about the new technology, you will have to make him see the bigger picture of advantages.

Make him understand that with the machine doing the repetitive tasks, he would have the time to do other things that would benefit the company. Let him understand that instead of balancing the accounts and working overtime he would have more time to spend with his family.

Let him see that instead of typing away at his computer the individual prices of the goods purchased by individuals he would become more involved in planning for the upcoming expansion of the company.

People have to know how this change would affect them and the company in the long run.

3. Clear Doubts with Empathy:

Did you notice that our bookkeeper seemed to have a lot of doubts about the change? He had doubts about constant power which makes us believe that hitherto power was not constant at his place of work. The company has to either ensure that power would be constant or find ways to mitigate the inconsistency of power to make our bookkeeper feel safe and comfortable with the new technology.

However, it is not the duty of the CEO to make everyone feel comfortable so all the major stakeholders and managers of all units of the company should have the needed information to answer the questions of their subordinates.

4. Change Management Strategy:

A team should be set up that would anchor and pivot the change. Stakeholders in the company should be able to meet them with their questions and concerns which they should be able to clear up.

In this case, this would be the digital team. The stakeholders in the company should be made familiar with this team and the team has the responsibility of understanding the company’s processes to manage change effectively, otherwise abstract processes would begin to find their way into the company, and this will not be well received by the staff.

This team should also be able to come up with a change strategy while working hand in hand with the stakeholders of the company.

While it may not be easy for the company to set up a team and system such as this, it is much more beneficial than the kind of loss that could be incurred by a failed digital transformation which could even make the company staff more averse to future changes.

This means that at every point in the process, everyone knows who does what and who is answerable to whom.

5. Impact of Digital Transformation on Current Processes:

Before the change is launched, employees should be detailed on the impact of the change on their current way of doing things. For example, our bookkeeper should know that he does not have to type the prices of each of the goods into the computer anymore; instead, he has to scan the codes on the products or the products themselves.

He should also know that there would be no need for handwritten receipts anymore; the computer would produce them automatically. These are the things that he should know.

Linked to this also is the fact that whatever change you are trying to implement digitally, it must be embedded in the current processes or rather, it should be an improvement on current processes.

It would be strange for our bookkeeper’s employer to switch to a new way of working that warrants that the customer scans the goods himself. While this is not impossible, this is sidelining the bookkeeper, which is not what you are trying to do. He must be included in the process. The customer could indeed get the goods scanned himself but that could be implemented at another time and not while you are still trying to get the bookkeeper to accept the fact that he would not have to record the purchases by himself anymore.

6. Don’t Forget your Customers:

Your customer and the effect of the change on them should not be forgotten. Ensure that they know that you care for them and that the change is not just going to benefit you but them too. For example, an elderly customer that always had the receipts manually written for her by the bookkeeper may find it difficult to believe that she is not being cheated by the computer and that the computer did indeed get accurate information about her purchase by scanning what she bought.

She must be assured that if for any reason the computer makes a mistake the business and not she would bear the consequences.

7. Iterative Testing and Feedback During Change Management:

Feedback cannot be overemphasized. Ensure that you are open to complaints and feedback from your staff. Don’t brand their concerns as stubbornness and refusal to adapt to change. A feedback system should be put in place so that the company knows how well they are doing.

During the digital transformation, the company must at all times know where the staff are in the adaptation process and the best way to monitor this is through feedback.

The ability to give feedback and receive responses also makes the staff and other people involved in the change feel secure and more willing to change

People naturally resist change but the tips in this article when applied with a good dose of empathy will not just reduce the resistance to change, it will also make the environment pro-change in this digital world where change is not just inevitable but necessary to keep afloat. Emotional intelligence is indispensable at this time, find out about it here. Still on second guessing a digital transformation in your company? Readup.

Leave your thought here

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

× Chat With Us on WhatsApp