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The Secret to Overcoming Employee Resistance in Digital Transformation

The Secret to Overcoming Employee Resistance in Digital Transformation

By WalkMe Team

There is one “silent killer” that can bring down even the most carefully planned digital transformation strategies: employee resistance to change.

When it comes to successful software migration, getting buy-in from business decision makers and board-level stakeholders is only part of the battle. Organizations looking to drive digital transformation by updating or replacing their legacy technology solutions will also need to swiftly address the reluctance of the rest of the workforce.

If you don’t know how to manage change, resistance will be a persistent problem and a major roadblock to your digital change effort.

Your next read: Take a deep dive into employee resistance to change and how to overcome it.

The first step to overcoming resistance to change is understanding it

Metathesiophobia, or the fear of change, often crops up when employees face an unfamiliar initiative. For them, change brings uncertainty, and neuroscience research has demonstrated that uncertainty registers in our brains as an error. 

employee resistance to change

In any context, change generates stress and fear. Fear of the unfamiliar, fear of incompetence, fear of failure, and fear of losing status.

HR professionals, managers, and training staff who want to know how to manage change should be sensitive to the fact that introducing new software has a major impact on employees’ workflow, processes, and even performance.

Major changes can make them feel like they’re losing control over the quality of their work.

Suddenly, it seems like prior skills and knowledge are no longer relevant. When people feel incompetent and unable to do their jobs well, their sense of self-worth declines.

With this in mind, it becomes easy to see that reluctance to new digital tools is often not about the tool itself, but about employees’ desire to protect their performance from a perceived threat.

Worst case scenario, their inability to master new digital tools renders them obsolete. Best case scenario, they eventually learn to use the platform, but only after spending hours on training and relearning.

Make sure the purpose of your digital transformation is clear

Increasing your digital capabilities is critical for boosting operational efficiency, creating innovative new business lines, and improving the customer experience. But often, employees struggle to see the bigger picture when it comes to change.

When someone from upper management says they need to change something, the natural instinct is to get defensive — and resistant.

According to the Harvard Business Review, many employees view impending change as an affront to their autonomy and abilities. Whether they’ve been at their company for two months or two decades, employees become very defensive of their processes, and it’s easy for them to associate a shift in strategic direction with a signal that their current performance isn’t good enough.

These feelings can be magnified if leadership imposes changes on employees suddenly, rather than giving them adequate notice and clearly communicating the reasons behind the shift in direction.

Instantly simplify digital transformation with a Digital Adoption Platform (DAP). Request a demo today.

How to manage change with a digital adoption strategy

Providing context for a digital change initiative can go a long way toward mitigating the concerns and negative feelings that contribute to employee resistance. 

digital adoption

But even if employees understand and agree with the need for change, the challenge of adopting complex new software still exists.

With a digital adoption strategy, you can ensure employees have the resources required to use your digital investment as they are intended, and to their fullest capabilities.

Ensuring usability is not only critical to making the most of your digital arsenal, but it also helps mitigate the employee frustration that arises during the onboarding phase. If you don’t address user problems right away, you risk the development of resistance and employees who avoid the software altogether.

Up next on your reading list: Drive into digital tranfsormation 2.0 with a digital adoption strategy

Giving your employees the opportunity and a reason to go back to the old way of doing things is not a position you want to be in when you’re trying to figure out how to manage change.

For more information on how to calm employee fears about organizational change and drive digital transformation, download the How to Make Your Next Software Migration a Phenomenal Success eBook today.


WalkMe’s Digital Adoption Platform (DAP) transforms the user experience in today’s overwhelming digital world. Using artificial intelligence, engagement, guidance, and automation, WalkMe’s transparent overlay assists users to complete tasks easily within any enterprise software, mobile application or website. Discover how a DAP can revolutionize your business — request a demo today.


WalkMe Team
WalkMe pioneered the Digital Adoption Platform (DAP) for organizations to utilize the full potential of their digital assets. Using artificial intelligence, machine learning and contextual guidance, WalkMe adds a dynamic user interface layer to raise the digital literacy of all users.