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Imagine arriving at work one day and, to your surprise, the company-issued desktop computer you left on the desk Friday is no longer there. Instead, you find a postcard-size note that reads, “Your computer has been replaced by the smart device found in the package on your desk.”

Overcome Fear of Technological Change

Someone faced with an experience like this would possibly feel various emotions. They’d begin to ask themselves “what do I do?” or “how will I get my work done?” The answers to those questions would expectedly be unknown—and fear would set in.

Despite the postcard-size note, the communication fell short. It didn’t say enough about expectations or benefits. The old saying holds true—“First impressions make a lasting impression.” Unfortunately for an organization that takes this approach, that impression could hinder any chance of success at meeting desired objectives—before the employee even powers on the device.

While the scenario described is drastic, the rapid rates at which organizations are undergoing digital transformations can be just as unsettling for employees. Gone are the days of large tower computers and monitors, and in as many as 42 percent of organizations, digital technology has become the norm. It is predicted that the utilization of smart objects—i.e., the Internet of Things—will grow exponentially from 2 billion objects in 2006 to a projected 200 billion by 2020. That trajectory is expected across industries as the means to connect, collaborate and access information.1

Oddly enough, the hardware, applications and infrastructure changes, while potentially cumbersome for IT, are only a small part of the digital transformation. The bigger part is the people impacted by those changes. Often, changes occur with little to no advance communication or help to prepare employees to adopt the technology. Digital adoption fails when too much focus is placed on identifying the right devices and applications, and not enough on the people who will use them. Research suggests that roughly 15 percent of project success is seen when little to no communication is distributed to the workforce.

According to a February McKinsey Global Survey on digital adoption, employees are 3.5 times more likely to experience a successful technology change when desired outcomes are shared in advance. A doctor wouldn’t perform a surgical procedure without telling the patient why they need to have surgery, what to expect during surgery, and how to care for themselves afterwards.

Here are five key ways to help your employees overcome their fears, and ultimately promote successful change and adoption:

  1. Walk a mile in their shoes. Remember the scenario where the computer was taken without warning? Would you want to experience that? Probably not, and your employees don’t either. Show empathy and make sure your employees know the change is happening to everyone—including you.
  2. Provide clear objectives why the change is happening and the benefits. Most people fear what they don’t understand. They would be more inclined to feel positive about making the change when they know the business goals.
  3. Answer the question “What’s in it for me?” Ensure that your workforce knows how the tools support them to get their jobs done effectively and efficiently, any time and just about anywhere.
  4. Clearly outline what to expect. Don’t just take the computer away. Provide timely awareness before the change with what to expect and any steps required to make the change.
  5. Connect them with self-help resources. Equip your workforce with learning resources to empower them to use the technology once it’s available. In other words, help them to “face their fears.” The reality is, these changes will continue to happen, but with helpful guides, webinars, or other guided learning, the changes may not be as daunting as initially perceived.

“When information is in short supply, people fall back on experience and gut feeling. Though there’s no such thing as cast-iron certainty in a digital transformation, developing a comprehensive fact base can do much to dispel people’s understandable fears.” – McKinsey Digital

Organizations across industries must keep up with the rising digital transformation trends—it can’t be avoided to remain competitive in the marketplace. As transformation occurs, it’s natural for your workforce to be apprehensive. To effectively prepare your employees and help dispel their fears, it is critical to explain the goals, benefits, expectations, and highlight the learning resources to support them throughout those changes.

Through these efforts, organizations can achieve maximum return on investment, increased adoption, overall improved corporate productivity, and success to foster a positive impact on the organization.


1. “A Guide to the Internet of Things,” Infographic, Intel, https://www.intel.com/content/dam/www/public/us/en/images/iot/guide-to-iot-infographic.png

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