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What Causes Workers to Resist New Technology? Maybe It’s What Happened Last Time

by Craig Roth  |  August 28, 2020  |  Submit a Comment

How often has an IT system you invested your time into been quickly shelved in favor of something newer?  I just received this email from our IT department (with a bit of paraphrasing to simplify):

“We are planning to retire [old team site tool] by the end of the year and migrate the relevant content to new applications. We have identified your site as one of our top sites.  Can we delete it?”

When that tool was rolled out I was happy to finally have a place to host my own intranet page for my team and projects I was working on.  I spent quite a bit of time learning the ropes and creating the site.  And then I spent relationship capital convincing others to follow it and help me keep it up to date.

Positive Experiences With Technology Are Required for Digital Dexterity

I don’t mind this one site being deleted but it demonstrates a common issue that I bring up with clients when talking about driving adoption and getting employees to quickly adapt to new systems.

Many of our clients want to raise their “digital dexterity” – the desire and ability of workers to adopt new ways of working. Business transformation requires a flexible and adaptable workforce that is willing and able to learn new and better ways of working that blend technology and business processes.  A “tech-positive” view is the largest component out of the six elements in our Digital Dexterity Index. We assess it in surveys by asking the surveyee to pick a spot on a scale between two attitudes:

  • I dislike new technology in my workplace  <——–>  I welcome new technology in my workplace

Many of the clients I have spoken to assume that if an employee tilts to the “dislike” side of the scale that indicates the employee has a problem that needs to be fixed.  But the correct response is to look to the IT department first. I ask about the quality of the employee experience around new technologies they have introduced:

  • How often have systems failed to meet expectations, such as by crashing and disrupted their work?
  • How often have they been rolled out with inadequate training, frustrating the users?
  • How often did they upset the balance of who can be more or less productive?
  • How often did you ask employees to invest time adapting to a new system only to retire it a few years later?

After an employee encounters a few of these failures they will understandably be hesitant to engage with the next system IT promotes. The way to improve the “tech positive” score – and it’s large contribution to overall digital dexterity – is with extreme focus on the user experience that IT provides when rolling out new systems. After several new systems that roll out with ease and prove helpful to their jobs (and careers) you can expect employees’ desire to adopt new systems to increase.

I had better stop here because I need to look through that old site and figure out if I need to migrate my lovingly crafted pages off of it. And if I want to migrate them to the new system that we are supposed to use.  Maybe I’ll wait a few years and see what happens with that new system …

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Category: digital-workplace  digital-workplace-applications  digital-workplace-program  

Tags: ddi  

Craig Roth
Research VP, Tech and Service Providers
7 years at Gartner
28 years IT industry

Craig Roth is a Research Vice President focused on cloud office suites, collaboration tools, content management, and how they are being impacted by digital workplace and digital business trends...Read Full Bio

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