Why Employees Refuse to Adopt New Tools: Technology aversion or simply fear of change?

Nataša Mlađenović
Nataša Mlađenović
Oct 12, 20229 minute read

It's always been hard to get people on board with new things, be it new tools or processes, but when it comes to true novelties such as social intranets and digital workspaces, the task can feel downright impossible.

Despite the clear advantages that these technologies present to employees in terms of enhancing communication and collaboration within an organization, a lot of people will downright refuse to use them.

Employee Resistance to Technology Adoption

In this article, we'll take a look at some of the common reasons employees deliberately decide not to engage with these tools and explore what you can do to encourage them to give it a try.

Why It is Important to Keep up with Changing Technology

It's really not breaking news that people are resistant to change, especially when it comes to adapting to new technologies, and even more so in a corporate setting.

The importance of it, however, shouldn't be underestimated. According to a study by MIT Sloan Management Review and Capgemini Consulting, the vast majority of managers believe that “achieving digital transformation is critical” to their organizations.

Moreover, those who are further along in their journey toward digitization are reaping substantial rewards.

The study found that these companies are twenty-six percent more profitable than their less digitally mature counterparts and are better at attracting and retaining customers. They're also able to respond faster to market changes and tend to have more engaged employees.

The importance of social intranets in the workplace

In recent years the importance of a cohesive workplace and collaborative environment has only grown, with more and more businesses going global and teams becoming increasingly distributed.

Add to that the emergence of the hybrid workplace, with people working from both home and office, and it's easy to see why a lot of organizations are looking for ways to better connect their employees and facilitate communication and collaboration.

That's not to mention loneliness and isolation, which CNN has dubbed the dark side of working from home. Around 20% of remote workers experience loneliness, and overall productivity and job performance suffer as a result.

This is where social intranets come in. An intranet allows employees to share ideas instantly, receive status updates on projects, and coordinate responsibilities all on the same platform.

Several traditional companies have moved to network model for key functions over the past few year: Intuit with its mass peer-production customer care, TELUS and its 50% increase in employee engagement with social media, as well as SAP, IBM, Ford, BASF, and a fair number of others

However, in order for these technologies to be effective, employees need to be on board and actively using them.

Why Employees Refuse to Engage with Social Intranets

When implementing new workplace technology, there are always some that aren't tech-savvy or are just general naysayers when it comes to anything new, who will resist the novelty and there isn't much you can do about that.

When it comes to novelties such as social intranets, however, the reasons for choosing not to engage with them are usually more complex than just being set in one's ways.

Here are some of the most common reasons employees give for why they're not using social intranets in the workplace, and tips on what you can do to encourage them to give it a try.

1. "I'm not sure what it is or how it works"

This is probably the most common reason people shy away from using social intranets. It's new and unfamiliar territory, so it's only natural that people are hesitant to dive in headfirst without knowing what they're getting into.

Companies can actually do a lot to mitigate this particular issue. To start with: Do your research and make sure that the technology you're introducing is user-friendly and easy to learn.

“If your goal is a high adoption rate within the organization, make sure you’re choosing the most approachable, most intuitive system possible,” says Mankins.

So, user-friendliness is key. In addition, make sure that you have a clear and concise plan for how the social intranet is going to be used within the company.

Once you've decided on a platform and worked out the kinks, clearly communicate this plan to your employees so they know exactly what's expected of them and how they can get the most out of the social intranet.

2. "I already have enough on my plate"

In today's fast-paced business world, it's not uncommon for employees to feel like they're being pulled in a million different directions.

With that in mind, it's not surprising that some might be hesitant to add yet another thing to their already full plates.

The key here is to make sure that the social intranet is actually going to save employees time and make their lives easier, rather than adding yet another layer of complexity.

According to Igloo Software’s State of the Digital Workplace report, the average knowledge worker spends nearly 20% of the workweek looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues to help with specific tasks.

A social intranet can help reduce the time spent on these activities by making it easier for employees to find the information they need and connect with the right people.

Explaining the benefits, backed with data, should be part of the onboarding process to help employees understand how the social intranet can actually improve their workflow.

3. "I'm not sure if it's secure"

In today's day and age, data security is more important than ever. With all of the high-profile data breaches that have been in the news recently, it's no wonder that some employees might be hesitant to use a social intranet where sensitive company information is being shared.

To ease these fears, it's important to make sure that the social intranet platform you're using has robust security features in place.

Additionally, you should be looking for systems that let you own all the provided data. This means that the software company that provides the social intranet doesn't have access to any of the information you store on their platform, and can't sell it to third parties.

Finally, make sure to educate your employees on the importance of cyber security and best practices for using the social intranet. This will help reduce the risk of confidential information being leaked or stolen, but also ease their minds about using the platform in the first place.

4. "I'm not a fan of change"

Change can be difficult for some people, and that includes a change in the workplace. If an employee is used to doing things a certain way, they might be hesitant to switch to a new system – even if it's more efficient.

And even more so for employees who have been with the company for years. They tend to be set in their ways and resistant to change because they know the current system and are comfortable with it.

Even research shows that respondents who had only recently started working in the case company tended to assess the adequacy of resources for change more positively than their more senior colleagues.

The key here is to stress the benefits of using the social intranet and how it can actually make their lives easier. Help them understand that change can be a good thing and that this particular change will make their workdays more efficient and productive.

5. "We already have a system in place"

This is closely related to the previous objection because it comes down to people not being willing to change the way they're used to doing things.

Whether you are aware of it or not, your employees probably already have channels set up, like Facebook or WhatsApp groups, which they use to stay in touch and exchange information.

The key here is to show them how a social intranet can streamline these communication channels and make it easier for everyone to stay up-to-date on what's going on.

Even small organizations rapidly outgrow email, social feeds, and file-sharing solutions, so change is just a matter of time.

Groups and channels are also neither as safe nor as organized as an official system. A social intranet can help reduce the risk of information getting lost or leaked and make it easier for employees to find the information they need.

6. "I don't know how to contribute"

This is often where social intranets fail: employees don't know how to contribute, so they don't. As a result, the system becomes stagnant and is eventually abandoned.

So how do you get employees to post on your intranet? Well, you just model the behavior you want to see.

Get your managers and your "influencers" on board first. They can help set the tone for how the system is used and what kind of content is shared.

“Don’t just pick the geeks – those who are most interested in technology,” says Didier Bonnet, coauthor of Leading Digital and Global Practice Leader at Capgemini Consulting, “You want people who are able to work horizontally across the organization and who have good communication and networking skills.”

In addition to that, try and gamify the system by using leaderboards! Modern intranets will offer you detailed analytics, which you can use to see who is engaging with the system the most. You can then use this data to create leaderboards and give out prizes or recognition to those who are actively using the system.

This will not only encourage others to contribute, but it will also help build a sense of community around your intranet.

7. "I don't want to embarrass myself"

Not everyone will be comfortable broadcasting their thoughts and opinions to the entire company, especially not your new hires or remote workers who might not know their colleagues that well yet.

Dealing with this isn’t easy, and will require a bit of trial and error to see what works best for your company.

A good place to start is by creating smaller, private groups where employees can get to know each other better and feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts.

It's also always a good idea to have some casual topics on your intranet. This can help people warm up to the idea of posting on the intranet and make it feel less formal.

The goal here is to create a safe and welcoming environment, and then ease people into it.

8. "No one needs my contribution"

A lot of people might be feeling this way, and just not understanding their importance in the company, or how useful their little tips and tricks could be for other employees.

This is a common problem with social intranets because people often think that they need to have something big or important to say in order to contribute.

But even the smallest piece of advice can be helpful to someone else and it's up to you to show your employees that.

Create a variety of topics and then model what you want to see: share your little tricks, your milestones, your thoughts on the company's strategy, etc. This will encourage others to do the same and show them that their contributions are valued.

And don't forget to endorse the brave ones that take that first step!

9. "I don't like to brag"

Depending on what type of content you'd like to be shared on your social intranet, you might encounter this objection.

In general, there are a lot of benefits of people sharing their accomplishments and successes on the social intranet. It can help boost employee morale, show other employees what's possible, and help with succession planning.

However, a lot of employees will not be comfortable sharing these things because they don't want to come across as bragging.

Dealing with this will require a bit of finesse. You'll need to make it clear that you're not looking for people to brag, but rather to share their successes in a way that is helpful and informative to others.

You might also want to create separate forums or groups for people to share their accomplishments so that it doesn't feel like it's being forced on everyone.

Analytics and Feedback Loops

By now we understand that just putting a software or system out there is not enough. If you want it to take root and reap all its benefits, you'll need to have a strategy for encouraging users to adopt and actually use it.

This is where analytics and feedback loops come in.

Analytics will help you understand how your social intranet is being used and who is using it the most. This information can be extremely valuable in understanding what's working and what's not.

They will also help you understand who's not using it, and that might even be more important, because those employees will give you the most valuable feedback.

Are they not finding it valuable? Do they not know how to use it? Do they feel like their contributions are not valued?

Once you understand the reasons why they're not using it, you can take steps to address those issues.

And feedback loops will help ensure that employees feel like their voices are being heard and that their contributions are valued.

In Conclusion

The fear of a resisting workforce is a common obstacle that stands in the way of many companies adopting new technologies.

But companies that give in to this fear often find themselves at a disadvantage.

New technologies are usually adopted first by market leaders. And those that don't adapt quickly enough often find themselves struggling to catch up.

So if you want your company to stay ahead of the curve, you need to embrace change and encourage early and fast technology adoption, which is not that hard to achieve if you follow the tips above.

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