As organizations embrace new technologies and more automated workflows, they’re letting go of legacy systems and siloed processes. While implementing these changes might sound superb to the C-suite, such projects typically conjure entirely different emotions among the rest of the organization.

 “Superb” isn’t the first word that comes to most end-users’ minds when they hear the term “digital transformation.” After all, end-users – not executives – are the ones asked to make the most adjustments.

If you’re implementing new enterprise software, such as an ERP or SCM system, then resistance to organizational change should come as no surprise. Considering this inevitability, let’s explore some reasons for resistance and some strategies you can use to overcome it.

What Causes Resistance to Organizational Change?​

If you announce plans for a digital transformation and you hear more grumbling than shouts of joy, there are a few reasons why this could be the case:

  • Lack of awareness around the change: Have you explained the details?
  • Lack of support from leadership: Have you secured executive buy-in and assigned change advocates?
  • Lack of involvement: Are you making sure everyone has a voice throughout the change?
  • Fear of the unknown: Have you left major questions unanswered?
  • Fear of changing job roles: Have you explained how the change will affect each individual role?

Often, what we perceive as resistance is simply concern, specifically around how digital technologies will affect day-to-day workflows. For instance, your sales team might push back against new ways of capturing lead and prospect data.

Most ERP failures are due to leaders ignoring the impacts of change on their staff. They dismiss the impacts of change with statements like, ‘It’s just business.’

– Bill Baumann, Director of Software Expert Witness at Panorama

The reality is that change is personal. Employees’ job functions and responsibilities may change, and they may need specialized training. As a result, employees may feel inadequate and fear their “old” skills will render them obsolete. Change resistance soon follows.

Thankfully, there are strategic ways you can address resistance early in the project.

5 Resistance Management Tips

1. Make Sure Leadership Advocates for the Change​

Employees are much more likely to embrace a change if they see their managers and the C-suite doing the same.

Ask a few visible executives to serve as vocal change agents throughout your organization. These are individuals who speak confidently about the change with others. They champion the new technologies, explain the benefits, and speak with authority as they answer questions.

Change Management Case Study

The client recognized their need for more comprehensive change management, so they asked us to fill in the gaps. We developed a robust communication plan to supplement the vendor’s communication approach.

2. Create a Resistance Management Plan

You might feel as though you’re welcoming resistance if you plan for it, but the opposite holds true. By preparing for the possibility that some of your employees might not embrace the change, you’ll be better prepared to reduce resistance.

Together with the project team, identify issues that could be a point of contention with your workforce. Then, identify the employees that might be most concerned with these issues.

Use this information to formulate a resistance management strategy and include this in your organizational change management plan.

3. Prioritize Communication

It’s very difficult to over-communicate during an organizational change. While you don’t have to share every detail with your workforce, make sure they understand enough to feel confident, and be sure to answer all their questions.

You may find that you need to tailor your communication based on the person you’re speaking to. For example, your controller will have different concerns about the new system than your warehouse manager.

Let your teams know what to expect and when to expect it by being honest and clear in your communications. Explain what is required of them and what channels of communication they can use to ask questions and provide feedback.

We recommend mixing up the channels you use – email should not be the answer for everything. Use town halls and department meetings when there’s benefit to an open forum.

The “who” of your communication is important, as well. Find out who your key influencers are and empower them with messaging.

4. Acknowledge Potential Risks

You might think that glossing over potential project risks will ease your employees’ minds. However, keeping a perpetually sunny outlook could do more harm than good.

At this critical juncture, your team members need honesty and transparency.

Acknowledge that there’s always a level of risk with any type of digital transformation. Remind them that you are aware of these risks, and you have put plans in place to mitigate them. Then, share how the benefits of the new software will far outweigh any uncertainties that await.

5. Look for Signs of Resistance ​

If you employ the right change management approach, most employees will eventually adopt the new enterprise software. However, if not measured, end-user adoption means very little.

Partial adoption is common. So is full adoption with silent resentment.

Be on the lookout for telltale signs of resistance, like reduced productivity and absenteeism. If left unaddressed, these behaviors will limit the business benefits you achieve.

Are You Planning an Organizational Change?

Leadership teams often assume that employees understand as much about the project as they do. As such, they fail to prioritize company-wide change communication.

The truth is, digital transformation can evoke a variety of emotions, from excitement to outright anger.

Our organizational change management consultants can help your company curb resistance to organizational change, so you can achieve your business goals. Contact us below for a free consultation.

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