Overcoming the fear of digitalisation through education

The introduction of new technology can evoke anxiety and resistance among employees. Psychologist Karoliina Mellanen explains how employees can be helped to get over the fear of change.

“It is natural for us to be scared of the unknown. Everyone hates the feeling of losing control. We like routine and doing things the same way we always have”, explains psychologist and business coach Karoliina Mellanen from Generoi Development.

“Being shown a new way to do something challenges our sense of control – especially if we have had bad experiences with change before and the change is forced upon us. However, the way we react to change always depends on the individual and the circumstances.”

The introduction of a new ERP system or travel software can trigger many questions: Will I be able to use it? Is this something I can learn? How will this change things? People are afraid of being ridiculed for not knowing how to use new technology.

“Many of the rules of restructuring also apply to the deployment of new technology and digital tools. It is difficult to convince employees about the benefits of a new way of doing things if they like the old way. The transition is easier if employees can be made to understand why the old way no longer works.”

Support and communication are vital

Poorly planned and executed changes can stay on employees’ minds for a long time. 
“Bad experiences with previous changes easily lead us to expect things to go wrong the next time too.” 

So what can be done to help employees adapt to change?

“The key is to communicate clearly about what is going to happen. Employees need to be explained why the change is necessary, why the old way of doing things is no longer viable and what the organisation hopes to achieve with the change. It is important for people to understand how the change will affect them personally.”

Having constant access to support is vital. This means always having someone available to answer questions as and when they arise.

According to Mellanen, organisations should avoid introducing too many changes at the same time. “Learning takes time and can be exhausting. Complex technology should ideally be introduced one component at a time.”

Rumours can be more powerful than the truth

According to Mellanen, organisations need to be proactive in nipping any rumours in the bud. “Lack of information does not breed ignorance but imagined realities. Gossip and rumours are often much worse than the truth”, Mellanen says. 

Getting the facts out is crucial, whether it is over lunch or on the organisation’s intranet. “It is also a good idea to give employees a voice in the process. For example, prospective users of new technology can be surveyed to find out about their needs before the purchase is made. People are more inclined to embrace a change when they feel that they had a role in its introduction.”
Objectors should not be silenced but listened to. “Many organisations mistakenly believe that someone who objects to a change is not on board. Often those who shout the loudest are the most dedicated.” 

Managers also have an important part to play when new digital technology is introduced.
“Managers can, for example, listen to employees and allow them to express their feelings. The information that employees are lacking about a change may not be known to their manager either, but the manager can be there for their subordinates and try to understand their point of view and offer support”, Mellanen explains.

“Just being able to communicate our fears or anxieties is often enough. It is important for employees to feel that they are being heard.”