In a previous blog post, I briefly discussed how effective leadership is essential whenever a business starts a process of digital transformation. However, senior management are not the only ones who need to be on-board with the project. For digital transformation to be successful, I always stress that you need cooperation from every level of the company.

What happens when employees disagree with the need for change? Their feelings can range from simple disinterest to outright opposition and hostility. It’s important to understand why this happens. Without addressing this issue, the project is unlikely to even start to accomplish its objectives.

Fear of Loss and Change

Often, employees worry that digitisation will render their jobs redundant or obsolete, and these fears might be legitimate. Faced with the prospect of ending up unemployed with a limited skill set, any one of us would resist the project by default. A company must communicate how the change will affect jobs within the organisation, and what it will do to ease the transition.  

Faced with the prospect of ending up unemployed with a limited skill set, any one of us would resist the project by default.

Change can be intimidating. It's likely that employees will have to take on new responsibilities, adjust their work habits, and learn to use new technology. The company culture will undergo a major shift, and this will certainly make some unhappy.

Industry Complacence

While crisis situations are stressful, they are also excellent motivators for change. Think of how the Internet forced publishers and the music industry to adapt. The threat of extinction can mobilise even the oldest, most established organisations. In a recent survey, 27% of senior executives said that digital transformation was now a matter of survival.

But what if the company is in a relatively stable market? Without an obvious threat or decline, many within the organisation may feel that digitisation is unnecessary – even if they know that things won't stay as they are forever. Waiting for disruption is not an option. It only means that you’re having to play catch up whilst a hungry and agile competitor eats into your profit margin.

I believe that leaders need to emphasise what the company stands to gain by transforming, and the consequences of being complacent.

There are plenty of case studies to choose from already when making this point – Netflix, Uber, Amazon, each of these companies have thrived due to an incumbent’s inability to leverage digital.

Distrust in Technology

Sometimes the problem is a lack of understanding and trust. Employees might think that digitisation is merely a passing trend, and they may have even seen similar large-scale projects fail in the past. They could believe that this is not in the company’s best interests, and that it will be a waste of time and resources. In many cases, this happens because the company is not transparent with its strategy – or it doesn’t have much of a plan at all.

Digital transformation involves everyone, from C level executives to the rank-and-file. If you want to change how the organisation works, there are few  aspects more important than communicating with and winning the full support of your employees.