C-Suite Advisory

How to Get Employee Buy-In on New Software Systems

Learning new software can be stressful for employees and employers alike. However, digital transformation is an important endeavor for many companies. Leaders can achieve employee buy-in by addressing these four common causes of hesitation.

A recent report from the International Data Corporation (IDC) suggests global spending on technologies and services related to digital transformation will reach $2.3 trillion in 2023. Despite this spending, 63% of business leaders say their organizations are moving too slowly to embrace technology. This begs the question: What’s keeping companies from investing in innovation and reaching the level of digital transformation they desire?

While there isn’t a single answer to this question, one major factor is employees’ resistance to change in the workplace, especially when adopting new technologies. People often fear that automation software will negatively affect the way they work or even replace their jobs altogether. Furthermore, a lack of involvement in the process or poor communication from leadership can cause frustration and anger, leading to a lack of engagement (at best) or active resistance to new technology (at worst).

This lack of employee buy-in can harm the development process by delaying it or depriving it of key information that enables custom software to do the job it’s designed to do. Automation and other digital transformations are designed to free up employees’ time so they can focus more on their core tasks and less on administrative work.

So, what makes employees turn against systems meant to help them get their work done more easily? And what can be done to change that? Here are four reasons for employee hesitancy and some suggestions for business leaders who want to change the narrative:

  1. Protectiveness Over Current Workflows
    Despite its name, workflow improvement software is often believed to impede employees’ jobs. That’s because companies don’t properly listen to their employees during the development process, which can lead to a solution that hurts more than it helps.

    Listening to employees early, often, and consistently throughout the development process improves the end product, relieves employees’ fears, and boosts productivity. According to one study, employees who feel heard are nearly five times more likely to believe they can perform their best work. If leaders choose to partner with an external developer, they should make sure it values — or even requires — user involvement to properly model employee workflows and deliver optimal experiences.

  2. Fear of Being Replaced
    Employees spend the equivalent of 69 days a year on administrative work, resulting in a yearly productivity loss of about $5 trillion. Artificial intelligence and automation software systems are designed to streamline existing processes and take over many of these tasks. While the net benefit of this is freeing employees from busywork to focus on their core roles, it can also lead them to worry about the longevity of their jobs. And in some cases, those concerns are valid.
    To overcome resistance to new technology and encourage employee buy-in, business leaders must have the courage to communicate transparently about their plans for automation. More importantly, leaders need to make it clear that they will work to reskill, transfer, or otherwise find a place within their businesses for displaced workers. When employees know they have that backing, they’re more likely to cooperate and ensure system success.
  3. Previous Negative Experiences With Failures
    The adoption of new technology can sometimes fail to meet the objectives of stakeholders. If employees have seen these failures before, they’re often hesitant to get involved or truly support the effort. This is especially true if they don’t see how it benefits them or the business as a whole.
    However, failure is an integral part of running a successful business. In addition to communicating the benefits of custom software clearly, business leaders must make it known that the risk of failure is part of the process. Employees need to know that their voices are valued and that their input surrounding failures is as critical as their feedback on successes. Failures are learning experiences that can, ultimately, improve the company as a whole — they are not something to be avoided at all costs.
  4. A Lack of Understanding of the System
    Employees don’t just want to know how a system benefits them; they also want to understand how workflow improvement software functions. Without knowing the way automation software does its job, employees are liable to wonder whether the system can perform at the same level as a human. In reality, automation is often quicker and more accurate, assuming the system is set up correctly. But if employees can’t see how it operates, they’re going to be understandably skeptical.

Keeping employees in the loop will not only help them understand the inner workings of software systems but also make those systems better. Designing custom software that includes human decision-making, flexibility, and room for judgment calls can help it function better. The only way to do this well is to take advantage of employees’ experience and expertise during development.

Ideally, workflow improvement software should be a welcome change for both business leaders and employees. If employees are left in the dark about the development process or benefits, then the result will be employee pushback instead of employee buy-in. Clear communication throughout the entire process will ensure that employees remain engaged and that every digital transformation effort goes as planned.

Written by Thomas Supercinski.

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Thomas Supercinski
Thomas Supercinski is head of product development at Frogslayer, a custom software development and digital innovation firm that creates forward-leaping software products and digitals platforms.


Thomas Supercinski is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow him on LinkedIn.