Employees resisting digital change

Why non-desk employees resist digital change

Introducing change into your organisation is very hard, and sometimes harder when your team is mostly non-desk employees. We tell you why they are likely to resist and what you can do to solve the issues.

They lack downtime

Non-desk employees are on their feet all day, this means they lack any downtime to familiarise themselves with new technology. They don’t have the opportunity to take five minutes at a desk to research or learn something new. When you introduce change they immediately panic and think they are going to be overloaded with new responsibilities.

What you can do: You need to let them know that you are aware of their worries. A few months before the change happens, you should tell them exactly what is going to change and how you are going to help them manage the change.

You should have a plan in place which will help your employees learn about the new system and this plan should fit flexibly into their daily routine so that they aren’t overloaded with new tasks. Schedule a time in their day which is allocated to learning about the new system this way, they haven’t got to worry about finding their own time.

Microlearning is a perfect way to help your staff learn without taking too much time, small bite-sized learning modules mean they can learn whenever they have a spare moment.

They think it is just another fad from head office who don’t understand what they do

A lot of non-desk employees feel very disconnected from staff in head office. This can be because they don’t see them very regularly, they have completely different roles to them, they don’t communicate with them very often and when they do it is always top-down communication that leaves them feeling repressed and not listened to. This can lead to a negative relationship between the two, with the non-desk staff feeling like they aren’t properly understood by management.

To overcome this, first of all, you MUST improve your communication with your non-desk teams. Until you do this you will always have a problem with relationship building. Here are a few tips to improve communication:

Use internal instant messaging tools such as:

Google hangouts +chats



Troop Messenger




Have more staff 1 to 1’s. These help make your staff feel valued and listened to, giving them a chance to express their ideas or frustrations.

Have a place where staff can input their ideas. Waitrose uses a system which allows any partner, whether they’re stocking a shelf, driving a van or working at the checkout, to submit an idea to head office. Stuart Eames, the Operational improvement manager at Waitrose, explained how they have empowered their employees to contribute to ideas which has saved them £3.5 million! You can read an example of this here.

Hold short but regular catchups with a member of the management team and your non-desk workers, this is a good way of letting them know they are being listened to.

Once you have built up your communication levels, employees will be less likely to resist change. Try reading “How to keep communication levels strong in a large non-desk team.

They always feel like they are the last members of the business to be consulted about anything

As mentioned above, they already feel very distant from head office so when you introduce something new without consulting their opinion first they are very likely to resist. As they are the ones who will be using the technology it is important that you get their opinions and thoughts on it. You should consult them every step of the way and ask what they think about it. This way they will feel like they are part of the project and will feel much more invested when you do eventually introduce the change.

You need to include them in the trials and tests of the new digital solution, it can just be one member from each team who can then tell their colleagues about it. The point is that you are getting members of the non-desk team involved who will more likely pay attention to the colleagues they work closely with every day rather than a team member from head office who they rarely see.

They don’t know what’s in it for them

New digital solutions always sound like they are best for head office because a lot of non-desk employees usually don’t work with technology all day every day. They struggle to understand how it can help them which in turn makes them resist the change. You need to tell them exactly how it can help them in their day to day responsibilities and make their job easier.

You should set up a workshop with each team to discuss and demonstrate exactly how the digital solution affects them and changes their role.

Don’t just send out a mass email to everyone explaining the new change, you should tailor it for each team so everyone has a personalised view of how the solution is going to work for them.

They feel trapped between you and your customers

Because many non-desk employees work on the front line with your customers, they can feel like they have double the responsibility pleasing head office and your customers. This leaves them feeling like piggy in the middle.

When you introduce a new system without fully explaining what value it adds to your customers, it can panic your employees as they will think that their service to your customers is going to be compromised as a result of figuring out how to use the new technology. They assume it is going to make their job harder, leaving them to face more complaints and dissatisfaction from customers.

It is your job to ease these worries and to explain the value the change will add to your customers so they can understand why the new solution has been deployed. Be sure to include this in your communications when introducing the new change.

To summarise

The main thing to remember is to communicate, communicate, communicate! We can’t stress enough how important this is during digital change. If you let non-desk employees know exactly what’s going on, why it’s going on and how it will help them you should be able to implement new technology quite easily.

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Other posts that may be of interest to you:

How to keep communication levels strong in a large non-desk team

How to effectively measure non-desk employee’s performance

Your employees hate learning and here’s why…


Written by Hayley Lloyd

Published 31st January 2019