MANY PEOPLE BELIEVE THEIR VALUE IS BASED ON WHAT
THEY KNOW—AND THEY DON’T WANT TO GIVE THAT UP.
BY EILEEN FERETIC
technologies, but one of the leading challenges
is employee resistance. It’s No. 5 in knowledge
management and No. 4 in collaboration.
Let’s face it: Employee resistance can be a
technology killer. Think of the excuses given
in the past for stonewalling older technologies:
We don’t need that—things are working fine
just the way they are. … It will take longer to do
it with technology. … It’s just a fad, anyway. … I
wouldn’t trust that (list the technology du jour
here) as far as I could throw it. The list goes on.
This kind of misguided attitude is disheartening, but, when it comes to knowledge
sharing technologies, we seem
to be making some progress.
Among our survey respondent,
75 percent are currently using
collaboration technologies, 60
percent are utilizing document
management and 58 percent are
using knowledge management.
In addition, 78 percent said
they expected their reliance
on knowledge management
to increase greatly ( 26 percent)
or moderately (52 percent) in
the coming two years. The numbers are slightly better for
collaborative technologies, with 28 percent predicting they
will increase greatly and 54 percent saying they will increase
moderately, for a total of 82 percent,
On the downside, slightly more than two-thirds of the
respondents had not achieved their goals for collaborative
(69 percent) and knowledge management (67 percent) technologies. Could employee resistance to change be the culprit here?
If that’s the case, Heath had some suggestions for a plan
to overcome that resistance: Start with small changes so
employees don’t get overwhelmed. Then find out what’s
working and do more of that. Motivate people by appealing
to their emotions. Give them credit for what they’ve already
done and encourage them to do more. Finally, consider the
work environment and see whether a different environment
would help employees accept change more easily.
Yes, change is hard, but people can—and do—change all
the time. They just need a good reason. 3
MOST OF US HAVE, AT ONE TIME OR
another, worked with a colleague who hoarded
information as if it were gold. And let’s not
forget the manager who passed on company
information only on a need-to-know basis
(kind of like working for the CIA).
This approach to information is frustrating
and counterproductive, but understandable.
Many people believe their value to the company is based on what they know—and they
don’t want to give up that perceived edge.
Their theory is that if they share that knowledge with their co-workers, that will increase
the co-workers’ value and diminish their own.
This is a battle that business has been
fighting for decades, but it’s heated up during the past
few years of ongoing layoffs, when employees are more
interested in surviving than collaborating. Ironically,
this is happening at a time when knowledge management and collaboration technologies are getting a lot of
attention from business leaders, who understand how
these technologies can benefit their organizations.
Learning to share requires a change in perspective. Instead of focusing on what we as individuals are
giving up, we need to focus on what we as a team—and
a company—are gaining: We are exchanging knowledge, learning new skills, and improving the health and
stability of the business. Taking a long-term view, that means
we are all more likely to keep our jobs.
That sounds like common sense. However, a speaker at
the recent World Innovation Forum in New York pointed
out that emotions often trump sense. Chip Heath, a pro-
fessor of organizational behavior in the Graduate School
of Business at Stanford University, noted that individuals
find comfort and security in the old ways of working.
Analytically, they may know that they need to change, but
emotionally, they don’t want to change. He added, “People
hate change because change is hard.”
So what can enterprises do? Management may understand
that knowledge sharing and collaboration can increase pro-
ductivity and have a positive impact on the bottom line, but
they may not know how to get employees to accept a new,
collaborative way of working.
That’s clear from the survey Baseline did on knowledge
sharing, which combines knowledge management and collaborative technologies. (See “Sharing Knowledge in the Corporate
Hive” on page 22.) The survey found that better employee
information exchange is the respondents’ top goal in both
Instead of focusing
on what we as
giving up, we need
to focus on what
we as a team—and
Eileen Feretic is the editor of Baseline. Share your thoughts about
employee resistance to technology changes with her at Eileen.
PHOTO BY SALVATORE SALAMONE