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Managing Employee Resistance to Automation

Managing Employee Resistance to Automation

Manufacturing is going through the fourth industrial revolution dubbed Industry 4.0. Technological advancements in computing power and connectivity are redefining manufacturing from the ground up. 

Emerging trends such as Business Process Outsourcing and Robotic Process Automation are the most popular emerging trends able to bring manufacturing to a new level.

The modern factory has to find ways to improve productivity and increase efficiency while reducing costs. 

However, new technologies always face resistance, so you must prepare your employees and manager for the upcoming change. Let's see how that works in more detail.

Why Do People Have A Resistance Against Technologies?

Resistance to new technologies is a normal process as most people fear the unknown. It's a psychological phenomenon that happens whenever the people involved don't know the outcome. 

For example, when you introduce technologies behind Industry 4.0 into your manufacturing operation, most employees will have a hard time sharing your vision, as they don't understand the benefits it provides. 

Moreover, some employees might feel insecure, thinking that they will lose their jobs because of robots and automation. The first three industrial revolutions went through the same process. Manufacturing machines are not designed to replace humans entirely. Co-operation between humans and machines is necessary for successful digital transformation.

For example, back when textile machinery was first introduced, textile workers of the time organized protests and even destroyed brand new machines in fear of losing their jobs. 

Resistance to change is a normal process that's old as time itself. However, as robotics reached a whole new level in the past few years, automation is undoubtedly the future of manufacturing. 

So no matter how resistant your employees might be, they will have to face the fact that robots will soon be doing most manual work automatically. Automation and robotics provide companies with a lot of important benefits. They increase productivity, increase workplace safety and working conditions, etc. 

Managing so many robots and automated processes needs human guidance, so there will be new job openings at some point down the road. 

However, most people still fear that they won't find work due to automation technologies. Put simply, people who can't comprehend these new technologies feel threatened, which leads to employee resistance.

But what can you do to make the transition to industry 4.0 go as smoothly as possible? Let's take a closer look.

Managing Employee Resistance To Industry 4.0

Your employees are used to organizational changes, and introducing automation should be treated the same. Of course, you will have to make management changes to ensure that the process goes as smoothly as possible and minimize the resistance to change. 

But, again, preparation is the key, and the results are much better if you make these changes before adopting new technologies.


The most important thing of all is to include your employees in the digital transformation from day one. 

Be prepared to answer all of their questions and provide more information about the upcoming changes. 

You must present the changes truthfully and explain all the how's and why's in detail. Show your staff that the changes are important for the company's future, and explain what they get from the transformation. 

For example, tell your employees how automation will help reduce their work, allowing them to develop new skills they will need in the future.

Use different ways to communicate the changes to your staff until you know everyone has the important details. For example, the organized staff meetings should be included, sending emails, and possibly hiring an expert to explain the changes and ensure everyone is on the same page. 

Of course, managers should organize everything together, as they will lead the transformation in the future. 

Engage Your Employees

Communication isn't enough to ensure a smooth transition to new technologies. It's also essential that you involve your employees in the transformation process. Various researchers proved that changes go down much more manageable when employees play an active role in the process. 

Engage employees by making space for expressing their opinions or concerns and, of course, answer their questions. That will make your employees feel like they are a part of the team and that their thoughts are valued. 

Give them a sense of power, and once they feel heard and respected, they won't resist the change anymore. Moreover, employee feedback can give you essential information that will provide you with a better idea of the reasons behind the resistance to change. You can then adjust your efforts to minimize the resistance further. 

After the changes are made, keep a close eye on your employees and processes. Employees will give you feedback about the new changes and help you identify areas that management could improve in the future. 

The first few months are key, so be ready to spend more time working closely with your team members before the changes become the norm.

Skill Training

There is a significant impact of automation on employee training. Even if you engage your employees and communicate all details on time, some team members will surely need some extra training to develop new skills. In addition, employees who take on new roles will require additional training sessions and expert guidance until they become skilled enough to stay productive in the new environment. 

Extra training will also help them feel more confident about themselves and the changes as a whole. The training must follow the transformation to Industry 4.0 in real-time to reduce resistance and increase overall employee satisfaction. It shouldn't take long for your employees to realize the many benefits automation provides. 

Once they feel confident working in this new environment, the changes will give even better results.


We briefly touched on this subject above, but we have to stress it out again - leadership changes are a must if you want to reduce employee resistance to adopting new technologies. Start the change by communicating the benefits of the transformation with your managers. Keep only those that support the change and identify all employees who feel excited about the future. Leverage them to influence other employees who don't feel optimistic about the changes, and the resistance will die off in a few weeks.

If your managers and employees don't accept the changes, you will have to find other people who do. Many companies go through a significant management transformation when adopting Industry 4.0, so be ready to do the same if needed. Lastly, communicate the changes with stakeholders, and ensure that they are included in the processes early on to increase employee acceptance. 


Introducing automation into business doesn't require a complete redesign of existing digital systems. The best approach is to automate one process at a time, starting with rule-based processes. See how automation helps improve them and then apply the same approach to other processes across the entire operation. 

Measure the results and ensure that the investment pays off. Your employees will soon see the benefits and gladly apply the same methods to other processes. Good luck!