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The Causes of -- and Solutions to -- Tech Aversion

The Causes of -- and Solutions to -- Tech Aversion

by Marco Nink

Story Highlights

  • IT can seem pointless, burdensome or bewildering to leaders and workers
  • 28% of U.S. workers don't even discuss new tech or trends in their teams
  • Buy tech that solves customer problems and use it like a revenue center

This is the golden age of business tech. Broad, fast, data-rich apps and platforms can perform IT miracles. Virtual spaces offer us friction-free testing and learning, AI lets us leapfrog over time-consuming drudge work, oceans of data permit us to aim products at customers with pinpoint accuracy, and work that used to take weeks or months to finish can now be accomplished in a nanosecond.

And the response to these advancements from the average workplace?


When asked whether they agree with the statement, "My company readily implements new technologies that help us to be more productive," about four in 10 Germans (37%) -- and far fewer in France (26%), the UK (21%), Spain (18%), and the U.S. (17%) -- strongly agreed.

If companies introduce new tech without modifying the established patterns of work, the tech is less productive. So are workers. And if workers aren't adapting to tech -- or pushing for it -- their companies can't win on agile.

Agile, of course, is what that survey question is all about: it's one finding from a series of interviews Gallup conducted in late 2017 and early 2018 with 80 business leaders and managers in the U.S. and EU about their experiences with agility in their companies. Gallup followed up on that research with interviews including more than 5,500 American and 4,000 European workers regarding perceptions of their company's culture of agility.

We found that agile companies have eight distinct workplace factors that promote agility -- one of which is a tech-friendly attitude -- that agile-resistant companies lack. If your workers are less agile, innovative or tech-adaptive than they could be, Gallup analytics can help you identify the problem and engineer a solution, too.

We found that agile companies have eight distinct workplace factors that promote agility -- one of which is a tech-friendly attitude -- that agile-resistant companies lack.

Problem: Too many options slow down the decision-making process.

Solution: An over-abundance of choices is paralyzing. Avoid paralysis by zeroing in on tech that solves the most pressing problem, which is whatever customers say it is. The best choices are always those that make it easier to get customers what they want, ideally before they know they want it themselves.

Problem: New tech seems pointless.

Solution: IT done well ought to lead to more market share, new customers and greater revenue. Workers must be able to see the throughline -- starting with the employee, ending with the customer, and with tech enhancing the steps between. Otherwise, workers will allocate their time toward deliverables instead of toward learning the new tech and the productivity gains to be had with its implementation and the value of digitalization.

Problem: New tech is more of a burden than a benefit.

Solution: A given with IT is that there will always be surprise problems and unexpected benefits. Make workers part of the digital review board and invite their point of view -- negative or positive, innovative or anxious -- about new tools. Inclusion promotes accountability, it helps leaders get honest feedback about IT, and it lets workers visualize how they'll use the tech to their own benefit.

Problem: Tech will put people out of work.

Solution: If the purpose of tech is to reduce headcount, it will generate distrust. And many workers believe AI is coming for their jobs: Gallup finds that 17% of French employees say it is "very likely" or "somewhat likely" that their current jobs will be eliminated within the next five years as a result of new technology, as do 14% of British employees, 13% in the U.S., 8% in Spain, and 7% in Germany. Furthermore, a cost-centric tech focus narrows the company's point of view to one thing: reducing expenditures. That's a waste of tech's potential and the investment.

Tech Adaptive and Agile

Today's tech enables the task integration and fast iteration agile teams need. But most workers aren't using it. U.S. workers are unlikely to even talk about new possibilities -- just 19% of employees and managers strongly agreed that, "We often discuss new technology, trends and ideas that can be relevant to our work."

Those underwhelmed, under-skilled workers limit their companies' ability to compete. If companies pass up what this Golden Age offers, they'll remain aspirational in agile rather than actually agile.

Gallup can help you embrace technology and the other seven drivers of an agile workplace:


Marco Nink is Gallup's Regional Lead in Research and Analytics EMEA.

Jennifer Robison and Merle Perschmann contributed to this article.

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