Skip to main content Skip to footer
Cognizant Benelux Blog


6 mins


When innovations and new technology are implemented in organizations, resistance is often the default reaction. For many, the realm of AI provokes mystery, distrust, feeling of lagging behind technology, and genuine concerns of impending reorganizations. According to recent polls, only 9% of Americans believe AI will do more good than harm to society. While leaders safeguard the growth and innovation culture of their organization, they must transform their employees' resistance to AI and its implementation into acceptance and advocacy. The paradox lies within leaders seeing AI as a net positive, and society seeing AI as a net negative. While the truth of the matter is dependent on perspectives, shifting resistance into advocacy for your workforce requires understanding and four change interventions.  

Will AI Take My Job?

Why do employees resist AI adoption? Often, their fears are multifaceted. The most salient concern is job displacement. More narratives are growing around AI’s focus on automation and efficiency, and with that, many interpret this as the first steps to redundancy and reorganization. Your workforce may wonder: How will AI tools impact their own day-to-day tasks? Is the learning curve steep? Will they need to upskill? For some in software engineering, apprehensions might orbit around data security, code copyright, and ethical implications. Each concern, whether they are broad or focused, requires attention and action; four interventions to handle AI resistance are outlined below.     

Empowering Through Education  

The age-old adage, "fear of the unknown," holds particularly true for generative AI. Education is the first change intervention necessary for allaying AI resistance. By demystifying this technology, AI anxiety can be alleviated. Seminars, workshops, and interactive training sessions where individuals can experiment with tools, can transition employees from being observers to active participants in the AI journey. Leverage natural cadence forums like team meetings or community of practice sessions to inspire team members to share their learning, use cases, information on AI advancements, and challenges. These sessions humanize AI adoption but also inspire their colleagues to embark on it.  

Involvement as an Antidote to Resistance  

The involvement of employees and a change network can transform resistance into advocacy. Leaders who take time to foster a culture of co-creation and innovation are impactful.

By involving employees in a select few decision-making processes (e.g., selecting AI tools, creating frameworks, and evaluating AI’s impact) can instill a sense of ownership and mitigate feelings of loss of control. Through these actions, employees perceive themselves as stakeholders in their organizations AI journey, rather than passive recipients.  

Creating a Climate of Trust and Transparency

Resistance cannot be overcome without the establishment of trust. Yet, trust is not built overnight or through a few emails and a townhall—it’s established via consistent and transparent communication using clear and candid dialogue. The second change intervention is to communicate the change vision for AI: Topics regarding the organization’s vision behind AI adoption, how it will tangibly benefit the organization, and especially the individual roles can dismantle skepticism. Employees need to understand your organization’s AI strategy, and how it fits into the company roadmap—beyond the change management vision. While communication is a great way to initiate, the third change intervention is to engage with the workforce. Open forums and live Q&A where employees can voice their concerns and even challenge the AI adoption to leaders can be invaluable to addressing and overcoming resistance.   

Beyond the Pulse Check: Measuring the Journey from Resistance to Advocacy    

Though quantizing change and adoption can be challenging sometimes, it is very well possible to get a good indication if you’re AI change journey is moving in the right direction:

Engagement Metrics

Measure the number of employees attending AI training sessions, workshops, and forums. For example, an increase the number of employees attending AI workshops by 15%-20% in the next quarter, shows curiosity.  

Feedback Metrics

Gauge employee sentiment before and after interventions using surveys. This can help in understanding the shifting attitudes towards AI, and areas of concern. A 10%-15% improvement in positive responses is a great start. 

Utilization Metrics

Track the number of projects or tasks incorporating AI tools, indicating practical acceptance and use. Aim for lower metrics at first, such as an increase the use of AI tools in projects by 10% over the next six months. But be realistic about this metric, if only 10% of your workforce has engaged with AI tools this month, you cannot expect 60% usage rates in the following month.  

Educational Metrics

Measure the progression in employee AI knowledge through assessments post-training. Using metrics such as 50% of employees attending at least one AI workshop; or a 20% increase in knowledge between pre and post-training assessments indicate a healthy approach to workforce education.  

Collaborative Metrics

Monitor the number of collaborative efforts from employees towards AI integration. An increase of 20% of internal forums, an increase of 15% of employees contributing to AI projects, demonstrates a shift towards adoption.   

Managing resistance to AI isn't a linear process, nor is it a finite one. As generative AI tools evolve, new challenges will emerge, requiring a dynamic approach. Yet, the underlying principles remain consistent: trust and transparency, education, and involvement. When this approach is followed, passive resistance transforms in proactive engagement in championing AI's potential and its seamless integration into the organization’s fabric.

Alain Pirard

Head of Transformation Management Consulting

Author Image

Robert Freeman Cartwright

Senior Consultant, Organizational Change Management

Author Image

Latest blog posts
Related blog posts