Informing empathy-led change management: Creating a measurable readiness health plan for the adoption of digital technologies in manufacturing

We put people at the heart of our investigation by using Design Thinking and Empathy. We advocate for users of the technology, i.e. the workforce in UK manufacturing by taking a people-led lens to identify the challenges associated with digitalisation and deep dive into understanding individual psychological and cultural concerns with digitalisation and ‘readiness’ for digital technology adoption. 

A business implementing digital technology into their supply chain management.

Project Aim and Research Questions

The project aims to improve the success of technology adoption in manufacturing organisations using an empathy-led approach to create a measurable readiness health plan for change management. Our research questions are:

  1. What individual variables can be identified using empathy to understand the readiness of the people adopting a new technology?
  2. How can we find robust measurements for each individual variable?
  3. How do we develop a model to enable the individual variables to be translated to metric(s) informing organisational strategies for change management?

Interdisciplinary Team

The project has an interdisciplinary team comprising of Design Managers, Computer Engineers, and a  Transdisciplinary Engineer; we have developed a shared vision and methods to improve the understanding of people-led readiness metrics.


  • Dr. Mersha Aftab - Birmingham City University
  • Dr. Mey Goh - Loughborough University
  • Dr. Iryna Yevseyeva - DeMontfort University

Research Assistants

  • Isabelle Sorhet Uner - Birmingham City University
  • Isaiah Nassiuma - Loughborough University

Project Background

Whilst the value of digital technologies is well accepted, the UK is not adopting these technologies as quickly as our competitors, which is a challenge. The digitalisation tools are in abundance and advancing at pace, but adoption could be higher. We know that the interaction between humans and digital tools is influenced by the values people attach to using that technology. And, most values are intrinsic, tacit, and non-transferable. Therefore, our paramount question is what methods will enable us to extract these values? And how do we help businesses uphold these values in their change management strategies for digitalisation?

Literature has identified multi-dimensional barriers to technology adoption. The effect of organisational culture on the workforce poses a significant challenge, along with age, gender, and psychological factors such as fear, motivation, and resilience. We aim to understand and extrapolate these individual variables using empathy as a design tool.

By using an empathy-focused design research methodology, we are able to extract ‘what’ the person is thinking (implicit knowledge) and doing (tacit skills) to understand the mindset of a person going through technology adoption. This enables us to identify individual variables that influence ‘readiness’ and develop the criteria and metrics for measuring it. We are also working with businesses through focus groups and workshops to explore business-relevant experiences with technology adoption. By creating this constant loop of feedback and conversations with the workforce and business owners we highlight the most significant challenges with digital adoption and develop strategies to support these digitalisation objectives for businesses.

The project has been funded by the InterAct Hub fund (ESRC) and is supported by the People-led Digitalisation Hub.

For more information get in contact with the Project PI - at