A McKinsey survey of business leaders found that responses to COVID-19 have “speeded the adoption of digital technologies by several years—and that many of these changes could be here for the long haul.” Digital adoption has taken a quantum leap at both the organizational and industry levels.
The change has impacted the workforce, and companies are struggling to adopt new ways to work. “The pandemic has confirmed what many already knew,” analysts at Gartner wrote. “Legacy ways of working are outdated.” Technology in the workplace is changing faster than companies can implement them. “COVID-19 has escalated digital initiatives into digital imperatives, creating urgent pressure on HR leaders to work with their CEO, CFO and CIO to rethink skills needs as business models change at light speed,” Gartner said.
Just 30 percent of businesses are successful in their efforts to deploy new technology in the workplace. One of the main reasons why companies fail is a lack of planning. You can’t just expect employees to take on the challenge of integrating a new tool into their workflow; you have to first provide proper training and support. Luckily, doing so is much easier than you think.
Here are five strategies to help you successfully implement new technology in your workplace:
- Include Employees in Technology in the Workplace Decisions
- Use Technology in the Workplace to Address Employee Pain Points
- Implement Technology in the Workplace Based on the Natural Diffusion of Innovation
- Leverage Workplace Technology Vendors
- Use Your Workplace Technology Training Tools
- Invest in a Technology in the Workplace Learning Platform
1. Include Employees in Technology in the Workplace Decisions
Adopting new technology in the workplace has a significant impact on how employees work. It makes sense that you should consider their opinions. While the question of whether or not to purchase a new software may be non-negotiable, give your employees a say in what specific solution you are buying. Once you’ve narrowed it down to your top two to three choices, email your team explaining why you’re interested in those options and invite anyone to research the tools and share their thoughts.
Will employees ignore your email? Some will, but the ones who care will make a case for why they prefer one tool over the others. Their feedback can be instrumental in helping you choose the right tool for your team. And these workers will become internal advocates for workplace technology and help foster adoption.
Surveys find that employees who are involved in decision-making processes are more motivated, satisfied, and engaged in their jobs. Giving them a say in the outcome transforms technology adoption from a disturbance that you force upon them to a collaborative effort to make the company more successful.
2. Use Technology in the Workplace to Address Employee Pain Points
How you describe the technology in the workplace plays an influential role in employee attitudes toward it. You may have many metrics-driven reasons for the purchase; however, those alone are not enough to motivate your employees.
We make decisions with the same part of our brain that controls emotions so, to convince your employees to embrace a new tool, you need to excite them by explaining how it solves their pain points.
In other words, what is in it for them?
For example, if you are adopting a more advanced CRM and one of your sales team’s top challenges is predicting which prospects and campaigns are most likely to drive sales, then explain how the new CRM has analytics tools that will help them get more qualified leads and close more business.
If you are implementing software across multiple functional teams, change your message to reflect the specific benefits for each group. For example, if your finance team also must adopt the same new CRM, explain how it will enable them to make more accurate forecasts.
3. Implement Technology in the Workplace Based on the Natural Diffusion of Innovation
Humans naturally resist change, however, the extent that we do so varies. The Diffusion of Innovation curve explains that people’s willingness to adopt innovative technology falls onto a bell curve that is divided into five groups of people as shown below.
The percentage of your employees that fall into each of these groups may vary from the normal curve since your organization might attract people who are open to change. However, you certainly have employees in all categories. Understanding the different perspectives on innovation helps you plan a smoother implementation.
Here are the five perspectives on new technology:
These employees are always asking for innovative technology and proposing new ways to complete work. Give them access to the software first so they can learn how to use it and teach other employees about it.
Early adopters' curiosity is piqued when they see the innovators using something new. They are the employees who show interest in your new systems but are not as eager or change-driving as innovators. Try creating a 1-2 week-long long focus group from these individuals. Their questions, challenges, and feedback can be used to improve how you release the new system to the entire team.
You will reach the early and late majority when you roll out the workplace technology to everyone. People in the early majority will quickly jump on board and work collaboratively to develop best practices.
These are the grandparents on Facebook. People in this category will resist the implementation until they see proof that it works. They will have a lot of questions and some complaints early on. However, once they start realizing performance improvements, they will embrace the change.
These individuals will resist adopting new technology until you start punishing them for not using it. If possible, wait to force them to use it until you’ve worked through most of the errors because they tend to be vocal complainers when they run into issues.
Designing your implementation plan to cater to each of these groups will reduce the number of conflicts and resistance you face.
4. Leverage Your Workplace Technology Vendor
Most Saas and other technology companies assign you a customer success manager. Take advantage of them; they are experts in technology and can speed up your adoption process by helping you overcome the learning curve. Customer success managers have helped hundreds of companies do what you are now trying to do. Let them.
Here are some questions you should ask your account manager:
- What are the best practices for using this software?
- Do you have any tips to make it easier to train my team?
- How do I do <most frequently asked question here>?
- Are there any shortcuts that can help my team find information/produce reports/generate insights etc. faster?
- Can I share your email with my team so they can reach out to you with questions?
Ask as many questions as you need to feel 100 percent confident using the tool.
Some workplace technology providers also offer onboarding programs for teams to get them trained and comfortable using new tools in their own work contexts. Usually, onboarding comes with a price (try to get it included for free) but can be well worth it as a fast-track to productivity.
5. Use Your Workplace Technology Training Tools
If teaching your employees how to use new software is daunting, chances are you do not have to do it yourself. Many Saas and other technology providers like Salesforce, HubSpot, Microsoft, etc. have free training programs that walk people through how to use every aspect of the software. Identify which sections are most useful to each of your employee groups and have your employees complete them.
Though the training materials are great at explaining how to use the system, their assessments, if any, often are not strong enough to prove employee understanding. To ensure your team is learning the necessary skills, sync with them mid-training to check their progress. After they complete it, give them an assignment that tests their ability to use it. For example, you might ask them to input data and run a few reports, use the analytics to generate actionable insights, or create a workflow to automate a process.
6. Invest in a Workplace Technology Learning Platform
The reality is that technology in the workplace will always be changing faster and faster. The so-called “shelf life” of employee skills is down to about two years. That means that the skills your employees have today will be obsolete in as little as two years. Someone who stopped using a platform like Salesforce two years ago will be far behind the learning curve if they restart using it now.
The World Economic Forum estimates that 85 million jobs will be lost to automation by 2025, and 97 million jobs requiring skills that do not yet exist will be created. The only way that businesses will be able to bridge this “skills gap” is with on-the-job skill-building.
Learning platforms like LinkedIn Learning enable your employees to continue to learn on the job. But you must use these platforms intentionally. You will need a structured approach. Structured learning is different from adopting a learning management system that employees can use at their discretion. Structured learning programs assess the skills a company has and the skills it needs and generate individualized and group learning "journeys" for employees and teams aligned with business needs and goals. Every employee has a roadmap for continuing to learn the skills they will need. Structured learning solutions like Learn In build roadmaps for businesses and measure progress and impacts.
Technology in the Workplace Improves Productivity
It is no secret that workplace technology can vastly improve the productivity of your employees and the profitability of your business. The pandemic has made this more obvious.
“Companies that were poised for digital transformation before COVID-19 are quickly distancing themselves from analog companies, and the rest are scrambling to catch up,” Gartner said. More and more roles are requiring technical skills and businesses are racing to keep up. Focusing on successful workplace technology implementation can help them get farther, faster.
Still Struggling to Drive Adoption?
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About the Author: Bill is Prialto's senior content marketing manager and writes about the future of work and how businesses can be more productive and successful. His work has appeared in the World Economic Forum Agenda blog and CIO magazine.