Here’s what often happens with new technology:
You find cool new software that will accelerate your operations by light years. You interview vendors, purchase the best product, and download it onto your computers so your eager employees can get started.
But it turns out they’re not so eager. They resist learning the new program, and when they finally do, they complain about it. Some secretly return to the old, inefficient system you spent big bucks to replace.
Where did you go wrong?
Most likely, you skipped a few of the critical steps for successful employee adoption. Here’s how one manager made the process seamless—and you can, too.
1. Talk to employees before you buy.
A few years ago, Danielle Harlan, founder and CEO of the Center for Advancing Leadership and Human Potential, was responsible for implementing a new timesheet technology at a nonprofit. The system in use was clunky, slow, and buggy. “Everyone was always complaining about it,” Harlan said.
In the past, before the buggy system had been introduced, workers had used Excel spreadsheets, but the organization had convinced them the software would be better. Having been burned before, they were doubly skeptical when Harlan announced plans for yet another software system.
Employee resistance to change often holds businesses back. Sixty-three percent of managers in a MIT/Capgemini study said the pace of technological change in their workplace was too slow, bogged down by a lack of urgency and poor communication of benefits.
Change upsets many people. Leaders should expect to see luddites and naysayers, as well as people scared they don’t have the chops to learn new technology.
The solution is not to criticize or override their opinions, but listen to them.
That’s what Harlan did. She and her team interviewed employees across the organization to learn about their needs and their frustrations with the current system.
If your organization is large, you may want to do a survey to gauge employee needs. Harlan got a pretty clear picture through casual conversations.
Employees were grateful that someone cared about their opinions. Already, they were becoming part of the solution instead of part of the problem.
2. Choose a simple system.
Find a system that solves employee problems, but doesn’t require extensive training. if it takes them weeks to understand something, they’ll get frustrated and quit.
Harlan and her team identified 10 to 20 systems, then looked at employee feedback and narrowed them down to five, then three. She invited the top three companies to give demos, and finally, her team chose a solution that worked and was easy to learn.
3. Get opinion leaders on board.
This is a crucial step many organizations miss.
Harlan chose influencers in the organization to test the new system for two weeks and provide feedback. She selected project managers who interacted with people across a variety of teams, because they knew how different kinds of employees would use the program. She also chose employees with strong and vocal opinions about the technology, to make sure they were satisfied.
The opinion leaders helped the organization find bugs and correct them. They chose display options they knew would work best for employees, eliminating a confusing array of choices that could have slowed adoption when the product was released.
As they worked with the new system, the influencers told others about their experience, building momentum and excitement before the launch. Worries and resentment began to fade.
4. Communicate with everyone throughout the process.
Well before the roll-out, you should have a communication plan in place. Start communicating early, and keep it up until you’ve addressed the final user surveys after training.
Harlan held all-staff meetings early on to outline problems with the current system, review goals, and later, to introduce the new system, emphasizing its improvements. She let a few staffers demo the new system during meetings so that they could see its benefits for themselves.
5. Make training flexible, and solicit feedback.
By the time employees at Harlan’s organization received the new system, they already knew so much about it from meetings, demos, and chatter that training was a breeze. She provided options for training sessions so that workers could pick a time when they were relatively relaxed, not up against a deadline.
Though there were a few minor kinks—people forgot their new login information, for example—the rollout went smoothly. Because Harlan and her team had worked closely with influencers, they were able to anticipate questions during training, and had answers ready.
Harlan asked for feedback informally. Other companies use email surveys to track user satisfaction. If common issues crop up, you should follow through quickly on fixing them.
Employees at Harlan’s organization liked the new system so much, she thinks she even recalls them giving it a standing ovation.
Getting employee feedback before choosing a product takes time and effort. So does finding and working with opinion leaders and holding meetings. But going through this process helps unify your organization, and it will save you a ton of headaches later on.
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