Company leaders can easily become overwhelmed by the logistics of deploying new technology: choosing the right product, integration with current systems and rolling it out. Too often, we overlook one of the most critical aspects of the process — employee adoption.
Whether it’s an eLearning platform or any type of new employee-facing technology to support engagement and workforce training, employees must use it for it to succeed. Otherwise, no matter how great the tool, it will never deliver on promised results or anticipated return on investment (ROI). Instead, it will gather digital dust.
Ultimately, new technology adoption comes down to successful change management and organizational agility. It is human nature to want to continue doing something the way it has always been done. Convincing employees learn something new is generally difficult. But ignoring pushback to change and forcing employees to adopt new technology through authoritarian leadership, no matter how well intended, is rarely, if ever, effective. It will likely have the opposite effect, simply bolstering resistance.
Instead, employing an empathetic, people-first approach not only can help drive adoption but also move managers and employees to embrace and love the new tools you offer. Here’s a simple seven-step plan to drive enthusiastic adoption of new technologies:
1. Consider Employees’ Pain Points
Business leaders can easily become hyper-focused on the business value that new solutions bring to the organization — things like improved visibility into key performance indicators (KPIs), cost savings, improved management and other bottom-line impacts.
But to achieve the goals, tech tools must minimize user friction. They must be intuitive, accessible, fit within the existing workflow and integrate with the tools already in use, rather than create more work and more silos. For eLearning and other human resources (HR) tools, it’s not just about how they make HR or training easier. It must also make the user’s job easier.
One way to achieve this is to apply the technology acceptance model when considering any new tool: It must be easy to use and useful to the organization. By demonstrating that you’re sensitive to solving an end-user’s pain points, employees will be more likely to get on board with new technology.
2. Give Everyone a Seat at the Table
There are a lot of moving parts when implementing any new software or software as a service (SaaS) technology, and it’s difficult for one group or department to understand the full scope of how a new tool or process will impact others across the organization. There may be concerns that differ between various levels of the organization. For example, take eLearning, talent development and performance management — the pain points, concerns and training needs for administrators, managers, supervisors and employees are all different. Ignoring these factors can lead to resistance among those who aren’t asked for their input or represented in the process.
To overcome this, bring a diverse group of employees to the table when making decision to ensure concerns are heard. Form a representative group of user types from across the organization to weigh in on the review and purchase decision process. You’ll also need the information technology (IT) department involved to make sure the solution integrates with current systems, won’t cause conflicts or disruptions to other business services and to identify obstacles that perhaps only an IT specialist can see. Lack of a broad base buy-in upfront will doom any technology adaptation to stall — if not fail.
3. Create Ahead of Time
Business leaders are often frustrated by the lack of urgency and enthusiasm around the benefits of new tools. But in many organizations, they’re launched with banal — and sometimes even foreboding — announcements that focus on logistics like launch dates, preparation steps and expectations.
Instead, start well in advance with an internal public relations campaign that focuses on the “why” for employees. Roll out an internal marketing campaign that treats employees like customers — ones who are being introduced to an exciting new solution that will make their job easier, better and faster. Enlist the help of influencers to help excite employees about the new technology. Then, by the time it’s ready to launch, employees will be scrambling to be the first ones on the new platform.
4. Customize Communications
With any new technology, the needs and concerns of employees will differ across the organization, which means a one-size-fits-all approach to communication will not work.
Again, being sensitive to pain points, use a communications platform that allows you to personalize the messages, and segment and target communications based on an employee’s role, location, job duties, and where they work from. Making the pre-buzz and deployment communications relevant to each employee and speaking directly to their needs demonstrates that you are investing in their growth and experience as employees — not just in solving the organization’s challenges.
5. Customize Training
Just as employees have different needs, not every employee will use new tools in the same way. That means it’s imperative to customize and adapt training messages based on their current and future needs.
Don’t waste time on features they’ll never use. Instead, emphasize those that deliver clear ROI for their specific role or team and departmental goals. Offer training in a variety of formats and options, including online, on demand and in person, so that it’s accessible to everyone. Build in frequent evaluations within each module to make sure employees understand and can apply the concepts learned, and you can adjust the content if it’s clear that they’re stuck.
Finally, offer frequent and ongoing refresher training to ensure employees know how to make full use of new and relevant features available to them.
6. Publicize Wins
Most organizations implement new technologies in a phased approach, which is smart, but it’s done mostly to ease the transition and avoid overwhelming IT with troubleshooting requests.
Instead, use incremental learnings from a phased-in rollout to demonstrate success. Gather data from users at each phase and level to better understand ease of use, efficiency improvements, and other metrics that show the product is delivering on the stated promises and expectations. Promote these wins through internal marketing campaigns that entice employees to be part of the next phase and anticipate their own success with the platform.
7. Make it Part of the Culture
While forcing adoption in a punitive way isn’t advisable, there is something to be said for subtle peer pressure. Once employees are fully trained on the new platform, engage managers and influencers to adopt it as the new standard for relevant tasks, such as reporting, goal setting and evaluation. Fear of missing out (“FOMO”) is a powerful motivator, and especially now, employees don’t want to feel left out or left behind. Instead, institutionalize the new tool by making it a part of your company culture.
Finally, throughout the entire process, one of the most important things companies must do is to listen to their employees. Ask for feedback, both formally (through surveys or focus groups) and informally through casual conversation.
Sometimes, even with careful forethought and an eye on employees’ needs, the reality of technology just doesn’t meet expectations. Demonstrating a willingness to listen to feedback and adapt as needed sets a good example for employees, and it creates a culture of agility, adaptability and change readiness. Then, when the next challenge comes along, your team will be ready.