By Evgeny Kaganer and Robert Gregory
Sluggish take-up of technological “solutions” in the workplace results in wasted money, inefficiency and even sometimes security threats for companies. Here’s what to do about it.
It is a common problem. You have just rolled out a brand spanking new technology system that will improve efficiency and save time and money for your business. But staff are not keen and months later hardly anyone is using it as intended, and grumblings of discontent just won’t die down.
Staff might be resisting the change in an active way (actively complaining or creating pressure groups to halt the changes) or in a passive way – such as simply deciding not to use the new tools or looking for shortcuts to perform the same task without using the new system. This can extend to “shadow IT”: when employees use unauthorized hardware (such as personal computers or phones), or unapproved cloud-based solutions (e.g. for file storage, emails) for their work. Yet whatever the form of resistance, the negative impact is high: investments that never pay off, the risk of loss or leakage of sensitive data and inconsistencies in information, hindering productivity.
It may seem strange that people who are more than happy to buy the latest smartphone or use the latest new messaging service are still so skeptical about adopting new technological systems introduced in the workplace. But typically, their reluctance has either to do with the system itself (unlike consumer-led technology, many corporate systems are not designed with users in mind) or the changes it produces: for example, work functions may disappear or become irrelevant.
Here are five actions that can help minimize employee resistance to technology change:
1. Minimize design problems
Usability is key. Focus on software more than hardware – on how things work and the match between the solution and the person who will use it and where. (Will they be accessing it when traveling overseas, or mainly from the office?) It’s also crucial to strike a balance between the kind of measures required by security departments, which typically hinder usability (think, trying to remember multiple passwords when trying to complete a seemingly simple task) and ease of use.
Luckily, security technology continues to evolve, and companies should take advantage of this (for example, traditional authentication based on usernames and passwords can be replaced by the use of certificates, so users do not need to remember login credentials.) If a balance can be achieved, users won’t look for tech alternatives that are outside any kind of control (heightening security concerns), or simply opt not to use the tools they are provided with.
2. Understand the workflow before automating
To avoid unnecessary disruption to people’s daily work, analyze the affected staff’s workflow before deciding which parts of the process can be automated with a new technology system or tool. The key factors are predictability and risk: the more certain we are about a process and its outcome, and the lower the risk of error, the greater the potential for automation.
3. Involve staff in the design of the system
As soon as possible, put a product with a limited set of features into the hands of those employees who are going to use it, so that successive improvements can be based on their feedback. Getting staff involved from the beginning will help ensure take-up.
4. Take a creative approach to training and support
Training and support are critical to the success of any new implementation process. Yet the traditional approaches towards training and support are normally costly and inadequate.
Companies would do well to look for new, more effective ways to train and support staff. For example, when we want to quickly learn something new or solve a problem in our personal lives, what do we do? Most of us end up reading an article on Wikipedia or watching a video on Youtube. Organizations can learn from this:
• Create short videos on very specific topics or frequent problems. Users can easily consult this video when and where it suits them. In the area of support, users would much rather watch a one-minute video than read a page of text.
• Another approach is to create communities, blogs or wikis where users can generate the documentation required to use a tool or collaborate to solve problems.
It is also important to have clear metrics that demonstrate the value of training activities. Instead of measuring the number of attendees at training sessions and satisfaction surveys, focus on the correlation between training and support requests by users on topics covered in training sessions. Then compare that with teams that have received no training.
Staff often do not see the benefits of new technologies, viewing them simply as a different way to do the same work. To change this, information should be presented in a personal way: what does the new solution offer to the person receiving the communication? How is the system being used by coworkers or people doing similar work in another country?
Instead of simply sending a company-wide monthly newsletter, information should be tailored to different groups of employees, and different channels used where needed (e.g. infographics, video content etc.) Frequency should also be considered: the goal is not to inundate inboxes with updates. The aim is to connect with staff not interrupt them