How to Turn Change-Resistant Employees Into Tech Innovation Heroes

Employee Tech Innovation Heroes“I can’t do my work as efficiently now that they’re making us use this stupid time-tracking program.” 

“I feel like they’re nickel-and-diming me.”

“Why can’t we just do it the old way?”

Ever heard feedback like this after a tech roll out? These are actual comments from real employees after an organization implemented a new program that required salaried employees to log hours for different kinds of work. The tool was effective and made life easier for everyone in HR. And it really wasn’t that difficult to use—just log in and check a box. So what was the problem? The employees simply weren't ready for it.

Tech rollouts come with plenty of hurdles as it is: integration issues, software bugs, login problems, training snags. In fact, digital transformation expert Michael Gale estimates that 84% of companies will fail to get their digital transformation projects right. But even if your project is flawlessly planned and executed, you're still headed for problems if your employees aren’t ready and willing to adopt the new tech.

How to Know if Your Employees Are Ready for a Software Rollout

No matter how much research you’ve done and how solid your business case may be, your software won’t be a success if your people aren’t ready.  Employee readiness is a key component of any change implementation—but how do you know if they're on board?

Readiness can be defined as the ability to adopt new actions, attitudes, and behaviors in order to bring about a successful change. Here are four questions you can ask to see where your employees fall on the spectrum:

Do they understand the need?

Have you explained the driving motivations behind the change to your team? How will the new tech improve processes, reduce errors, or make their jobs easier? 

Do they feel capable of working with the new software?

Do they have the technical skills and knowledge they need to use the new tech? Are there real or perceived gaps that will need to be addressed?

Do they feel motivated to work with the new software?

Have managers communicated effectively with their teams about how and why the new software will be implemented? Have they provided sufficient opportunities for employees to express concerns and ask questions? Have they offered motivations for good faith efforts?

Does the software effectively address their pain points or create new ones?

Do they understand how the software will make their jobs easier, faster, or more effective? Do they have other pain points they feel are more important than those the new tool will address?

Turn Your Employees Into Tech Innovation Heroes

Humans are hardwired to resist change. We like predictable patterns that don’t require us to adapt. But sometimes, new software is the best possible solution to help your organization grow, serve customers more effectively, or remain competitive in the marketplace. So how can you encourage change-resistant employees to jump on board?

  • Communicate—Communication is non-negotiable for a successful tech rollout. You absolutely, positively cannot expect your employees to support a change they don’t understand. Outline what the tools will do and emphasize how they will improve your employees’ daily work. Solicit feedback, give opportunities for questions, and respond to any concerns quickly and with detailed information. Encourage your managers to keep employees updated on what is happening, when it will happen, and how it will affect specific aspects of work.
  • Specify a Timeline—Let your employees know when each stage of the launch will take place. Will there be focus groups, beta testing, training sessions, or tiered rollouts? When will users need to be fully functional in the new system? When will you take the old system offline?
  • Provide Sufficient Training—One training class may not be enough, especially if your employees don’t feel technologically savvy. Be patient with employees who don’t pick up the new processes quickly, and give them plenty of time to experiment, ask questions, and receive additional training as needed.
  • Respond to Concerns—This is where many organizations drop the ball. It’s great to promote, train, and communicate, but when you have frustrated employees like those we talked about at the beginning of the post, you have to go the extra mile to win their confidence. Invest time in listening and responding to their concerns, help them work through friction points, and provide additional training if needed.
  • Identify Change Ambassadors—On the flip side, if you have employees who are really on board with the change, recruit them to be your change ambassadors. Involve them in Q&A sessions, ask them to step in and help coworkers who are struggling with the system, or put them in charge of a focus group.
  • Make It Fun—If your employees’ eyes are still glazing over, consider some ways to encourage engagement. For example, offer incentives for the team that completes their training first or the department that hits an adoption milestone. Gamify the process by hosting a technology scavenger hunt or bingo where employees complete “missions” during their training, or award badges when employees complete training modules.

Even when you have done your best to address problems before they happen, you may still be met with resistance. It’s worth saying again: people don’t like change. Confront negativity head-on with strong statistics and reasoning, and prepare managers to deal with problems one-on-one.

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