Many organizations realize the power of and role technology plays in making processes and employees more efficient and productive. The time alone that technology saves enables employees to focus on the core responsibilities of their positions. That has led to businesses adopting more robust email solutions, enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools and customer relationship management (CRM) tools.
However, that’s when organizations run into a very common problem: Employees don’t know how to use the technology. What should make lives easier often results in the creation of workarounds that take more time to complete a task instead of shortening it. New employees don’t receive comprehensive training either and instead are taught workarounds because that’s the way things are done, and no one knows any differently.
Maybe you’ve seen this in your organization — or maybe you’re skeptical. But more than once, we’ve helped clients replace their email solution with a full-featured collaboration platform only to find out that employees are most excited about being able to schedule meetings with each other on their calendars. In one situation, a client’s employees actually were able to schedule meetings using their old email system, but they had just never been taught how by IT.
It’s the same with implementing a robust technology solution, like ERP and CRM. If your employees don’t know how to use the tool properly, the way they navigate it will be inefficient, and they’ll still use basic office applications — or even paper — to track things when using the new system would be faster and take less work.
Making Time for Change Management
Unfortunately, many businesses have been too busy running the saw to sharpen the blade. Change management is a critical step in any technology implementation. Without it, you might as well save your money and stick with what you’ve got — but when you have effective change management, you get every bit of the return on investment (ROI) on new technology, and you see the positive change in your organization’s processes and productivity that you thought were nearly impossible.
So how can your organization successfully change to a more effective technology tool? Follow these three steps:
1. Start Small
This may seem obvious, but throwing everything at your employees at once will overwhelm them and ensure they’re going to resist every effort at making them change. The intimidation factor is too high. So ideally, you need to start small and build on each success. Once you develop familiarity, you build momentum. The scheduling example mentioned above is a great small win to build off of in order to implement more complex changes like using SharePoint, Microsoft’s document management and storage tool.
Decide what would be most effective for your organization to have right away and use it as a foundation to add more features that can further eliminate time-consuming, manual processes.
2. Communicate Changes
The biggest aspect of change management is communication. That intimidation factor is so high because employees don’t understand why the change is happening, how it will affect their work and what the end result should be. You have to thoroughly communicate on all these points before implementing the technology so that they first have time to digest and accept the upcoming changes.
Just going straight to training results in a small success rate. Instead, drumming up excitement about the change and touting benefits as it relates to the employees not only makes them aware of the changes but also explains how it helps them and their daily work — ultimately setting up your organization for success. Don’t be afraid to gamify adoption with contests and other incentives either, as it will help complement and build off of your communication efforts.
3. Leverage Resources — Especially Power Users
There is one main issue with the traditional classroom-style training model: Some people are at a level 8 in proficiency, while others are at a level 1, and a few are scattered at numbers in between. How do you avoid boring level 8 users without going way over the heads of level 1 users? This skills gap can lose people and cost you in the long run.
Not to mention, one- or two-day trainings force people to intake a lot of information, which means not all of it will have staying power. It’s much better to offer small increments of trainings that focus on different features of the technology, and it’s more beneficial to target those with the lowest skill level because they have the most to benefit by doing the trainings.
It’s also important to provide other resources that make people feel more in control of how they acquire this knowledge. For those expected to be highly proficient, attending a conference can be very helpful. For others, joining a user group on Facebook or LinkedIn is effective because it connects employees to others just like them and allows them to ask questions and resolve common issues.
And because people are more comfortable reaching out to those they know for help, the power user is a mighty resource for organizations. Power users are employees who are proficient with the technology and are designated resources for other employees to comfortably approach with questions. Power users can not only increase adoption but also first help you determine what to train employees on and how to roll out adoption efforts. Make them part of the communication plan from the get-go.
Closing the Technology Skills Gap
It’s tough to look at your organization and realize your employees are largely lacking the skills to utilize a great piece of technology that could change the game for your business. However, closing the skills gap doesn’t have to be as daunting as it may have been for you in the past. Successful change management comes with dedicating the time and utilizing the proper resources that are necessary, and that’s where you can get outside help. Specialists in technology implementations have seen objections and resistance all across the board and are distinctly qualified to manage change from start to finish, helping you see the high adoption you need.
Get the most out of your technology investments. Contact Wipfli to learn more about how your organization can close its technology skills gap and optimize its investments.