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How to convert technophobes to tech-friendlies in any organisation
Kathleen Notohamiprodjo, marketing and communications coordinator
Relationship status: It’s Complicated
The rapid advancement of business technologies has resulted in transformative change across the business landscape, opening new routes to how companies and organisations operate. Tech adoption has pervaded all aspects of work, from improving methods of internal communication to automating business processes with the help of artificial intelligence.
However, implementing new technologies is not always an easy or exciting process. Rather, the relationship between businesses and tech adoption is often complicated, and hindered further by employees who may resist technological change. The very real concerns surrounding changes to power structures and work security often cause apprehension when adopting new tools and software. The law industry in particular is often considered the ‘last business frontier’ in technological innovation, and is slow in adopting new tech due to fears of reduced billable hours and major disruptions to work processes.
For companies with a conservative perspective towards digitisation and automation, implementing new technologies is not worth these risks. However, it can be argued that holding back on technological innovation is more of a risk than playing it safe.
The deadly nature of complacency
Today, digital technologies are the rainbow bridge which connect the gap between the company and customer. New ways to interact with businesses means consumers are no longer passive, but instead active ‘prosumers’ who frequently voice their expectations on what companies should be delivering. Responding to these new demands is therefore not only a competitive advantage, but essential for the survival of a business. Clearly, digital transformation is occurring whether employees like it or not, and it is better to be prepared to integrate new technologies than to be complacent in the face of change.
Remote work has stressed the importance of adopting new technologies. This year alone, Australian businesses have implemented more technology than they have in the last 10 years combined. It was the implementation of video-conferencing, file sharing, and e-commerce tools which assisted in keeping 3.2 million Australians employed during the COVID-19 pandemic, illustrating how digital technologies allow businesses to survive in tough situations by increasing workplace agility.
Overcoming hurdles in technology adoption
Issue: Lack of strategic vision and unclear business case
According to research by MIT, more than 80% of executive leaders know that digital transformation is important for their company. However, there is less alignment when it comes to what areas of the company to prioritise. Struggling to pick a direction between customer relations, internal operations, or creating new business models could result in choosing the wrong technology for the true needs of the organisation. A PwC survey for example, stated that 73% of employees knew what kind of systems would help them be more productive at work, but top management disagreed and chose different tools, resulting in conflict.
Solution: Perform an analysis of current systems and formulate an adoption strategy
An adoption strategy is useful in identifying the right business processes to automate, and ensuring the correct technology has been chosen for the job. Examining internal processes for tasks which are manual, repetitive, rules based, and occur at high volumes and frequency are often the best to automate. Furthermore, processes which require improved security also benefit, as digitised data can be encrypted, helping to reduce risks and prevent data loss. Performing an analysis of business processes also ensures that current technologies will be compatible with new technologies, allowing for seamless integration. Having an adoption plan with clear objectives and employee expectations, including a timeline of when new technologies will be deployed, will allow employees to be part of the conversation and feel mentally prepared for the change.
While the functionality of a platform is critical, so is user-friendliness, especially when the aim is to have a high-adoption rate amongst employees. Looking into multiple business solutions ensures that not only the most effective system is chosen, but also the most approachable. When solutions are intuitive and user-friendly, adoption will come naturally even to technophobes.
Issue: Employee scepticism and resistance
‘What’s in it for me?’ is the first thing employees will question when they learn of new changes. Employees may not only resist the technical changes which come with digital transformation, but also social changes such as the alteration of established relationships in the organisation.
According to change management theories by John P.Kotter and Leonard A.Schlesinger, the four main reasons for resistance to change are:
- A focus on self-interest over organisational interests
- Lack of trust and a belief that change will cost them more than they will gain
- Different evaluations of the situation, leading to misunderstandings
- Low tolerance for change and fear of being unable to keep up with new required skills
Solution: Transparent communication with employees
Educating employees about changes beforehand is important for overcoming resistance. One-on-one discussions, group presentations, and reports can help employees understand why new technologies are being implemented, and clearly address the economical and rational benefits for both the organisation and the individual. As a result, organisations can encourage change by addressing the needs of employees which motivates them to implement new technologies. According to PWC’s 2018 survey on Technology at Work, employees are more likely to adopt new tech when it:
- Advances their own careers or allows them to gain status in the organisation (37%)
- Provokes curiosity over the promise of better efficiency and teamwork (34%)
- Provides individual achievement within a predictable environment (29%)
Understanding what motivates people to make changes will allow businesses to create communication strategies and incentives which drive employees to adopt new tech.
Transparency should not be exclusive to operational changes, but also social changes. Organisations should highlight the specific social and work arrangements that will be sustained or threatened by the adoption of new technologies, in order to prevent more uncertainty and conflict. A culture of collaboration and teamwork should also be fostered to avoid feeling like tech adoption is a competition or a threat.
Issue: Difficulty adopting new technologies and innovation fatigue
As highlighted by Deloitte, the half-life of skills is rapidly falling. Now, essential skills only last for five years on average, resulting in higher demands on businesses to support their teams with training and upskilling opportunities. The move from routine work into knowledge work has exciting potential for businesses, but the threat of falling behind in new essential skills can make employees resistant to technological changes.
Additionally, workplaces can be suffering from innovation fatigue. Employees can become tired of hearing phrases like ‘the future is now!’ and ‘the new normal’ - instead associating them with being hounded into implementing new technologies which are not beneficial. Vague innovation talk with no mention of guidance, resources, or support, can cause employees to see adopting new technologies as meaningless or a waste of time.
Solution: Facilitation and support
The knowledge of employees who work with new technologies are just as fundamental as the technology itself. Organisations, even when they are not implementing new technologies, should provide opportunities for personal growth and development. Upskilling teams not only increases employee retention, but further showcases that an organisation cares about their employees’ future career development. Multiple training and development opportunities should be made to accommodate all different learning styles, such as online training resources, and more practical and hands-on sessions. Ensuring training is accessible to all employees will help to create a culture of learning, rather than fostering the alienation of employees who have difficulty adjusting to new technologies.
A culture of learning will also encourage employees to help each other. Organisations can identify the early adopters within teams and appoint them as ‘change champions’, promoting engagement and excitement to get other employees on board. While the expected new behaviours should be modelled by leaders, selecting change champions from all levels of the organisation will allow employees to speak more openly about their issues and concerns, hence changing attitudes within a work environment from resentment of change, to one of higher morale.
Consistently rewarding people for using new technologies and trying new innovative approaches will help to overcome innovation fatigue. Innovation doesn’t have to be revolutionary, but can come in small changes and strides. Highlighting even small goals and wins can relieve the pressure of immediately adopting new skills, making change seem more approachable and doable.
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