Don’t overlook the “employee factor” when adopting new technology.
See if this sounds familiar.
You and a select group of co-workers have spent time researching, interviewing, and demoing a new technology or process to be implemented at your company. You’re certain that you have been thorough in your efforts. The solution checks every box and satisfies every need. It’s expensive, but the ROI is worth it.
You sign the paperwork, establish a schedule, and when the day comes to flip the switch, your staff greets the new system with a collective shrug.
Undeterred, you’re confident that once your employees will see the benefits and welcome this change into their work lives.
Only that doesn’t happen.
Months into deployment, the new technology isn’t being used as intended. The system isn’t generating the expected benefits. The staff are actively developing workarounds, or worse yet, trying to get the new system to perform like the old system.
Tempers are flaring.
Upper management is demanding answers.
Did you buy a lemon?
Or did you forget to include your staff in the procurement process? Did you forget to build anticipation and educate how this new system would improve their job satisfaction, make their lives easier, or address lingering performance issues?
According to our annual survey to transit agencies, 80 percent of transit operations experience resistance from their staff or customers when adopting new technology or practices.
When polled further, about this resistance, transit agencies believed that the quality of the vendor-provided training materials (56%) played a factor in poor adoption, and the inclusion of cheat sheets and user guides (42%) and options for supplemental training (38%) would be helpful in changing employee perceptions.
While a well-trained staff can be important in wringing the best performance out of new technology investments, it’s not the only variable. In truth, there are three critical areas of technology adoption that must be addressed:
- The requirements of the technology (which problems will it solve)
- Generating excitement among riders (get transit customers excited about the change)
- Generating excitement among employees
Transit agencies excel in the first two areas. In fact, our customers routinely ask us for marketing materials and strategies to engage with their riders and let them know what’s coming. When we include internal marketing materials for their staff, it’s a common response to hear “hmmm, I didn’t think about marketing to our employees. What a great idea.”
The assumption, as we see it, is that whatever change is decided upon by leadership is that it will be readily embraced by employees. After all, change is coming, and they have little-to-no say in the matter. If they want a job, they’ll use the tools provided. The assumption is that employees understand what doesn’t work well, so any initiative that solves those concerns will be embraced.
Except that’s not reality, and truth be told, your staff has their own ideas on how to solve challenges—which by default creates obstacles and roadblocks that need to be overcome.
In our view, pre-marketing the change to staff is every bit as important as the quality of training and resources. Why? Because pre-marketing helps build anticipation by extolling more intimate benefits to the staff. It includes them in the conversation. It extolls more intimate benefits, provides ways of seeking more information, and begins that emotional transition from what is to what will be.
Change is intimidating.
We can’t just plop a new system or service in the laps of our employees and expect that they will be excited about it and embrace it without question. Take steps to bring your staff along in the process. Provide updates, answer questions, listen to concerns and feedback. If they feel involved, they will be more likely to embrace this new solution willingly rather than begrudgingly.
And when the staff is onboard, that’s when meaningful change can really take off.