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Introducing New Technology to a Too-Comfortable Workforce

Technology is often a great equalizer for businesses trying to keep up with competitors. But, introducing new software and machines to a team that is very comfortable with the status quo can be challenging. Sometimes, employee resistance to re-learning their jobs can delay your ability to keep up with the competition.

The baby boomers on your team may be particularly susceptible to new technology rejection. They are accustomed to doing things in familiar ways. And, even millennials and Gen Xers might reject changes if they perceive that changes present more downsides than upsides to their roles within the company.

There are ways to help thwart a technology resistance movement among the members of your remote workforce, starting with the following 5 suggestions.

1. Encourage employees to drive the process

Your employees generally know about efficiency issues before you notice them, so get them involved. They will be more open to change when they become directly involved in identifying and solving issues.

When a team member points out an area of concern, be prepared to ask questions to find out if they know about any technological solutions or would be interested in working with you to find one. When they are involved in the problem-solving process, the technology will not be foreign and frightening when implementation begins.

2. Take it one technology at a time

You may have multiple issues that can be cured by technology. But, if you suddenly switch from using hand-written notes to a technology-driven operation, your employees will be overwhelmed and resistant to all of the changes.

Take a step back and create a plan that introduces technological progress logically and at a pace that your employees can embrace. As they witness each advance along the way, they may even develop a hunger for more.

3. Provide all needed training and support

Even staff members with advanced degrees can feel like first graders when faced with new technology. They all need to learn concepts at their own pace and then, learn how to use those concepts within the context of their jobs. You need to display patience and flexibility to achieve success.

Keep in mind that people learn in a variety of ways. During the initial how-to training, some may instantly see how new software or machines will apply to their jobs. Others may need you to make the connection for them. For anyone, however, pointing out what’s in it for them will facilitate the training process.

During the training process, make a mental note of the employees who seem to absorb the full picture easily. These employees will be valuable assets if you deputize them to assist co-workers.

4. Follow up on progress and needs

So, how do things look once implementation is complete? If you don’t see clear signs of improvement within a reasonable time period (or, if you see things get worse, heaven forbid), then it’s time to figure out what’s going wrong.

Perhaps, you just didn’t allow enough time, but you might discover that the learning curve is too steep, employees are resisting the change or the process details need better definition. If you did your homework upfront, then you probably chose the right technology, but don’t discount the possibility that something needs repair or replacement.

This is definitely a time to keep employees involved. They are in the best position to identify the issues and suggest ways to fix them.

5. Celebrate success

Change is a big deal and asking employees to delve into the unknown deserves recognition. They will be more engaged when you keep them informed about the positive effects of the new processes to the company. But, don’t forget to point out the effects of the changes on personal lives, as well. Getting home to their families for dinner during the traditional month-end crunch is huge, too.

The team also deserves a pat on the back for their efforts. It wouldn’t hurt to have a party to celebrate successful implementation of the improvements!

Bonus tip: new technology can open opportunities for employees.

Employees often resist new technology out of fear of new things, if they believe that new technology will eliminate their jobs or make them less interesting. But, what if a new process relieves monotony and opens new opportunities for your team members?

A big part of your job is to think about how Sally will spend her free time once an optical character scanner reduces her order entry job from 8 hours to 2 each day. If you can tap unused talents to promote her to an inventory control analyst, purchasing coordinator or even a sales or customer service representative, she will be more engaged on the job. And, your company will gain more value without hiring a new employee.

About the author

Carol Roth is a radio host on WGN, a CNBC TV contributor, a ‘recovering’ investment banker & a bestselling author of The Entrepreneur Equation. You can find her on Twitter @CarolJSRoth or at www.CarolRoth.com. She also has an action figure made in her likeness.