The Human Element of Implementing New Technology

With an increasing consumer and business demand for faster and more efficient delivery of goods and services, it is difficult to ignore the integration of technology into your business.

Even though an upgrade of your company’s infrastructure may set you back tens of thousands of dollars, the implementation of new technology can potentially accelerate your production of goods and services, making your business more efficient through automation. Thereafter, your business stands to enjoy years of cost savings, and even grant yourself an edge over your competitors.

However, even before you head into dealing with the intricacies of implementing technology in your company, you will need to factor in the human element of change. Specifically, you will have to overcome the hurdle of varying speed of learning among your staff and possible resistance to change. It is only after solving the human element of change can you move on to the non-human elements. Firstly, you will have to determine the people who will be affected by the change and how to get them onboard. Secondly, you will have to measure the implications of business units linked to areas of the company that have been upgraded. Lastly, you will have to estimate the duration in which the new upgrades will last before being superseded.

In this blog post, we will be focusing on the first aspect of change, which is determining the people involved and dealing with the human element of change.

 

The Human Element

As aforementioned, the implementation of technology has to account for the re-training of your employees, who may either take longer than expected to learn about the newly-bought upgrades or resist the change.

Four Stages of Change Adaptation (The Change Curve). Source: Bob Von Der Linn’s Change Management and Human Performance Technology Blog
This diagram is adapted from the Four Stages of Change Adaptation (The Change Curve).

In the diagram above, the horizontal axis shows the spectrum of employees from the most resistant to change to the most willing. The vertical axis shows the spectrum of employees from the most difficult to change to the easiest. While the diagram shows the stages one goes through when adapting to change, it arguably also shows the 4 possible groups of people that may result following the implementation of new technology in your company. Some people are naturally more inclined to welcome change and can readily adapt to new technology really quickly whereas there are others who are more averse to change and also at the same time, difficult to teach new technologies to. Using the Change Curve as a model, it is much easier to implement change when knowing where the employees stand with regards to implementing new technology.

1. Commitment: Most willing to change + Easiest to Adapt to New Technology

Essentially, these employees are the staff who may have been exposed to new technology. Their exposure could range from interacting previously with the newly-bought technology or having read about the piece of technology in the news. Typically, these people are young and grew up with technology. As a result, it is much easier for them to adopt and adapt to new technologies. It would be best to prioritize onboarding this group of employees as it is likely to use the shortest time and resources to re-train them.

Furthermore, the company can prime these users to guide and help the other employees during the implementation stage. These users can become the champions of the new technology and the “go-to” person for any questions regarding the new technology. For most staff, it becomes easier to learn new things when they are learning from their fellow staff as opposed to learning from management or an external vendor. Having a technology evangelist who is a super user of the new technology becomes a great asset to have that can help smoothen the implementation with other staff members.

2. Exploration: Most willing to change + Most difficult to Adapt to New Technology

These employees are the loyal staff who are very used to current work processes. While they are not entirely resistant to change, they may have difficulties in learning and retaining new methods of production. These employees are often slightly older and are not as familiar with technology due to a lack of technology exposure. These staff will be willing to learn but will be low in picking up the new technology. It is important to be patient when teaching and employ “hands-on” approach when learning as it would be more effective than a lecture style.

Here, it is advised to carry out the training of this group of employees in phases. This way, you can minimize disruption to your production of goods and services by ensuring that you have a sizeable group of employees whose skills are still compatible with existing company infrastructure. Also, you may consider engaging an external consultant to lead the retraining efforts. Once these loyal employees are equipped with the right knowledge, you can leave the responsibility of managing the new tools to them instead of rehiring.

3. Denial: Most resistant to change + Easiest to Adapt to New Technology

These employees are young employees who are not in upper or middle management positions, which include frontline workers. The difficulty in training them does not lie in their ability to learn new technologies but rather their buy-in to the reason and benefits of a technological upgrade before they commit themselves to the process of change. These staff may even pretend not to be able to pick up or are simply unwilling to learn.

Here, it is advised that senior management leaders interact with these employees to demonstrate the potential benefits of a technological upgrade. These employees need to be convinced of the change that they are required to make. Involving them in the early stages of the implementation and having a change management workshop to ensure everyone is convinced and on the same page would make these employees feel as if they are a part of the change and therefore have a stake in its success. Getting their feedback and input on the new processes would also ensure their involvement in the process. While it may lengthen the technological implementation process, a strong buy-in by employees in this group can translate into rapid reskilling, since these employees are likely to be adept at picking up new technology.

4. Resistance: Most resistant to change + Most difficult to Adapt to New Technology

These employees are usually old employees who are used to manual work processes, such as filing copies of delivery task sheets. As they are comfortable with their work duties and likely to be less exposed to new technologies, there will be multiple difficulties retraining them. This groups will require the most amount of patience to ensure technology adoption success.

The best way to tackle them is to get a fellow staff of a similar company position or hierarchical level to work with them. They are more likely to be convinced and willing to learn from a fellow staff member than they are when being forced by higher management. It would be advisable to have a fellow employee who is adept in the new technology to guide and help on a regular basis in phases.

These employees will also need to be involved and it would be best to involve them from the early stages, from the implementation timeline to the Go-Live stage. Often, these set of employees are afraid that they may be replaced by technology. They will need to be reassured that technology will not replace them and that their experience is highly valued by the company. Getting regular feedback and input on new processes would be a good way to show that their experience is important to the company.

 

How long will the implementation take?

Here, there is no hard and fast rule about the duration of the transition. Rather, the duration is determined by the employees. That means that you may encounter a worst-case scenario where the bulk of your employees are resistant to change, have a lower learning rate, and with your company possessing an old and complex technological infrastructure.

 

Conclusion

In conclusion, moving towards a technological-driven business is inevitable, given the direction in which the provision of goods and services is heading. However, leading and implementing the change is not an easy task, which involves measuring the receptibility to change among your employees. However, if these considerations are accounted for and acted upon in an appropriate fashion, the benefits of a technological transition is boundless.

Do you have other areas of consideration when dealing with employees that business owners should think of before implementing new technology? Share them with us!