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Will investing in new workplace technology be the key to supporting a successful return to the office?
A lot has changed about life in these pandemic-affected times. COVID-19 altered where companies operate, our perspective on remote work, and shifted budgeting priorities to make digital transformation a priority. But some things haven't changed at all. In fact, resistance to change will always be an issue for IT leaders to overcome.
But to future-proof your business and stay competitive at a time when it matters most, you need to be able to navigate the challenges that stand in the way of progress. And once you've identified a great solution for your organization, your next step is to focus on your workplace technology user adoption rate.
There are a few common terms for people who reject new technologies. Since the technical (see what I did, there) term for the fear of technology is "technophobia", some refer to them as technophobes. In the 1960s, people started applying the term "Luddite" to opposers of new technology — a historical reference to 1800s textile workers who rioted against technological change by breaking industrial equipment.
If you're facing a workforce that's resisting the adoption of new workplace technology, the fact that these terms exist should show you that you're not alone.
If you have a multi-generational workforce, you need to consider the context behind workplace technology user adoption. The adoption of new digital technologies might come more naturally to Millennials and Gen-Zers, for whom digital technologies have practically always been a part of everyday life. Considering they grew up in the digital age, that checks out.
But here's the thing, it's not just older generations that fear new tech. The vast majority of people are afraid of technology in some way or another. In a 2015 study conducted by Chapman University, Americans ranked their fear of technology right behind their fear of natural disasters. In fact, the fear of "corporate tracking of personal data" out-ranked the fear of a terrorist attack, economic collapse, war, and pandemic. And the fear of "robots replacing the workforce" was more significant than the fear of unemployment, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and dying.
Sociologist Ed Day says humans are hardwired to fear the unfamiliar. With that in mind, take time to help make user adoption easier for employees by providing proper training, additional support, and providing resources to support the transition. That'll take away some of their anxiety around using new technology and help boost user adoption for workplace technology.
Every IT leader looks forward to the day when ditching legacy systems isn't met with so much pushback. But until that day comes, prepare for the likelihood that you'll be met with some resistance when you replace the workplace technology employees and leaders are used to.
Let's face it, people don't like change. It's disruptive to our routine and usually requires us to spend more time and energy upfront as we get familiar with a new system and get accustomed to new ways of doing things.
You need to be ready to respond to the objection "That's how it's always been done." Most likely, more than once. How you respond will play a major role in whether you can successfully improve technology user adoption — so don't get defensive. Explain why a new solution is necessary. For example, your rebuttal could go a little something like this: "The old software doesn't connect to the majority of our other tools, which makes it hard for IT, HR, and other departments to pass along information to each other. This new solution helps solve that."
Then, follow it up with the value. Let employees know how they'll benefit from adopting the new workplace technology. Bonus points if you're able to show them with a demonstration to help really sell the point. The new tech is going to help, so make sure they understand the practical value of adopting new workplace technology. It'll go a long way.
Under mounting pressure to stay ahead of emerging technology and digital trends, IT leaders need to make sure there's a real purpose behind their workplace technology strategy. Otherwise, for the reasons listed above, the result will almost certainly be low user adoption.
When employees refuse to use new tools or insist on using legacy systems, it might be time to initiate a new implementation process. But first, you'll need to figure out what's behind low technology user adoption rates in the first place.
What is the problem you're trying to solve by deploying a new solution? Do employees understand the reason for adopting a new tool?
Do employees dislike the new technology because it's difficult to learn or use? Is there an issue with the interface? Does it integrate with the other workplace tools used in your office, or are there gaps between the systems?
If you don't have clear answers to those questions, you should consider pausing your efforts until you're able to clearly establish a purpose behind your plan, communicate the value that the new technology will deliver, and show that the benefits will outweigh the costs.
Being an early adopter is great — but it's not always the right call. Make sure your IT strategy aligns with company goals as well as the needs and expectations of the users. If employees don't like the tech you're asking them to use, low technology user adoption is all but inevitable.
Start by discussing those considerations with your team and ask for feedback from users. Better yet, include them in making the decision so when the time comes to roll out new workplace technology, employees are already on board and less likely to fight the change.
Even though the pandemic made the single biggest impact on improving technology user adoption — probably ever — it didn't necessarily make the experience any easier on employees. Digital transformation includes some growing pains and having to learn how to use a new tool is challenging even without a global pandemic in the background.
You should also factor in the increase in the number of emails sent, hours spent in meetings, and hours spent working in general. Compared to the year prior, last February saw an additional 40.6 billion emails — that's billion with a "b" — and time spent in virtual meetings rose 148%.
Today, employees are familiar and comfortable with a work experience that exists online. And because of that, you'll want to think twice before uttering the phrase "take this offline". According to survey data from TrustRadius, it's the #4 most annoying business buzzword of 2021. Unsurprisingly, the top spot went to "new normal".
If one thing is certain about the future of the workplace, it's that technology is a fundamental part of how we work. The difference between a proactive IT strategy and a reactive one could determine who succeeds and who's left in the dust when the dust from the coronavirus pandemic settles and a "new normal" (sorry) sets in.
Moving the needle won't be possible without improving workplace technology user adoption, so you need a plan in place. Teem's user-friendly employee experience app is one way to help make adoption easy on employees and on yourself. Get a demo to see how.
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