What is the best approach to modernising the workplace with new technology when you have resistant staff?
Two years ago I came across a business that had bought a set of iPads with a vision of using them for better record keeping and communication. After stumbling through their functions and features, they were thrown in the cupboard. Nobody wanted to use them - they didn’t know how. The employer had a workforce that was frightened - not just about technology, but about how it would impact their jobs. They didn’t anticipate the reactions from their older workforce, including managers and supervisors. Despite this, the business had the right idea and with my help persevered.
12 months down the track, the same business held a conference about workforce development and future growth in the industry. One of the top three priorities identified by the 70 attendees was better use of technology.
It is easy for businesses to see the benefits of introducing the latest technology into their workplaces - for example, better record keeping, faster and more efficient systems, point of sale stock control and reducing travel costs through online conferencing. These changes are generally introduced with the goals of growing profits, and being seen as modern and tech-savvy organisations by their staff and clientele.
Staff can adapt to using new technology, but without the proper support and training, many are likely to restrict their use to the bare minimum and compromise results.
Digital natives vs digital immigrants
Younger employees are more likely to embrace technology and will be curious enough to expand their understanding of the equipment and the systems they are using. They are online social networkers, eager to move to the next new app. These are the traits of digital natives.
Born after 1980, these people have lived with technology all their lives whereas the older generations who grew up with paper systems are more likely to print out copies of everything they do, and wouldn’t think twice about travelling to meetings when it would be more cost effective to video conference. These people are the ‘digital immigrants’ who have had to adapt to a digital world.
Overcoming the technology fear factor
One of the biggest barriers to introducing new technology into the workplace can be the supervisor or manager, especially if they are not technology-focused. ‘Things have worked well so far, why change?’ or ‘Will the new system erode our authority?’ is a common line of thinking. The likely underlying issue will be fear of technology. That’s until they learn to use it.
If there’s resistance to new technology, make it easy for them. Some may prefer classroom learning with their peers or one-on-one sessions with a mentor, others may want to learn through written guides, instructional videos or through watching others. Once the manager or supervisor has gained some confidence in using technology, they will be more comfortable with the changes you are trying to implement. In my experience, some of the most resistant learners have become eager e-learning champions, leading the change from the inside.
Before introducing new technology, ask your staff what they want to learn and determine their preferred learning style.
Introduce a simple questionnaire to help you find out more about your digital natives and newcomers, what they are enthusiastic about, and how they prefer to learn. It might be setting-up and participating in teleconferences, or creating presentations for iPads. Their preferred learning style might be within a classroom setting. Having this insight will help you introduce new technology more easily.
Creating a digitally-friendly workplace
If you want a digitally-enabled workforce have you created a digitally-friendly workplace? Can you record presentations and make them available for staff to watch later? Do your policies and procedures leave you confident that data is secure? Can your networks cope with the volume of traffic? Can you still maintain offline emergency options when systems are down? Are manuals available in user-friendly audio visual and hard copy formats? By addressing these issues, you can engage the workforce more effectively and implement the advantages of technology.
Once you have created an environment conducive to learning, adapting new technology in the workplace is not a big issue. Through my experience, implementing new technology effectively improves systems and productivity as staff are able to use more technology to their advantage.
Not a bad return on investment if you are an employer!
If you’re a business with a plan to introduce new technology or systems, consider engaging an external facilitator who can support you through processes that engage your staff and reduce resistance. There are a number of business consultants and training providers on Bartercard who are experienced change management professionals with the expertise to guide you. Give your nearest agent a call today.
About the author
Pat Grosse is a digital captive. Born a ‘digital immigrant’, she took computer studies at school at a time when there were only two computers in a city of 250,000 people. She used manual and electronic typewriters, visual display units (VDUs) and wordpressors before organising Europe-wide conferences on technology in education in the 1990’s. Escaping to Australia saw little respite when she soon found herself advocating e-learning to community education providers and becoming an e-learning mentor. Over the last three years she has been working with industry to improve workplace learning through the use of information technology platforms and resources.
Contact Pat Grosse on 03 9005 5889 or at email@example.com