And so begins an intensely stressful rollout of a new software tool. What was supposed to be a fix has become a headache that created additional tension and bottlenecks. Sound familiar? This isn’t an isolated issue experienced only by SMBs. In a telling statistic, practitioners of corporate reengineering report that success rates in Fortune 1,000 companies are well below 50% with others reporting acceptance of change as low as 20%.
Getting over the hump of software adoption
Adopting a new software tool may not be as rigorous as corporate reengineering (though it depends on the reach of the software platform) but scale doesn’t change the fact that some people are just resistant to change. Some employees flat out hate it.
You won’t be able to sell everyone on the new software tool – not the same way. The adoption rates are going to vary with slow acceptance at first that starts to gain speed. Finally you’ll get the majority of your team on board which will help transition the stragglers… though at a slower pace.
Everett Rogers’ classic model of technology adoption shows how deployment typically occurs, breaking adoption into a number of groups which your employees will ultimately fall into.
In Rogers’ model you can see a good chunk of employees come early to the table, getting you a fair way to the point of completion before everything tapers.
This is the point at which operational efficiency starts to diminish. The people who are late to adopt, especially the “laggards”, wind up causing the largest disruption to the process due to additional hours for task completion, additional training hours and support, technical problems that aren’t discovered until much later around specific tasks or isolated roles, etc.
Minimizing the late majority and laggards is the goal when onboarding new software tools. This is the group that’s your greatest concern.
What causes slow adoption
Employees aren’t necessarily pushing back out of spite. While reports have shown that roughly 43% of employees are unhappy at work, that isn’t the main cause of software adoption grinding to a halt.
Discussing resistance to change and effective change management for Harvard Business Review back in 1969, Paul R. Lawrence wrote that “what employees resist is usually not technical change but social change—the change in their human relationships that generally accompanies technical change.”
Social change refers specifically to the human relationship surrounding the adoption.
The above example was part of a 1948 study by Lester Coch and John R.P. French Jr. Their study revealed that employee participation was critical to smooth workflow transitions. Four groups of workers were introduced to new workflows, isolated from one another, and each adoption was handled differently.
The first group was given no direction other than an introduction to the new workflow and told to use it going forward.
The fourth group was consulted extensively on the problems. The were involved in choosing a solution and collaborated on the new workflow.
The majority of group one responded negatively with measurable reductions in productivity along with employee resignations. The fourth group adapted quickly to the new change producing a marked increase in productivity.
When leadership takes a more proactive and engaging approach to software adoption there is a noticeable and positive difference despite people’s natural reluctance to change. This provides terrific insight into steps you can take to introduce new software tools to your team without crippling workflow and productivity.
Get your team involved in the selection process
From the above example we can see the impact employee engagement has. When it’s time to shop for new technology, whether it’s a tool for fulfillment or something more extensive like a new CRM, turn first to your team.
While you may know your paint points, it’s not always as simple as addressing them. Your team will likely have a number of other issues that need to be addressed around workflow. Likewise, user-friendliness and functionality are important. They’re the ones using the software so loop them in.
Making your team part of the process gives them ownership in the solution. They’re far more likely to take the solution and run with the new software, acting as ambassadors for the rest of the team. If demo and software pilots are possible, pull in your team leaders and let them use the software. Get real feedback and use that to make decisions.
Sell the personal benefit, not the company benefit
“If staff do not understand the need for change you can expect resistance,” says change management expert Tobin Rick. “Especially from those who strongly believe the current way of doing things works well… and has done for twenty years!”
One study from MIT Sloan Management Review and Capgemini Consulting saw 63% of managers found the pace of technological change slowed to a crawl due to a lack of urgency and poor communication about the benefits of new technology.
Sharing the impact for the company is important, but not enough. “Good” employees will do it if you tell them to, though begrudgingly: it’s the equivalent of “because I said so.” If you want to spike the adoption rate among your team then share a compelling vision with them for what the technology means for the company and how it impacts them on an individual level.
Speak to them on a very personal level with clear benefit statements on how the software will help them. For example:
- Will the sales team meet their quota faster?
- Will more customer data be available, allowing sales and marketing to hit goals and… for sales.. make more money?
- Will productivity increase enough for more scheduled time off?
- Will savings from deployment allow the company to make some kind of investment in employees?
When selling anything, the best argument is to know what motivates employees so that you’re able to authentically communicate how the coming change will improve their lives.
Get influencers onboard
You likely know who your most influential team members are. They have the ears and attention of coworkers. Sometimes it’s a coworker everyone respects. Sometimes it’s a manager or member of your leadership team.
These are the evangelists you want to bring on first who will work horizontally across your company to gain universal buy in. Getting early buy in from influencers, rather than the people you know will jump on board first, is critical.
Start onboarding early
Regardless of the scale of the software tool, start onboarding early and do it in easily-digestible segments. People have different levels of technical aptitude, and they learn at different paces.
Small training sessions, with room to process between them, ensures that less people stumble along the way. It’s much easier to address technical issues when they come up in small groups as opposed to a slew of support requests and retraining.
Incentivize adoption and celebrate the wins
There are plenty ways to add incentives and rewards to adopting new technology and getting everyone onboard. What works best will be dependent on your employees - further emphasizing how important understanding their motivations are.
One thing is certain – adopting new software tools and technology is no simple task. Global studies have proven that when it comes to inspiring people to be their best, give it their all, and dive in fearlessly that nothing works better than giving recognition. Pay bonuses, promotions, additional training, autonomy, time off… nothing comes close to being recognized for a job well done.
If you’ve had adoption success, share with us in the comments!