When an IT manager implements a new technology project, there are a few fantasies of user adoption that runs through his or her head.
Sometimes we’re doing it on behalf of upper management. We never wanted to adopt this technology in the first place, and we believe that none of the end user employees in the organization will use it.
Other times the implementation is our baby. We have dreams of all the incredible ways it will improve our organization, and we look forward to the day that end users are on their knees thanking us for bringing them this new application.
We might be forced to implement new technology because the old system is outdated. All of the end user employees love the old system, however, and don’t realize that it’s unsecure, unreliable, and a drain on resources. We imagine that they’ll light their torches, grab their pitchforks, and break down our office door to tar and feather us in the breakroom. They’ll riot if the old system goes.
The reality is that none of our expectations of user adoption for a new technology project are true to the most likely scenario – some will like it, some will hate it, most will be apathetic, and all will utilize what they are most comfortable with.
That’s the most common reaction to a new technology implementation. Which means, for the most part, the system will go underutilized.
A handful of employees will access all of the features, a handful will find loopholes to use a different system that they’re familiar with, and the vast majority will get comfortable with the basic features and never bother to learn advanced features that could help them perform their jobs.
However, if we are proactive as IT managers about creating training materials and encouraging employees to learn the system, we give ourselves the best shot at successful adoption.
Developing Training & Finding Champions
Whether you’re working through an installation partner, such as an AV integrator or a Managed Service Provider, or doing the build yourself with your own team, there is a ton that you need to do.
Ensuring everything is going smoothly, answering questions as they pop up, fixing problems, and answering questions from stakeholders all become your duty. You’ll feel buried up to your eyeballs in the technology implementation.
Unfortunately, we’re about to tell you to put even more on your plate. However, what you do during this stage could save you years of headaches down the road.
The implementation stage is a good time to start creating new technology training programs for the new technology. As the technology is installed and you start to get a better understanding of how it will work, jot down your findings.
Think about how different departments will use the system – will sales utilize different capabilities than the HR team? Should you develop separate training measures for different departments? These are the types of questions to ask yourself during the implementation process.
You don’t have to be alone. Find your champions and use them to help inform your training techniques. These will likely be the same people that you queried before the project started, but you can also bring in some other champions at this stage. Focus on innovators – those that most easily adopt new technology.
As the technology is implemented have them work with it and ask questions about it. Use them to see how the general employee will approach the new technology.
Engage your end users not just for them to test it, but actually to see how you approach and train them. Are you going to create internal intranets? Are you going to do live instructor-led training? Are you going to create user guides? When you correlate the end user piece into that technical pilot, it will help you create and devise that strategy.
As for the training itself, there are several avenues to explore:
– Instructor-Led Training: Groups gather in a space and get a lecture on how the new technology works. These can be long, and sometimes dull. Many employees won’t take it seriously. Think of ways to break up the monotony and make it fun. Make a game out of it – whoever can use an application faster gets a prize. Perhaps break the sessions into shorter time frames over a month or several months.
– Video Training: If you have the capability, video training can really help with ongoing adoption. Employees won’t have to ask you for help if there are videos readily available that explain the process. Try to break these videos into specific applications so they’re not too long, and employees can easily find exactly what they need.
– Online Training: Similar to video training but without the video. Online training allows employees to keep going back and learning. It might take them a year to memorize how to use technology, but if they have a cheat- sheet available online you won’t need to hold their hand each time.
– Guides: Again, if you have the capacity, don’t be afraid to bring in the design team and create guides to the new technology. You could print a number of handbooks that each employee can keep. Write them in ways laymen employees will understand. Provide visuals to help them navigate. Don’t make it too technical – you need them to utilize the system, they don’t necessarily have to understand how it all works.
– Personal Training: This could become cumbersome, but some technology is advanced enough that it’s necessary. Offer personal training sessions during time frames each week and allow employees to sign up to ask specific questions. If you aren’t passing your math exam you get a tutor. The same concept applies here.
You can provide a mix of these training types as well. Perhaps you first have an all-encompassing instructor-led training session and provide new technology training program videos moving forward to help people stay fresh. You can offer personal training sessions to those that need it. You can create guides to hand out after instructor-led sessions.
Really, the type of technology, your own resources, and the employees you’ll be training will tell you what to do in terms of teaching. In any case, develop resources while the build is going on in order to start training once the technology is fully implemented.
Fostering Ongoing Adoption
If you’ve been following along then fostering ongoing adoption after the implementation of the new technology should be easier than the earlier steps. You’ve already engaged the end users in order to understand the needs of those that will be using the system every day. You’ve
already tested the system with end users to see what problems might arise that you can address. You’ve already developed your new technology training program. Now it’s time to set every- thing in motion.
Whatever tools you’re putting in front of your end users, make sure you’re engaging them, they understand the value and how to use it. Don’t make it difficult on them. It takes three weeks to form a habit.
Many are familiar with that timeframe. However, research shows that a large, cultural shift like that of switching from one way of working to another, can take six months to a year.
If you’re switching from a Microsoft environment to a Cisco environment, for example, the change will not happen overnight. You’ll need to continuously train and retrain employees if you want them to get the most out of a new technology.
Be patient, and understand that the better they adopt the technology, the better the ROI on the technology, and the better you look as the technology manager.
There are three types of employees when it comes to technology adoption:
– Innovators – “These are the ones that grasp and adopt technology very quickly. Those are the folks you want to evangelize and engage, because they become your champions within your organization to help facilitate the rollout,” says McQueen.
– Laggers – “They’re not going to be as much of a hindrance as you would think. Initially they’ll be slow, but if you get the laggers on board you’ll see the most acceleration of adoption,” says McQueen.
– Influencers – They are typically higher-up in the organization and have a direct line to the C-Suite, if they’re not in the C-Suite already. If they can’t work the way they used to because they’re not trained properly, they can cause problems. “They walk into the CEO’s office and say, ‘What the hell did IT just deploy? I can’t use it. Why did we do this?’
The influencers can put a stink on the project from the get-go if you let them. Focus on them first. Make sure that they are fully trained. Ultimately the goal with influencers is to do whatever it takes to ensure they can utilize the system without much of a problem. One-on-one training may be best here. While cumbersome, it will save you plenty of pushback.
The innovators are your champions. They’ll be the ones showing laggers how much the new technology can improve their jobs. You can typically find at least one innovator in every department – focus on them next, let them talk up the technology to colleagues, and further your adoption through word of mouth.
The laggers will require hand-holding, and the new technology training program will be much longer, but this will be the final hurdle to adoption. If you can get the laggers on-board within a year’s time (depending on the system) then you’ve done a good job.
Finally, make training ongoing. It will be seen as a chore by the workforce but provide extra sessions throughout the year for people to brush up on the system.
Provide food or make a game out of it with prizes like gift cards, or perhaps even extra PTO days. Obviously, you’d need to clear that with the company, but enticing people to learn can go a long way toward ROI.