A recent Randstad survey found that 52% of U.S. companies are in the developing stages of digital transformation — but they won’t all succeed. In fact, as many as 70% of organizational transformations end up failing.
For the companies that have gone through a successful technology change, a completed implementation is not the finish line. And while implementing change presents a host of challenges, maintaining change can be even more difficult. Sustained use of a new technology doesn’t just happen. Leaders need to be strategic to make sure that the effects of technological change don’t fizzle out.
Here are the most common obstacles to change in technology and tips for how your company can motivate staff to sustain a positive change far past the implementation stage.
Why is change so difficult?
Long-term change is hard because it involves adjusting behaviors, which is one of humanity’s biggest challenges. If it’s difficult to change our own individual behavior, it stands to reason that trying to change the behavior of an entire organization will be even more difficult.
It's important to remember that behaviors are often the result of perceptions. If your employees don’t feel positively invested in your new technologies, they will likely be slow to adopt it. They may not be excited about the technological change for reasons such as:
- The change seems too big, difficult, or sudden
- Failure is often part of the process, which can be discouraging
- Change can make employees feel uneasy about their current role or future in the company
Overlooking internal communication and training when you implement a new technology at your organization only worsens the problem. According to Randstad, 58% of workers say their employer uses the latest digital tools but doesn’t provide sufficient training on how to use them. Training is key to accelerating the change and helping your employees adjust. Implementing new software and holding one training session on it simply won’t cut it.
Company culture can persist for decades. When organizations attempt to make a change too quickly or without the right rollout — especially a large technology and process change — it can undermine the success of the project and cause employees to feel like the goals of adopting the new system are unachievable.
These obstacles rarely occur in a vacuum; they are all related and a failure to sustain change is often a result of multiple obstacles occurring together. For example, a change implementation plan that assumes employees will need only one month to adapt to new technology is an unreasonable timeline and is also unlikely to include thorough employee training. The combination of insufficient time to adjust and a lack of training can make users resistant to using the technology, which would result in an uneven rollout and low adoption. The end result, even if the implementation went perfectly, wouldn’t meet the goals of changing the technology, as any benefits from the new technology wouldn’t be seen from a low user base.
What can leaders do to encourage long-lasting change?
Providing transparent leadership and thoughtful communication can reduce employee resistance and help your new technology stick. There are a few effective ways of doing this:
1. Communicate the impact of change on employees
Whenever you are introducing a new technology, communication is key: before, during, and after implementation. Before implementing the system, employees need to understand the reason behind the change — especially how it will make their jobs easier or smoother. Clearly communicating the reasons for the change and the benefits it will bring can help you achieve buy-in from your team members and make them more open to learning the new system.
During the change, employees will need to understand how the implementation process will impact them personally. What initial failures and frustrations are to be expected? How will it affect their day-to-day work? At what points during implementation will they be involved? Outlining these expectations is perhaps the most important communication you can provide, as it will significantly reduce the uncertainty associated with the change.
After the change, regular communication should roll out about how the new technology is benefiting your teams. Testimonials, case studies and survey results all work well here, as well as continued training and an open door for feedback, questions or concerns.
2. Open channels for feedback
Technology implementation has to be an ongoing process, and it must involve more than just your IT team. No one likes changes to their daily work without being consulted first, and a technological change is sure to have a wide-reaching effect on different stakeholders at your organization — from customer service to marketing and sales.
When implementing and managing change, ensure multiple teams and team members at different levels within the company are asked to help with the process. For instance, senior managers can serve as spokespeople for the initiative and manage any resistance to the change. HR can also be conscious of hiring, promoting and developing employees who are enthusiastic about the change and can become change advocates throughout the organization. End users can be some of your biggest change advocates, especially if you involve them at all stages of the process. This can make them feel like they have more control over the change and that they own it, instead of it being forced upon them.
3. Provide adequate training — and make it fun
Technology adoption doesn’t have to be laborious and painful. Your employees will be more enthusiastic about the new technology at your company if learning about it is fun and exciting. One method of providing ongoing training that your employees will enjoy and actively take part in is through gamification.
If your employees are on social media, they already have experience using new technology consistently over time. Technology platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter reward user efforts with metrics, such as numbers of friends, likes, followers, and post views, to keep users engaged with the software.
Salesforce famously rolled out a training platform called Trailhead to train users on their technology in 2015. Trailhead users gain badges and points depending on which and how many trainings they complete. The gamification of the platform has been remarkably successful, with users earning 10 million badges in the four years since it has been launched.
Your organization can also leverage the psychology of games to ensure the long-term success of your new technology. Gamification motivates employees to perform tasks over and over, increasing their familiarity with the new technology while making sure the learning process stays fun. This embeds new behaviors into the company in a longer-lasting way than a few training sessions here and there.
By completing ongoing training on the new technology, your employees can be awarded scores, prizes and online accolades. Don’t be surprised if your teams quickly become more excited about your new technology — gamified change has already proven to be effective at other organizations.;
If your company is struggling to maintain momentum after implementing new technology, it’s vital to understand why your employees are resistant to change. Transparency, inclusion and games overcome some of the main obstacles to change, so your organization can get the most out of your new initiative in the long run.
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About the Authors
VP, Professional Services, Americas
Emilie leads the Rackspace Application Services (RAS) Professional Services organizations in the Americas. She brings years of experience in creating, building and leading technical and consultative professional services teams while driving revenue, margin and a fast-growth set of offerings. Emilie has worked as a consultant in the areas of Global IT Risk Management, PMO, Strategic Consulting; program and personnel development/management, product/program marketing, development of training programs and partner/channel development. She has successfully led Sales, Marketing, IT, Finance, Project Management and Operational Excellence teams throughout her various roles. Emilie earned an MBA from the University of San Diego (USD), with emphases in Project Management and Supply Chain Systems. Additionally, she was honored with the Mother Rosalie Clifton Hill Award in 2011 for her philanthropic work at USD and throughout the community. She continues her alliance with the University of San Diego’s School of Business by mentoring students, and remains committed to a number of organizations, both locally and nationally, that align with her passion of melding people, business, and technology.Read more about Emilie Hersh