How can I get my employees to see the big picture and truly commit to being part of the process when we go through a technology upgrade or brand new install?

Focus your communication on the business benefit of the technology, rather than the technology itself.
Take an honest look at the technology you are planning to deploy. What is its business purpose? Management usually sends fairly clear messages about this, but you would be surprised how they can become watered down as they reach the operational level. In some cases the new technology is perceived as a management toy. Focus your communication on the business benefit of the technology, how it reduces work and improves efficiency and how it resolves business pain. Employees are more interested in the impact of the technology on their daily work rather than the technology itself. Repeat this on all communications for any technology upgrade or new deployment.

Involve employees early.
Get input and feedback from employees who will be using the technology. If multiple departments are involved, focus group meetings are an effective way to solicit input segregated by job functions. These discussions allow employees to ask questions and offer their advice on how the technology should relate to them. This way, you will have a chance to overcome objections early, set expectations and refine the parameters of the deployment to one that better suits your needs. Employees are more likely to support an initiative when they feel they have been part of the planning process.

Allocate time and resources for training.
Working with an unfamiliar technology is extremely frustrating for some users. You can help to eliminate this frustration by providing them with some time to familiarize themselves with new technology and a clear schedule for any changes. Allocate sufficient time and human resources for training. Interfaces that are intuitive to IT staff are not necessarily intuitive to the average office worker, especially when it comes to fitting the interface to the employee’s work flow. Training people in advance will minimize the loss of user confidence in the new deployment.

Designate a champion for the technology.
Find a champion among your employees who is an enthusiast for the benefit of the new technology. If possible, give him/her early access. Your champion is a great asset when it comes to focusing on the positive aspects of the new deployment and can help bring other users on side, often before you ever hear about an objection. Also, by creating a situation where users are themselves invested in the success of the new deployment, they will be more tolerant of the inevitable hiccups along the way.

Use pilot groups.
Deploy the new technology to a select group before a company-wide rollout. A deployment involving less people is easier to manage. Success displayed by the pilot group is a living proof and will generate demand for the technology.

Form a habit from the very beginning.
We tend to cling to our comfort zone. This means that any technology upgrade or new deployment, as long as it changes the way we usually work, will invite resistance. You must encourage and establish the new work habit at an early stage. Obsolete tools that the new technology replaces should be scrapped. And donít forget to re-write office procedures, offer incentives for learning and using the new technology, and identify employees who are resisting change and work with them on a one-on-one basis.

Eric Lo is president of GenX Solutions Inc., a consulting company in Toronto that works specifically with SMBs.

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