The price of doing the same old thing is far higher than the price of change.
More often than not, introducing change of any kind into the atmosphere is not a smooth process. In the professional context, everything from a hostile takeover to a change of the reporting line, people react with more than a bit of skepticism and often, a lot of resistance. The basis of this negative behavior is, quite simply, fear of the unknown.
It is the same fear that makes you extra-careful when you go to a new place, the same fear that prompts you to be very competitive at a new workplace. Any employee training attempt made needs to understand this. Introducing a new software product at your company can give birth to several questions in your employee’s mind:
- Will I or my team members lose our jobs if this technology is implemented?
- Would I be asked to leave if I’m unable to adapt to the new technology?
- Will this mean moving to a new location/team/domain from the one I’m familiar with?
- If issues arise due to the software’s use, will I be blamed for it?
- Will customers appreciate this new approach to business?
Come to think of it, aren’t all of these fears and doubts completely justified? How can you resolve them to ensure that your employees take to the new software? Can you replace their trepidation with enthusiasm? Yes you can, and here’s how.
1. Adopt The Technology First
A good leader always leads by example. The first step to getting other people to like something is showing them how much you like it. By using the new technology on a daily basis, you can get to know what problems employees may encounter. You also have a chance to experiment with it a bit and be prepared for questions.
Most importantly, since you’re familiarizing yourself with the product, you’re in a position to ask the same of your employees. When they know you’re trying too, they’re less likely to resist.
2. Make A Gradual Introduction
As Gary Hamel, management expert and founder of Strategos, points out, people only change when they absolutely have to or when they really want to. Which of the two sounds like a positive change?
If you’re looking for acceptance, never make a sudden change in the process. You cannot introduce the software today and expect employees to use it from tomorrow. Depending on complexity, you may even need a few months to get them up to speed. With a new Point of Sale software, you may want to give employees ‘dummy’ orders to practice on before they begin using it in the real world.
Training people on new tech can be daunting, so split them into groups. Familiarize them with features that are relevant to them to begin with. Build some excitement. Show them why it is beneficial. Very soon, you’ll find people willing to experiment.
3. Explain The Change, But Don’t Mince Words
Understanding always precedes acceptance. In order for your employees to welcome change, you need to answer all the questions they have. Explain what the new software can do for them – it could improve their speed, help them keep better track, and just help keep everything in better order. It can help employees take on more managerial roles as it takes over the repetitive tasks.
At the same time, if the new technology is indeed going to cause a loss of jobs, don’t pretend otherwise. Imagine you’re a reluctant employee who was convinced to try out this amazing new product, only to lose your job because of it. Not a good place to be in, is it?
As a business owner, you know your employees best. Use whatever approach works with them, but always explain the consequences of what you’re doing.
4. Participation, Not Imposition, Works
You cannot conjure up a software out of thin air and begin imposing it on your people. Also, you cannot expect someone with no technical knowledge to understand it all. People will always have doubts and they’ll keep looking for help. Statements like ‘I find that you lack enthusiasm to try new things’ will only affect their morale even more. More so, they don’t say much about you as a leader. Instead, try ‘I understand you have concerns, so how shall we begin resolving them?’.
Participating in an employee’s thought process, while also encouraging them to participate in the new development, can help you avoid most ego tussles if not all. After all, who likes to be told what they should be doing? Whenever they run into a glitch, getting them to figure out solutions through a conversation could help. For example, if a barcode scanner in a shop floor is not recognizing a product code, or just not working, what alternatives do they have to finish billing quickly?
You can also consider hiring external trainers to teach employees about the new software. Trainers often have product knowledge as well as great interpersonal skills. What’s more, they have no stake in your business so to speak, so they can be detached and objective too. Sometimes, this is exactly what you need to get people to warm up to the new software.
5. Never Ignore The Veteran
Your shiny new software may be putting spreadsheets to shame, but always pay attention to what experience says. If there’s someone on your team who has been doing things a certain way for years, change may surprise them. However, this doesn’t mean you must dismiss all of their concerns as fears.
When someone comes up with a legitimate request or complaint about the product, don’t put excitement ahead of experience. By dismissing these concerns, you may miss something important that could snowball when you deploy the software across your business. Your people have been on the shop floor for much longer than the new tech, so never discount their inputs.
As with any change, adapting to new technology can be an uphill task. But by hearing what your employees have to say, supporting them through the change and leading from the front-line, you can make the transition smooth and the experience productive.
Let us know how you handled training your employees at your store in the comments below!