Changes That Profit
6 steps to introduce new technology to your frontline workers

Lou Holtz said, "Motivation is simple. You eliminate those who are not motivated." While Holtz's motivational method might have worked for his record-setting Notre Dame football team, it does little to help motivate your staff through a new technology change. This is especially true in a family-operated business where the older generation may resist a technology change that the newer generation sees as necessary and embraces easily.

With so many new technologies available to assist the construction industry, making a decision on which technology to use is only the beginning of the process. The next step, introducing the new technology to your workers properly, is just as important. This is particularly true for intergenerational companies or those with workforces that are not accustomed to using tech in everyday life. How can you successfully introduce new technology to a workforce that may not welcome the change?

Before looking at why people resist new technology, there are two basic guidelines to the selection of new technology that will save you heartache down the road.

Critical business operations should never depend on cutting-edge technology. Any technology you introduce that is replacing a critical business operation, such as payroll, equipment tracking, dispatching, work orders, progress tracking or billing needs to have a proven history of operating well in your size and type of business. Let other companies be the test sites for new software products. Adopt only what has proven itself successful over time with other, similar organizations.

Get buy-in from every department head that the new technology will affect. During the decision-making process, each department that will be affected should be encouraged to offer their feedback. Once the decision is made and the rollout of the new technology begins, no one will be caught by surprise. The worst thing you can do is surprise a manager who had no say in the decision about the new technology. It is not uncommon for that manager to express their displeasure in having their opinion ignored by proving to others that it was a bad decision at the start. By not including their opinion, you have effectively incentivized them to demonstrate that the new product will not work.

Once a technology solution has been decided on, it is helpful to understand why various employees resist change in the first place. There are four common reasons.

Some employees may see new technology as a threat to their jobs. For example, a bookkeeper who spends time entering employee work orders into a computer each week may see an automated dispatch system as a threat to his/her job and value to the organization.

Long-term employees may see new technology as nothing more than an opportunity to look bad in front of everyone. A foreman who has never used online project management software on a tablet may fear that even after being trained, he/she still won't get it and their employer will see them as slow to adopt.

A longtime employee might view new tech implementation as a division into new school versus old school, and fear their role will become obsolete. A payroll clerk who knows the quirks of an antiquated payroll system may not welcome the change to an automated payroll service.

Some employees may simply resist new technology that threatens to take away a fringe benefit they currently enjoy. An automated attendance system will never be good news to a field worker who takes perpetually long lunches.

So, what can you do to mitigate the resistance and implement the new technology with the least amount of push-back? The following suggestions will help you navigate the discussion when the technology debate reaches your company's workforce.

1. Start with your tech-friendly staff

Let's be honest. There are some employees who welcome and embrace new technology. By starting a pilot test with your tech-friendly staff, you are allowing other people besides management to use and talk about the benefits of the new technology. Essentially, they become your advocates. It is so much easier to sell the other staff when new technology is not seen as a "management versus everyone else" decision.

2. Explain why

Be forthright and direct. State what it is about your present system that simply isn't working anymore. Be specific and help your staff understand why change is needed and why you selected the specific technology you did. If your employees can see the reason for the change, they may not agree with your solution, but they will at least see where the old system was broken and why a change was necessary to implement.

3. Adopt a "this is the way" mentality

You need to be authoritative. The time for asking what everyone thinks is over. Set an exact date that the transition will begin and a date when you plan to terminate the old system. This cements the decision in everyone's mind and stops detractors from dragging their feet.

4. Train, train, train

Make sure that during your purchase and implementation of new technology the vendor provides adequate training for each user on what they need to know to make the system operate. Without training, even the best technology won't deliver the results you really want. There should be a method for training new employees that are hired after the original installation as well.

5. Transition using old and new tech

At least for several weeks, use the old and the new technology together. You should do this for two reasons:

  • It provides a back-up in the event that something goes wrong with the new system.
  • It allows confidence in the new technology to build as employees see it work and realized that it really is a better solution.

6. Provide recourse when problems occur

Things never go as smoothly as we hope. Providing a feedback channel for when things don't go as expected and a method for course correction will make everything easier. Set realistic expectations. During the transition phase, when everyone is learning the new system, things will take longer and mistakes will be made. Say that to everyone up front and resist making judgments on how well the technology is working until the company has several months of use behind it.

Properly introducing new technology to your staff is just as important as deciding which technology best fits your business. The best technology on the market won't work for your business if you don't take time to introduce it. You need both the right technology and the proper rollout with your staff to ensure a quick and welcome ROI.