By Aaron Hudson

This just in! New technology solutions are a success, but only when they’re adopted by an organization’s users.

HR technology innovation is rapidly accelerating.

So why is business productivity only growing at 1.3%?

The answer lies with your employees.

Visit the dozens of information technology (IT) conferences, summits, and bootcamps throughout Canada this year and you’ll be amazed at the number and types of tech innovations that entrepreneurs are bringing to market. Broad-brush solutions, niche-driven tech tools, lots of artificial intelligence (AI) applications – they’ll all be there, with plenty more in the pipeline.

Yet, while today’s marketplace is awash in innovative technology to support important functional areas like human resources, some new solutions remain in search of users – users who can understand why the new technology is important to them. That’s because some producers of new technology and the organizations that purchase it place too much emphasis on software and too little attention to the actual users of the technology. As you look to implement new HR technology in your organization, follow a “user-centric” strategy. Here is part 1 of 2, the next chapter will be in our July 2020 newsletter.

Steer Clear of the “Productivity Gap”

HR technology is rapidly accelerating, but that’s not the case for business productivity, which is only growing at 1.3 percent annually. Why? Simply put, the beneficial impact of technology isn’t resonating with many of the people who can use it. The result is a productivity gap. There is a huge business reason why your organization needs to address this gap: If your tech users don’t embrace your new technology solutions, its purchase and deployment is nothing more than wasted money.

Chances are you have been through an IT implementation. How happy were you with it? Completely satisfied? Not satisfied? Maybe somewhere in the middle?

If you were less than satisfied, you aren’t alone. Traditional methods of implementing new technology are not working and failed implementations litter the landscape. The evidence is overwhelming. Organizations are experiencing an ERP implementation failure rate of up to 75 percent. Failed IT projects cost the U.S. economy between $50 – $150 billion every year. Moreover, 17 percent of IT projects fail so badly, they can threaten the very existence of the company.

Among the surprising aspects of all this data is that the number of failed projects – and the severity of these failures – is not an aberration. As the Harvard Business Review has noted, “It will be no surprise if a large, established company fails in the coming years because of an out-of-control IT project. In fact, the data suggest that one or more will.”

According to McKinsey & Company, “In the roughly 70 percent of change programs that fail to deliver results, the vast majority of problems can be attributed to the ‘soft stuff’: employee resistance to change and inappropriate leadership behavior.”

What are the most likely reasons that prevent employees from adopting new technology? Ultimately, we are dealing with people – and, often, a natural reluctance to change. Four key factors can come into play:

1. New technology disrupts the daily routine of users.

Routine provides comfort for people. Whenever you disrupt routines, you need to think about managing that change. Many employees and managers who have gained a good comfort level with your self-service app for benefits, for example, may not be easily amenable to switching from something that already works well for them. New technology brings value if it solves a problem or improves your employees’ lives. You need to tell your users why change is good for them.

2. The audience of change is every employee in your organization.

Each employee who will use some aspect of the innovation you’re planning to deploy is just as important as your HR practitioners or managers. Failing to get buy-in by all users can slow adoption or cause it to fail, and the scope of disruption can be magnified hundreds or even thousands of times, depending on the number of users in a business.

3. User loyalty to existing processes can be a clear drag on new technology adoption.

You may have a business technology system that everyone says they hate. It’s old, inefficient or not user-friendly and everybody complains about it. However, when you go out and provide something better, somehow everyone is telling you they want the old, broken system back. This is all about loyalty to an existing process that has become routine – and you need a plan to encourage your employees to switch to the better horse.

4. Incorrectly estimating the impact of new technology can short-circuit innovation.

There is also danger in not correctly estimating the level of the impact from implementing new technology. Ask yourself the tough questions. How much will adoption really cost?

How long will it take for you to declare success? If you have misjudged the impact of adopting something new, how are you going to minimize that impact?

Even as waves of great new technology come to market, one troubling axiom appears to be lurking at the doorstep of embracing something new: Everyone says they want to innovate, but no one seems to want to change. A “must” mission of every business that wants to improve their productivity by adopting innovative technology is to listen to their employees’ ideas, address their resistance to change and focus on getting their buy-in to the new solution.

Take a Fresh Look at Change Management

To drive the adoption of new technology, you need to place as much emphasis on your user adoption plan as you do on the technology itself. That means a change management team should be part of your technology project team and, like so many other things, it can’t be an afterthought or done off the side of your desk. It needs focus – on people, impacted stakeholders, workflow and processes, training needs and communication.

To get the right people on the change management team, your entire business must be represented – a 360-degree buy-in from a broad set of perspectives and vantage points:   executive, legal, training, communications, facilities, finance, HR, and payroll. Make sure everyone on the change management team also has their manager on board to back up their decision making.

As your change management team interacts with IT implementation, always keep top of mind that the use of new technology will make or break the business decision to deploy it. In the case of new HR technology, there are lots of ways to identify or confirm what is most important to your users to adopt a new technology solution. Start by asking them!

Focus on three areas:

  1. What do your staff want to see in a new solution?
  2. What tools or software do staff already use in their personal lives?
  3. What are the top reasons your employees contact HR – and what drives the volume of those contacts?

How will you know whether you have the right people on your change management team? Ask yourself if you believe they are savvy enough to identify and address potential obstacles – whether they are processes, tech issues or even cultural concerns. If the answer is yes, you and your organization’s users of the new technology solution will be in good shape. Stay tuned for chapter 2 coming up in our July 2020 newsletter.

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