One of the biggest sources of change in today’s workplace is the introduction of new information and communications technology (ICT).
ICT can be a game changer for small and medium-sized businesses. But it has to be implemented and managed properly or else opportunity can quickly turn to disaster.
A key challenge for entrepreneurs is to overcome resistance to change from employees and win their active support for new initiatives. That’s especially true for new technology, which since the dawn of the industrial revolution has been causing turbulence in the workplace.
Here are some tips to smooth the implementation of your technology projects.
- COMMUNICATE EARLY Managing change is first and foremost about communicating with employees. That’s why the human element has to be a key part of your technology project planning. “You can’t show up one day and say to people: ‘Up until now you’ve being doing A-B-C and now you will be doing X-Y-Z,’” says Diane Bazire, Business Consultant, Human Resources, at BDC. “Managers have a tendency to underestimate how upsetting this type of change can be.” You should begin preparing employees for a major change months before, not when it’s occurring.
- COMMUNICATE OFTEN Change is difficult for people to accept especially when it involves areas of expertise and prerogative. That’s why companies need to make sure they are being as open as possible and communicating consistently about what’s happening. Newsletters, town hall meetings and email updates are just a few of the tactics you can use to make sure employees are well informed and the rumour mill isn’t taking over. And don’t forget to seek employee feedback. “You have to try to understand what’s worrying them about the change and then respond to those concerns,” says Bazire, who is based in Laval, Quebec.
- EXPLAIN WHAT’S IN IT FOR THEM It’s important to explain why the new technology is being implemented and discuss how it will affect employees. Focus on how the changes will improve the company’s performance and help employees perform their work. At the same time, you shouldn’t shy away from talking about the bad and the ugly. If it will make things more difficult for individual employees, consider offering incentives or additional support.
- ENSURE MANAGEMENT BUY-IN A successful technology implementation starts with the whole-hearted commitment of the president. If that’s you, check your motives for doing the project and your feelings about it. Make sure you’re clear on why it’s necessary and beneficial. Then rally the support of your managers. There’s lots of room for interdepartmental discord in technology implementations. Your managers are also the first people to whom employees will turn with their questions. So make sure your top people are all pulling in the same direction and delivering the same message.
- PROVIDE ADEQUATE TRAINING Keep in mind that many employees are not savvy about technology and, in fact, may be intimated by it. Besides effective communications, high quality training is a must for ensuring that employees cope well with the changes and make a smooth transition to the new order. “Make sure the training is complete and not too theoretical,” Bazire says.
- GET THEM INVOLVED Involve key employees in system selection and implementation. Ask for opinions on what’s needed and then involve them in supplier interviews and system demonstrations. Not only will you be benefitting from their expertise, but you will be bringing them on side. They can even be your champions, helping fellow employees become comfortable with the new technology.
- BLOCK THE EXITS Once you’ve communicated with employees, sought their feedback and provided training, it’s time to proceed. “Everyone has to understand that there will be bugs and problems but that we’re not going back to the old way of doing things,” Bazire says. This means that requests for individual exceptions and work-arounds must be vetoed. To achieve results and move ahead as a company, your staff has to accept and use your new systems.
Content in this section is provided in partnership with the Business Development Bank of Canada. BDC provides entrepreneurs with financing, venture capital and consulting services. To find out more go to BDC.ca.