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Game the change for employee digital adoption

  • Employees are often expected to adapt to a new technology or digital initiative, but they’re rarely asked or encouraged in ways that benefit them.
  • Staff that understand what’s in it for them to change will likely more willingly approach change and transformation.
  • Strategies for approaching learning, retention and trickle-down management enthusiasm are key to success.

With so many transformations failing, how do you make sure you’re a successful transformer the next time you implement a new initiative or software program? It sounds so simple, but hear me out: stop thinking so much about the 10,000-foot strategic view and look at every step of planning, rollout, adoption, and results through the eyes of your employees — because constant change is exhausting.

The most successful companies know that experience is everything — and not just for customers, for employees on the front line and behind the scenes.1 Think of it this way: most companies work to make it easy for customers to interact with them, their products, and their people. Those who put a customer lens on everything tend to earn more loyalty and even higher price premiums. If doing that drives customer adoption of your latest and greatest gadget or latte, doesn’t it make sense that if you put an employee lens on your enterprise software investment or large digital initiative, you’ll get far better results and adoption?

Instead, most companies drive these projects with strategic business goals from a top-down view. But your employees are the ones who will ultimately be using these new tools and adopting new ways of working to drive results. So, what would you do if you were to approach a rollout through an employee perspective?

You’ll need a different approach

Start putting your talent as the start of your transformation marathon. If you were communicating a big change to a customer, how would you do it? You’d probably talk about the great new benefits, you’d carefully develop consistent messaging, and you’d figure out exactly how to best reach them — down to the method and time of day you hit send. A lot of time and brainpower typically goes into developing and communicating to customers what’s coming. Don’t slack when doing the same for your own people.

Map out your communication and rollout plan with the perspective of employees as customers. What’s in it for them? Do your implementation milestones interfere with the busiest times of their work cycle? Will it improve their day-to-day? Then, communicate the coming changes in an employee-centred way. Think short, concise, immediately applicable, actionable.

Just as you’d make a big change for customers to create a better experience, do the same for employees. Allow staff to test out new processes, and take their pain points to heart. When they tell you something isn’t working, don’t brush it off. Work together to find a fix.

Don’t just do, learn

Forget boring blanket approaches and droning multi-hour webinars. Remember, people can only store about seven chunks of information in their short-term memory, according to Harvard psychologist, George A. Miller’s “Miller’s Magic Number” concept.2 So make training a snackable daily event rather than inundating people with a firehose of information, and ensure it’s immediately relevant and usable so it’s easily applicable. Make it easy. Make it engaging. Even fun. Then you can scale it up to get to the value you’re trying to achieve.

Learning is doing, so you can even make digital adoption a friendly competition, with points or rewards for doing the everyday things the new program requires. And tap into the competitive spirit most humans have with some meaningful incentives for individuals and teams to get on the same page and stay motivated to learn what they need to. People retain only 5 percent of information presented in a lecture, versus 75 percent of information they practice doing.3

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Participation in change should be mandatory, but also shouldn’t overwhelmingly feel like an extra task. Employees want to be able to count on what’s next. So make the new software or program a central focus — the new reality — without the option to fall back on ways that have worked forever just because they’ve been around longer. It’s not so different than the way selecting a movie on a streaming service replaced the reality of traipsing to a DVD rental store or waiting for a flick to come onto the cable schedule. It becomes habit if you make it the primary way to work and show people how much better it is.

Save yourself some headaches down the road by making learning repeatable and scalable. Get people used to certain tactics so it’s not completely different with each new tech roll out. If employees know what to expect, you’ll get less pushback (consider the angst of social media users when an unexpected change in their feed is pushed out if you want proof).

Trickle-down change

Change enthusiasm has to trickle down, and employees need to see leadership commit. During transformation, mid-level managers are perhaps the most important link in the chain. Their attitude sets the tone for employees and they can have a big impact in driving success during and after adoption.

Give these managers a wealth of information — everything from added benefits to tentative schedules for rollout to empower them to drive their teams forward. A big gripe during any widespread change is that people feel out of the loop and have no idea what’s going on. Give them the reins so they can make change a team effort — and an individual one. If they can set transparent weekly or monthly goals for, say, sales pushes, for their teams, and then use a dashboard to track results, they can help drive the behavioural change you need to get to ROI on your digital transformation investment.

It’s hard to get to adoption — and true return on investment — on the most important initiatives because the standard way companies try to achieve it doesn’t always take into consideration what people really need. We often fail to give people the tools to do what they need to do, what they want to do, and what they could do if properly motivated and equipped. Time to game the change.

Take a look at Amplifier, part of PwC’s Adoption Central, to help not just get to adoption, but drive results afterward.