Managing Up: How to Get Your Team on Board With New Technology
There’s no doubt that technology has made our personal and professional lives easier and more productive.
But any time you want to adopt new technologies or tools for your business or team, how you go about getting your team on board can make or break your success. First, it’s about helping management understand why a new tool is worth the investment. Then, it’s about getting your team on board.
It’s important to have a strategy in place to help your team understand why doing things differently will benefit them—free up their time, make it easier to do something complex—whatever their pain point is. You’ll also need a solid training plan, so everyone understands how to use the new tool. It’s a no-colleague-left-behind approach.
Wherever you sit in your organization—as a decision maker or team member—there are a few key points to keep in mind when trying to get a team on board with a new business tool.
1. Understand the problem you’re solving and who it affects
Understand process and workload implications. “The person introducing the tool should have some knowledge of what kind of redundancies the new tool is trying to create or eliminate,” says Bev Attfield, director of brand, customer and employee experience at Jostle, a cloud-based intranet designed to connect employees and develop workplace culture.
A team leader needs to understand if there is anything the new technology is replacing and how it will affect everyone’s workload.
Talk to your team: Who will be affected? It’s also important to think through who will be affected by the change and in what ways. “If it’s a company-wide tool that’s more far-reaching as opposed to just a team-wide tool,” Attfield says.
A tool that you want your entire company to adopt will probably require more due diligence that something just a few people will be using. Keep reading for some tips to make sure you’re all on the same page.
Identify the problem. For example, you notice that more and more emails from customers are slipping through the cracks—it takes too long to answer, or customers get the wrong answer or none at all. You have a sense that a tool that helps you manage email better as a team might help.
Before you start researching collaborative inbox tools, first ask your team a few questions:
- Why do you think we have this problem?
- How long has it been happening?
- Is the problem affecting revenue or causing customer loss?
- How do you think we can fix it?
Your team might not have all the answers, but you should definitely start with asking questions so that you fully understand the problem that you want to solve with new technology or tools. Plus, by engaging your team early in the process, you’re more likely to have an easier time getting your team (and decision-maker) buy in, because you’ve involved them in the problem-solving process.
“We all have our personal preferences and biases and all these individual human things and being sensitive to those things as a team leader is also important,” Attfield says. “It’s not just about making a mandate that on Monday morning everyone arrives and they either use the new tool or they’re out. There’s some emotional intelligence that has to come down to how the new tool is introduced.”
2. Help your manager understand value versus costs
If you discover a new tool, but you don’t have decision-making or budget allocating power, one of your first steps will probably be to get your boss on board, which usually means being able to clearly identify the value.
“By showing the boss how a new tool potentially makes an employee more efficient, more effective or more productive, they will be able to have the conversation about why it might make sense for a company or team,” explains Jon Kubu, vice president and general manager at Nulia, an SaaS company that works to increase the rates of new digital technology adoption.
“Improved outcomes, which the tool ought to enable, is what bosses (and most employees!) are thinking about.”
What’s the potential return on investment?
Brian Fitz, an entrepreneur with a few different ventures, including a pet insurance website, a Harley Davidson dealership, and a fitness facilities, says he always starts with asking employees to think about whether new tools are “needs or wants.”
“I’m O.K. with it if it’s a ‘want,’” Fitz says, “but I want to know what its value is. Everything has value and ROI. If you’re trying to convince me of something, break it down for me. Show me its value. If you can show me in layman’s terms that this will add value to what I’m trying to achieve, I will consider it.”
How will this tool save money or time?
Fitz isn’t interested in adopting a new technology, especially if he has to hire someone to manage it, without a clear picture of what value it will add to his organization. In order for him to feel good about making a capital investment in anything, he wants the benefits clearly laid out.
“You need to be able to show me how making this capital investment will affect my business, how will it save time, how will it save money, or a combination of the two,” he says. “I need that to be clearly laid out.”
What are the costs?
Kubu concurs with Fitz’s assessment, but also notes that it’s not just about the return on investment. Kubu says bosses are definitely thinking about the dollar cost of adopting new technology, which is likely top on the list of the employee’s mind, but they think about other less tangible things as well.
“The boss will also be thinking about the time it takes to deploy, potential lost productivity while people learn new skills on that tool and the cost of displacement,” explains Kubu. “This is one reason Nulia thinks about enablement from a holistic perspective—it’s not just about training, it’s about that improved outcome.”
Be realistic about the pros, cons, and risks associated with adopting your tool. It’s better to think through and talk about the risks and downsides—if you don’t mention them, decision-makers and your team might wonder if you’ve really thought things through. Make it clear that you’ve done your due diligence.
How does it work?
When you’re ready to share your research about the pros, cons, costs, and benefits with decision-makers, make sure you can clearly articulate how the tool works. Take advantage of free trial periods, videos about features, and even live demos to help make your case.
3. Get your team on board
No matter who discovers a tool, if your company is poised to adopt something new, it just makes sense to get your team on board as soon as possible and help them understand the benefits.
“Removing resistance comes with giving the employees tons of support and training,” Fitz remarks. “If you’re my employee I need to show you why this technology is going to make your transactions easier, your work life simpler, your management of your team easier. Maybe if you do things this way when you batch out at the end of the day you can save 20 minutes every night. When I show you that value you’re going to opt-in.”
Don’t wait until the day before a new tool will be deployed to talk to your team. Help them understand the business case for adopting the tool, and listen to their concerns so you can address them and build a training and implementation schedule if it’s necessary.
4. Lead by example
Shane Johnson, a mentor at RAIN Eugene, a resource for startups in Eugene, Oregon, says asking your team to adopt new technology can be tough because preferences around tools are often personal and idiosyncratic. Johnson comes from a software development background, where there is an overwhelming number of choices. In companies that are less hierarchical, it’s often the person with the strongest personality (or loudest voice) who wins their case.
“There’s about 10 version control software tools and if you changed the company you worked for the other company would use a different one,” Johnson explains. “No one would really explain why they used a particular one over another, it was just the flavor of the shop.”
Johnson suggests that the easiest way to encourage a more positive culture is by having managers modeling the desired behavior. “If the group manager uses the tool and is good at it, they can develop a culture of the group using it,” Johnson says.
What you want to avoid, says Johnson, is teams who each use their own tools and don’t coordinate with the other teams about what they’re doing. Johnson says sometimes managers will choose their own tools and the larger department may or may not know what they’re using.
“You can end up with problems if you don’t have a consensus on using a new tool,” Johnson explains. “If someone doesn’t like a tool and uses their own open-source or low-cost item, you can end up with disconnect within the enterprise.”
4. Don’t skip training!
For Johnson, the most success he’s seen when a team adopts a new technology comes from either consensus-driven decisions or an upper manager who makes an informed decision and then makes sure that decision is followed. Either way, training is key.
“You can’t just throw a tool into a group of people and say, ‘Use this,’ Johnson explains. “If you don’t train people to use a tool they won’t use it no matter how simple it is.”
If the tool makes work life easier, employees will use it, but they still need to know how to use it effectively. Keep in mind that not only are you training in routines on using the new tool, but you’re training out routines of using the old one. “Any time you give people a new tool you have to break the old habit and reinforce the new one,” says Johnson.
5. Facilitate change the right way
Adopting a new tool is facilitating a change, which can be hard for people—even if the change is positive. When you decide that the time is right to implement new business software, here’s a top-down approach to help you help your team get on board.
Begin with an end in mind
Nulia’s Jon Kubu says people aren’t generally excited about features for the sake of features. “Especially at work, they have a job to do, an outcome that they are expected to deliver,” says Kubu. “So we work back from there into what skills are needed to deliver that outcome, and what features can enable that skill.”
Identify the value and potential
Whether you are a boss or an employee fighting for new business software, do your homework to make sure you’re making a strong case. Anticipate the questions your users and your managers will have, and keep in mind that the adoption of a new tool, no matter which perspective you’re coming from, usually comes down to value and potential.
“Think about the value that something can bring: productivity-wise, cost/benefit, uptime versus downtime, speed to return on investment,” says Kubu. “Those questions can really help provide good answers to the key decision makers. For the users and team members, they’ll want to know how a new tool can help them reach their potential: to improve their outcomes, to see their skills sharpened.”
Have the WIIFM conversation
“It’s the old WIIFM conversation: What’s In It For Me?,” says Kubu. “By remembering that change, even when shown a positive benefit, can be hard, bosses can help think proactively about getting people moving forward. Often times having a ‘champion’ on the team can really help. That way, it’s not just the boss mandating a change, it’s a teammate saying, ‘This is great! You should join me in this change!’”
Make it easy and fun
Most people want to follow the path of least resistance. Decide on a training and implementation routine that produces as little friction as possible.
It is even possible to have fun with a new tool! “At Nulia,” Kubu says, “we see much more success out of something that is a little bit fun rather than something that is always couched in an ROI spreadsheet!”