- Leadership plays a critical role in the successful implementation of technological changes.
- Leaders must ensure that employees understand the need for the changes and how they should be implemented.
- Changes come with challenges. You have the responsibility to motivate your employees to handle the challenges with the right attitude.
In the modern business environment, the mantra for many companies is "adapt or die," especially when it comes to technology. Whether it's automation or artificial intelligence, the rapid convergence of technology and business often determines competitiveness and, in the most extreme cases, survival.
For businesses, survival of the fittest means developing nimble, adaptable processes driven by data, automation and constant communication. Failure to follow the course of this evolution spells disaster for any company. In fact, a study from the John M. Olin School of Business at Washington University estimated that, in the next decade, 40% of today's companies on the S&P 500 will be gone. This is disruption in action.
Even as technology drives these immense changes, it's important to keep in mind what drives technology: human beings. Technology doesn't develop in a vacuum, and it isn't implemented in one either. Neglecting the human side of your business for a machine-centric approach could be as much a detriment to your business as neglecting technology altogether. [Read related article: Human Error, Not Tech, Is Often to Blame for Cyberattacks]
Humanizing the digital revolution
At the Global Innovators' Roundtable led by University of Virginia business professor Edward D. Hess, executives from companies such as Capital One, IBM and Siemens discussed digital transformation and how it impacted their companies, as well as how to react to the changing landscape in a successful manner.
One participant highlighted the need to foster human openness to technological innovation. "Embracing digital requires a new mindset," he said. "The ability to adopt a new mindset and change the ways of operating is excruciating for many people."
This is where leadership comes in. Leaders shape company culture in a number of ways, but the most important is leading by example. For the company as a whole to adopt an attitude of acceptance toward change and technological innovation, leaders first have to truly embrace it and practice what they preach. Technological development needs to be more than just another investment, but a complete integration.
At a time when technology is essential for business success, ensuring that it works in a symbiotic way with your human employees is key. After all, what good is technology if it remains unintelligible or intimidating to the humans who need to leverage it? Ultimately, it's about what your team gets out of technology; the tools you choose should make your team well informed, agile and surgical in their execution of your business strategy.
Tips for successfully implementing new technology
When it comes to humans and technology, it's a team effort. Here are some tips from the Society for Human Resource Management.
1. Let the employees appreciate why the change is necessary.
Before they can learn to appreciate the new technology, workers need to understand why the new technology is needed. You must explain it to your team in such a way that employees see the value in the changes and connect with them.
2. Keep it simple.
The new technology should be simple. Without clear goals, your IT department may create an overly complicated technological change that's very difficult for your employees or the end user. While introducing new changes, you should always focus on the end user, and make processes shorter where possible.
3. Break it up into small steps.
Not all employees are tech savvy, and some are slow learners. Roll out the new technology in small steps, introducing the next step when all employees are comfortable with the previous step. Invest plenty of time in your team's learning curve.
4. Offer training.
One of the most critical steps in technological implementation is education and training. Make sure your employees are well trained on the new technology, allowing them to ask questions and voice their concerns. From the training, your employees should come to understand the gap the changes are going to fill and why this should matter to them.
Experienced or tech-savvy employees can also assist struggling employees during implementation. It is often easier for an employee to relate to a teammate than the manager or business owner. This will also enhance collaboration among team members.
5. Rely less on formal communication.
New technology often feels like a threat to job security. Avoid using too much formal communication to relay information about the new technology, as it only drives more fear. Increase the one-on-one interactions with employees to help you understand their feelings about the changes. Working hand in hand with your employees will give you a clear picture of their experiences and comfort levels with the new technology.
6. Provide support and motivation.
It is essential to support and encourage your team. Be available to respond to their questions or concerns. When new tech raises new challenges, encourage your employees to view the challenges positively.
7. Give employees room for failure.
Learning new tech or adjusting to a new workflow may take some time. Giving your employees room to fail encourages them to try again and increases their positive feelings for the new system. If you are seeing more failures than you expected, offer training again and encourage feedback. Even if your team seems to be adapting well to the changes, you could offer periodic, ongoing refresher courses to keep everyone on the same page and their skills sharp.