A host of workplace tools now give employees more ways to work together and help your business cut costs. But you only experience the gains if your staff will accept and use the technology.
Your business is looking to cut costs by improving productivity. You’re thinking of investing in new technologies that encourage in-house collaboration -- perhaps software, Web conferencing tools, or PDAs.
But how can you make sure your employees -- perhaps in far-flung offices, and with different levels of technological savvy -- will really use it? Is simply training them enough?
"It can be a problem,” admits Dave Kirk, business manager for RockTeam, a Malvern, Pa.-based online/on-site learning and computer training company. “People call and say, ‘I’ve forgotten what I learned,’ and then you find out they haven’t used it in six months.”
How can you make sure your employees will embrace the new technology you’ve asked them to use? Top IT training experts offer the following tips:
Identify your goals before buying technology
“Don’t just go out and buy BlackBerrys for everyone in the office because they’re cool,” cautions Nick Schacht, CEO of Learning Tree International, a provider of IT and management training. “Think about what you are going to use it for.” Pinpoint specific objectives, such as faster e-mail response times, and then look for specific products that will help achieve those goals.
Make the technology necessary
Experts say an employee’s age or comfort level with trying something new aren’t as significant to motivating them as one might think. The key is to show employees that the new technology is, from now on, crucial to doing their jobs. “If people must use technology to do a task, they will use it,” notes Schacht. For instance, if a company starts using performance management software, it should require that employees produce performance reports using that software. “Managers need to make everyone conform to the format, and be consistent about it,” he says.
Use training methods that ensure success
Whether training is in-house, through distance learning, or offered off-site, employees need a way to get their questions answered when they’re actually back at their desks. RockTeam’s solution is to offer a third day of hands-on training, says Kirk, to help employees think through how they will be using the technology. RockTeam also gives each of their students the e-mail addresses of their instructors to help them through any rough patches.
Colin Smith, director of corporate communications for WebEx, the Web conferencing provider, adds that the frequency of training is important, too. “Most people underestimate how important constant training is to adoption. If the technology is critical to your business, treat it that way and hold monthly or weekly sessions,” he says, recommending live or recorded Web-based training.
Praise good behavior
Another tip could come right out of a parenting manual: praise and reward good behavior. “Take your early adopters and praise them in front of others,” says Schacht. “Publicize their success. Before long, everyone else will follow suit.”
Measure your results
To see whether the technology is really taking hold, it helps also to measure whether your business goals are being met, says Schacht. “If your goal is to improve project management, you could measure the number of overruns or schedule misses since implementing the new software,” he explains. Or measure whether e-mail response times have improved. By measuring, you can track whether the technology is helping you reach your goals.
By following these suggestions, you may find that introducing new technologies at your workplace streamlines the workflow and helps your business reach its goals. That is, after all, the whole idea.