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How to overcome resistance to your tech project

Talk about any change long before it happens and provide training

Read time: 5 minutes

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Introducing new technology in the workplace—software, IT security, digital sales or marketing tools—can be a major challenge if your employees resist change.

“You have to work hard to change an organization successfully,” says Jivi Cheema, a BDC Business Advisor who helps entrepreneurs manage change in their business. “When you plan clearly and build the proper foundation for your business vision, implementing change can be much smoother and you'll improve the chances of success.”

Follow these tips to ensure the smooth implementation of your technology projects.

Create a sense of urgency

In their book, The Heart of Change, academics John P. Kotter and Dan S. Cohen say that for change to be successful, 75% of a company’s management needs to “buy into” the change.

In other words, it’s important you develop a sense of urgency around the need for change. This may help you spark the initial motivation to get things moving.

This isn't simply a matter of showing people poor sales statistics or talking about increased competition. You need to have an open and convincing dialogue about what's happening in the marketplace. If people start talking about the change you propose, the urgency can build and feed on itself.

Communicate often, get employees involved

The human element needs to be a key part of your 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, Senior Business Advisor 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.

Early in the process, tell your employees about the new technologies you will bring to the workplace. This will get them thinking, asking questions and even challenging how they will use these new tools.

You have to try to understand what’s worrying them about the change and then respond to those concerns.

You can use the following communication tools to help ease change.

  • Frequent newsletters, town hall meetings and email updates can ensure that employees are well informed and the rumour mill isn’t taking over.
  • Create a committee that will help lead employee adaptation to the new technology; include both enthusiasts and resistors to the plan.

Provide high-quality training

“Make sure the training is complete and not too theoretical,” says Bazire.

Thorough training will involve key employees in system selection and implementation. Keep in mind that many employees are not savvy about technology and may be intimated by it, but explain why it’s necessary.

  • Ask for opinions on what’s needed and involve employees in supplier interviews and system demonstrations.
  • Provide the necessary IT training for staff.
  • Ensure staff are able to use new digital sales and marketing techniques.
  • Reorganize workflow to include new procedures.
  • Use IT consulting services to help train your employees on new technologies.

Explain what’s in it for them

When team members don’t understand the consequences of staying with the status quo, they are less likely to want change.

  • Discuss how the new technology will affect employees positively.
  • But don’t shy away from how it could initially disrupt the workplace.
  • Consider offering incentives for those who adopt change rapidly and additional support for employees who have more difficulty adapting.

Example of change in a doctor’s office

Cheema gives the example of a medical practice that was converting from a paper office to electronic medical records. The lead physician held a team meeting and talked about what it would feel like if they did not have to waste time looking for lost lab tests or having piles of charts to file at the end of the day. He talked about all the time they could save and the additional services they could provide for patients. He asked the team if they could envision an office like that. He also asked people to step up and be a part of the coalition team.

“When people feel a part of the vision they will feel they are part of the actual change therefore minimizing resistance,” says Cheema.

Ensure management buy-in

Bringing new technology into the workplace starts with a commitment at the top. If that’s you, make sure you’re clear on why it’s necessary and beneficial.

  • Rally the support of your managers. There’s lots of room for interdepartmental discord in technology implementations.
  • Make sure your top people are all delivering the same message as employees turn to them with questions.

Block the exits, but provide encouragement

“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.

Put in place the structure for change, and continually check for barriers to it. Removing obstacles can empower the people you need to execute your vision, and it can help the change move forward.

  • Look at your organizational structure, job descriptions, and performance and compensation systems to ensure they're in line with your vision.
  • Requests for individual exceptions and work-arounds must be vetoed.

Cheema says that early successes can be a great way to motivate your teams early on. “Within a short period, you'll want to have some ‘quick wins’ that your staff can see,” she says. “Without this, critics and negative thinkers might hurt your progress.”

“Create a sense of urgency, recruit powerful change leaders, build a vision and effectively communicate it, remove obstacles, create quick wins, and build on your momentum. If you do these things, you can help make the change part of your organizational culture. That's when you can declare a true victory.”

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