By Sarah Nicastro, publisher/editor in chief, Field Technologies
As today’s field service organizations race to adapt to growing demands and new business models, we see technology after technology being introduced in an effort to maximize productivity, improve the customer experience, and share knowledge across the business. Your technology options today are virtually limitless, which is both exciting and intimidating. But as you evaluate how tools like a new field service software solution, IoT, AR, or AI can help you accomplish your field service optimization goals, you have to keep in mind one critically important thing – any of the technologies you have at your disposal will only have their intended impact if they are embraced by your workforce.
I see this story play out time after time – a company wants to improve in a certain area, develops a strategic plan for how to do so, and then deploys a new system as part of that vision thinking it will be a game-changer. Six months later they are sitting around wondering what the heck happened because their employees won’t use said system and are more frustrated than ever. It wasn’t the vision that was wrong; it was the execution. Focusing on employee adoption of a new technology is crucial to a successful deployment, and these three often overlooked issues account for almost all of the problems I see companies encounter.
#1: You Didn’t Ask Their Opinion
Yes, there are still companies out there developing and investing in million-dollar technologies without ever asking the opinion of their frontline workers. No, this is not a good idea. You have to understand that it is natural for people to resist change – it is fear of the unknown. This resistance is exacerbated when the change that is being introduced is a top-down, forceful change which is how it feels to a field technician when they are handed a new technology they didn’t ask for and don’t feel they need. So much of the struggle I see companies face with technology adoption could be eliminated if they would simply start by asking what their frontline employees think, want, and need. I know that this seems time consuming and daunting, but the dividends it pays in adoption are well worth it.
#2: The Solution Isn’t As Helpful As You Think It Is
Failing to get input from your frontline employees often leads to the introduction of a solution that isn’t as effective as you think it is. For your employees to truly embrace a new technology, the tool you’re putting in their hands and asking them to use has to be an improvement over their current methods. This may seem obvious and this is why this issue is often overlooked – because the project team developing the solution assumes it will work well, when in reality that’s not always the case. You need that firsthand perspective from your frontline employees during solution development and deployment to truly tailor the solution to their needs and to craft it into something they will be on board with using because it works.
#3: You Deploy And Run
Even if you asked your frontline employees for input and even if the solution you’ve deployed is effective, the third reason employees resist technology is that a company drops it in their laps and moves on to the next project. Your work isn’t done once the solution is developed; your work actually is never done. You need to ensure that employees are properly trained on the solution, even if they’ve been giving feedback along the way. You need to put a post-deployment support plan in place to ensure that as they’re using the system and issues or questions come up, they have an outlet to get answers and provide further feedback. You need to proactively continue asking them their opinion on how the technology is working to ensure that they stay engaged in the process and excited about their progress. This is also a great way to uncover additional needs that can lead into further improvements.
I know that none of this is “rocket science,” and I think that’s why these three factors are commonly overlooked or glossed over. It’s easy to get caught up in what you feel a technology can do and forget that the real key is what your employees will do with it. But keep in mind, when it comes to successful use of technology, the devil is often in the details.