By: Carly Kroll | Director of Education | New Resources Consulting

The past two decades have seen an immense change in workplaces from office spaces to factory floors. Technology has been evolving and changing rapidly. As we are in what some experts call ‘Industry 4.0,’ workers are faced with the challenges of confronting change in their daily work routines. In order to create a smooth and stress-free transition to a new technology tool – either hardware or software –  management must strive to improve technology acceptance and adoption.   If workers perceive the change as not helpful for their task or not easy to learn they will be resistant to the change and the technology will likely not be utilized. To ensure a return on investment, management needs to reevaluate their change management practices, particularly when it comes to technology acceptance. This blog illustrates tips and steps to help improve technology acceptance and adoption from workers in any industry.

Inform

Change can be challenging for many people, as the uncertainty of the new can cause anxiety (Disalvo, 2017). When a new technology tool is introduced to a workplace, the mere act of change can cause inertia from those who need to interact with it. One way to encourage technology adoption is through providing education and sharing information to the target group of employees. The more a person understands on the technology tool, the more familiar it becomes, helping to reduce the anxiety around the change. In order to achieve this, management must provide a clear definition of the new technology and explain how it will be used in the employees’ daily tasks.

A great tool to reference for help to educate the workforce on the new technology is the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM). TAM is an easy to follow and widely-used tool to understand the ‘why’ in why workers are resistant to change and will  accept or reject the technology, and know the best ways to address it (Davis, 1989; Davis, Bagozzi & Warshaw, 1989; Venkatesh & Davis, 2000). TAM was introduced primarily during the early days of computers and email in the workplace, but it’s foundation and format works for tools even as new as AR, VR and AI (Bagozzi, Davis, & Warshaw, 1992; Davis, 1989; Venkatesh & Davis, 2000). The important aspects of this model are perceived usefulness and ease of use regarding whether or not an individual will accept new technology and whether or not it is actually more efficient (Bagozzi, Davis, & Warshaw, 1992; Davis, Bagozzi & Warshaw, 1989). Perceived usefulness is the “degree to which a person believes that using a particular system would enhance his or her job performance” (Davis, 1989, p. 320). Whereas perceived ease of use is “the degree to which a person believes that using a particular system would be free of effort,” (Davis, 1989, p. 320). The reasoning between these two concepts is important in the adoption of the technology, so informing staff why it is useful and how it is easy to use is vital for getting them on board.

Simplify

When defining and presenting research that helps to support the usefulness and ease of use arguments, it is necessary to simplify. Taking information that is available and just spewing it at workers is not always effective, the information needs to be translated into easy to understand segments that are not difficult to consume mentally (Agwa-Ejon & Batchelor, 2016). Particularly in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, research is not easily accessible both to find as well as to read. (Bizony, 2009; Fahnestock, 1986; Giagante, 2012). In these fields, researchers write in a way that utilizes difficult academic jargon, that is not easily understood without a significant background in that topic (Popan, 2016). One way to bridge the divide of understanding is to adapt (or “accommodate”) the communication style to fit the audience (Bizony, 2009; Popan, 2016). Although the Communication Accommodation Theory (CAT) has typically been used to help facilitate increased understanding in cultural settings, it is also used in organizational communication (Popan, 2016; Rogerson-Revell, 2010).

CAT is useful in many different fields of work. It is helpful to consider over accommodation, which comes off as patronizing and demeaning (talking down to someone), or under accommodation, which is pretentious and confusing for the receiver (Giles, 2016). It is important to find a happy medium, for example, management using terms that are easily understood by their workers, but not using acronyms that would be over their head, and not speaking so simply it looks patronizing. Using a vocabulary that is understandable by the target audience of employees is what can help improve the technology acceptance.

When it comes to writing, it can be helpful to use some communication accommodation, especially when dealing with technical and scientific subjects like technology. Employers must consider the skill set and knowledge of their employees to attempt to communicate verbally and in writing in a way that the technical information can meet the comprehension of the audience (Fahnestock, 1986; Rice & Giles, 2017).  When creating materials such as information guides, articles, or training documents for workers to use new technology tools, careful consideration on how to present the information simply and clearly is an integral part.  A challenge for employers will be to ensure that the information is not over accommodating and potentially offending their readers (Giles, 2016). From taking these measures to accommodate information appropriately about the technology change, workers will feel more at ease, and employers can be more confident of a smooth change (DeWine, 2001; Downs & Adrian, 2004; Lewis, 2011).

Visualize

Visual materials are another valuable tool that management can use to help improve technology acceptance and adoption. Photos, videos, and infographics all are beneficial in illustrating information in an easy to understand style. A method with research supporting its use is infographics. An infographic is an information graphic that includes text, graphs, charts, icons, and images to present information (Krauss, 2012; Lankow, Ritchie, & Crooks, 2012). Infographics help to “concisely communicate messages to an audience,” (Smiciklas, 2012, 3). Studies show that our brains can process images faster than text. Infographics communicate research in a visually simpler way to audiences (George-Palilonis, 2006; Krauss, 2012; Lankow, Ritchie, & Crooks, 2012). Infographics are an effective way to communicate statistics or research findings.

Infographics can help to simplify technical information. For technology, management can use infographics to demonstrate a technology’s usefulness and ease of use. Because infographics are able to share a lot of information in a quick and aesthetic way, workers may be more inclined to read it than they would a traditional manual, guide or handout (Ajmi, 2016; Krauss, 2012; Lankow, Ritchie, & Crooks, 2012; Smiciklas, 2012). Infographics can also help to decode jargon specific to the topic and remember the audience’s needs (Smiciklas, 2012). Engineering and technology terminology surrounding a specific technology can be daunting for those unfamiliar with the field, so translating accurately or even defining terms can be a useful tool.

Infographics also aid in acceptance of new information and in employee knowledge (Agwa-Ejon & Batchelor, 2016). Infographics can help to show the use of a technology as well as available data (Agwa-Ejon & Batchelor, 2016). Infographics also help explain information such as “training workforces, that might face language barriers or have varying levels of education,” (Smiciklas, 2012, p. 38). Using infographics to present information on new technology tools helps to simplify the complex and potentially intimidating aspects that can accompany any new technology to show its usefulness and ease of use to workers.

Influence

Diffusion of Innovations (DOI) is a concept that works alongside TAM (Rogers, 2003). DOI “details the process by which a new innovation or product diffuses through a social system,” (Vishwanath & Barnett, 2011, 2). In the theory Diffusion of Innovations, influencers are discussed as catalysts that prompt adoption of technology (Rogers, 2003).  Influencers are people who begin a trend in new technology in different social circles.  In the workplace, influencers can be supervisors or just respected team members. When the influencer recommends or approves of a technology their peers are more likely to follow suit. Employers should identify who their influencers are and plan to incorporate that person’s opinion in the decision-making process for buying and utilizing a new technology.  If they are in from the beginning, there is a higher chance they will get their peers hyped up about it, thus improving the technology acceptance and adoption after the roll out occurs (DeWine, 2001).

 DOI also identifies the uncertainties of individuals with adopting a new and unknown technology due to the unknown outcomes (Dearing & Cox, 2018; Valente, 1994). Information shared from influencers to peers helps to reduce the uncertainty, and create more reassurance (Dedehayir, et al., 2017; Valente, 1994).  Both the sharing and seeking of information amongst peers is an integral aspect of the process of implementing a new technology in an organization.

By using DOI, employers can begin to identify why employees may choose to use a technology or not. Utilizing influencers is a great way encourage staff to be involved and have their peers feel they are advocated for when one of their own is a part of the decision-making process. Having a technology evangelist in the workplace who is respected by their colleagues will prove to be a valuable asset, that employers should recognize.

Demonstrate

While the steps thus far mentioned are all surrounding how to communicate this technology and change, it is equally important to also show with hands-on opportunities. Doing demonstrations and hands-on trainings should be an integral part of introducing the technology to workers. Allowing for kinesthetic learning, makes sure that all learning modalities are supported with verbal, visual and now hands on information being presented. Some technologies like software can be difficult to comprehend or imagine if the person has not experienced it first-hand prior to it being brought to the workplace.

Connecting personal examples and prior experiences to the physical tool will help make the transition for use of AR in the workplace easier and less intimidating. The more prior experience a person has, the more likely they are to be accepting of the new technology. Prior experience is cited as a major factor in technology acceptance by many researchers (Klein & Lee, 2006; Lee, 2008; Martins & Kellermanns, 2004). Therefore, providing opportunities before the official roll out of the new technology for the staff to get to try it out and  experience it in person, will help reduce the anxiety of the change, and also improve the acceptance and adoption.  By viewing the tool as worthwhile, the individuals may be more likely to view it as useful, increasing the likelihood of technology adoption, (Klein & Lee, 2006; Tabak & Nguyen, 2013).  Showing tools and having demo days before deciding to implement it will also help to get workers interested, possibly excited and more exposed to the new technology.

During the demonstrations, management should identify what concerns workers have and plan to address those concerns when the official roll-out begins. Management should also develop a concerns list and publish it so that the team can see what is being addressed. This facilitates workers feeling their voices are heard by management. The concerns  should be taken seriously, and any additional tools, training or support should be acquired to help ensure a smooth implementation of the technology. This can help particularly in the aspect of concerns around the ease of use of the tool.

Encourage

The fear of failure and embarrassment when learning a new skill and working with a new tool is a reality for many. To keep them from being discouraged and feeling defeated when taking on this new change, it is important to encourage staff and support them. If people worry, they will embarrass themselves even trying the new tool, they may just avoid it and not use it entirely. This will then reflect poorly on the investment management made in the new tool.

A way to show staff that they are heard and supported is by offering ways for employees to provide feedback, share suggestions, and get more help learning on the job. Some individuals will be slower than others at learning the new technology due to their experience with similar tools, or lack thereof. Even if workers provide feedback during the demonstration, it is helpful to continue listening and providing opportunities for worker feedback. It not only makes the workers feel safer and more supported, but can be helpful for quality assurance and information that may be needed when renewing a subscription, license or lease with devices. If there is a major issue or recurring problem, it can be helpful for management to know. Documenting the comments from staff is helpful for all parties. Furthermore, taking their comments and concerns seriously may improve upward organizational communication in the future, as a result the organizational climate is improved (DeWine, 2001, Downs & Adrian, 2004).

Another great way to support staff is by recognizing their achievements surrounding performance on the new technology. This recognition will help the individual feel valued (Downs & Adrian, 2004). Finally, remembering that patience is an important way of showing support, as it takes time for people to acclimate to change, and learn a new skill. But after they have learned it, celebrating reduced errors, increased efficiency or other benchmarks will show the staff you appreciate them and their efforts taking on this new change.

Conclusion

Sharing the right amount of information is important for technology acceptance. It is helpful to workers to learn what the technology is in a vocabulary and style in which they are familiar. Furthermore, getting information shared in a way that can be visual, hands-on or shared by a person they respect are great ways to get staff on board with change. Finally, being kind and patient with employees helps them to feel supported and not get frustrated as they navigate the challenges of this change. All of these steps show that management wants their staff to be successful and creates a community of innovation.

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