How to improve workplace technology adoption
Phased rollouts of new technology allow greater control of how digital solutions are implemented and applied by employees
As the COVID-19 pandemic subsides in many parts of the world, frontline industries are faced with several new challenges. Companies have had to rethink several organizational processes to stay afloat in a dynamic economic climate. As a result, many business leaders are turning to digital solutions to communicate changes with their workforces and automate tasks to improve efficiency.
Frontline workers in most manufacturing organizations are dispersed, and often they do not have access to a company email. This makes the initial implementation of new technology tools an obstacle for plant managers and large employers. Operations leaders can ensure a successful workplace technology rollout by planning and executing a deliberate strategy that scales with workforce adoption.
Design a multi-phase rollout plan
Many industrial companies operate under a decentralized model, with groups of workers at sites in different states or national regions. The rise of geographically distributed workforces among frontline-majority industries like manufacturing has made digital communication solutions increasingly common. While digital technology can improve collaboration between distributed manufacturing and maintenance teams, launching new technology across several job sites at the same time can cause confusion among workers and stifle adoption rates.
Phased rollouts of new technology allow greater control of how digital solutions are implemented and applied by employees. By introducing new technology in stages, senior leaders gain the opportunity to closely monitor usage, receive feedback and adjust before rolling out to their entire workforce. These incremental launches can occur in two ways:
- Organizations can roll out a platform to small, highly engaged pilot groups.
- Certain features may be phased in over several weeks or months.
Both approaches enable companies to conduct thorough training and make continuous improvements to each phase of the rollout before it is launched to the entire organization.
Use a cross-functional approach
Organizational alignment is vital throughout the rollout of a new technology, especially for industries that traditionally rely on paper-based processes like manufacturing. Business leaders must employ a cross-functional approach to avoid a breakdown of communication during the process. In most cases, divisions within a manufacturing organization operate as separate entities. Creating a cross-functional approach of executive team members, communications professionals, plant and maintenance managers and information technology (IT) staff will ensure key stakeholders are fully involved in the introduction of new technology.
In addition to improved collaboration, cross functional teams can often break down the bureaucratic roadblocks associated with many large-scale, company-wide initiatives. Under a cross-functional approach, all resolutions and goals must be approved by representatives from each impacted division of the organization, reducing the need for time-consuming meetings, revisions and reviews. Members of the designated team should be subject matter experts from within the manufacturing organization who have a deeper understanding of the company’s daily operations and business functions. This cross functional approach facilitates a holistic rollout plan that takes all parties into account and considers the organization’s current capabilities throughout the decision-making phase.
Involve senior leaders
Executive teams are at the head of every manufacturing organization and often have a long list of priorities. It may seem tempting to delegate responsibilities related to technology implementation down the ladder. However, getting full buy-in from senior management is essential in highlighting the importance of a smooth adoption. Proper communication from the top-down will improve adoption across the entire company.
Senior management serves a critical purpose in the implementation process. Managing change is inevitable when launching new technology, especially for organizations with a sizable population of frontline workers. Many experienced manufacturing and maintenance employees have successfully performed their roles for decades, with little to no technology involved.
Incorporating a new solution into their workflow may seem frivolous and too time-consuming to learn. Senior leaders must emphasize the benefits of these new tools and make a point of illustrating how employees’ work lives will improve post-adoption. Communication is paramount throughout the rollout stages of new digital solutions, and executive teams are the strongest messengers for relaying the intent, benefits and expectations for the use of new technology on the plant floor (see Figure 1).
New technology adoption rates within an organization depends on how management teams position the rollout to their employees. Some frontline workers might feel hesitant to adopt new workplace technologies, and it is the role of management teams to illustrate the real-world benefits workplace technology can provide. Employees who successfully adopt new technology in the workplace become more engaged, more productive and they can connect internally in ways impossible without digital tools. As these platforms become commonplace in manufacturing organizations, business leaders and internal subject matter experts will determine whether the new tools become a benefit or a hindrance to the day-to-day duties of their frontline teams.