Getting your team to adopt that new tool isn’t as easy as you think. In fact, forcing them to has the potential to throw your entire business into chaos.
Studies show that employee apathy, instances of quitting, and hostility toward managers can all increase when you implement change the wrong way.
Enterprise collaboration systems are important for a more cohesive workflow so you should know how to introduce new software to your team. Here’s how to do it right.
Invite them to evaluate the collaboration software
Around 65 years ago, researchers Lester Coch and John French Jr. made a surprising discovery in a clothing factory.
In a study that aimed to measure the impact of organizational change on employees, they separated workers into four groups with similar levels of cohesiveness and operational efficiency. In three out of those four groups, they found some major differences in behavior:
(Group 2 wasn’t included because it had no impact on test results)
- Group 1:
This group was labeled by researchers as the “no participation” group. Members of group one were called into a meeting room by higher-ups and told that their assembly process needed to be improved.
Managers then gave them a specific method with which to make improvements to their assembly speed. They had no say in what that process entailed. They were instructed to return to their stations and follow it.
- Groups 3 & 4:
These two groups were called the “total participation” groups. They were told by management that there was a need for improving workflow and asked to brainstorm ideas on how to fix it.
When operators agreed on steps that could be eliminated and processes that could be streamlined, both groups were trained fully in the new method. Unlike in group 1, these workers had complete say in what the new method entailed.
What happened next stunned experimenters. Here’s what they wrote about group one:
“Resistance developed almost immediately after the change occurred. Marked expressions of aggression against management occurred, such as conflict with the methods engineer,… hostility toward the supervisor, deliberate restriction of production, and lack of cooperation with the supervisor. There were 17% quits in the first 40 days. Grievances were filed about piece rates; but when the rate was checked, it was found to be a little ‘loose.’”
Compared to before the new process was implemented, these workers were operating at around 65% efficiency. And they remained at that level for 30 days after the change was made.
Groups 3 and 4 also saw a drop in efficiency initially, though it was much less drastic than the one seen in group 1. It also didn’t last very long.
Once they got used to the new process, workers in the “total participation” groups didn’t just return to the previous level of production efficiency — they surpassed it. And they did so without any hostility or aggression towards management.
The lesson here? Involve your team in the process of adopting the new tool. For example, if you’re interested in using Instapage, allow your entire team to trial it. Ensure they can use the platform to build pages easily together using our new Collaboration Solution:
Invite their feedback and take it into account. If they’re going to use it, all the features of the software needs to work for them as well as you.
Minimize the social change involved in adopting the new enterprise software
Four years after Coch and French set foot in that clothing factory, Paul Lawrence and Harriet Ronken had the chance to observe an eye-opening interaction in an electrical factory.
In this particular setting, engineer/operator teams remained in constant contact with each other daily. It wasn’t uncommon for an engineer to suggest a procedural improvement to his/her operator, or vice versa. When a part or process was deemed ineffective, the team would try to fix it together.
The system worked in most instances, but there was one in which it didn’t. When an engineer approached a particular operator that he didn’t regularly work with suggesting she try a new part, things went a little differently than usual.
Instead of properly testing it, she “did not handle the part with her usual care. After she had assembled the product, she tested it, and it failed to pass inspection. She turned to the new engineer and, with a triumphant air, said, ‘It doesn’t work.’”
When the engineer suggested she test more parts, she did — again, half-heartedly — installing them in what researchers called “an unusually rough manner.” And again, they didn’t work.
Seemingly purposely, she sabotaged the new design.
When that new engineer left, the operator turned to the engineer she worked with routinely and told him that the new engineer’s ideas were just “no good.”
That’s when researchers realized there’s both a technical and social aspect to change. In this case, the technical change was the adjustment to the operator’s working design. The social change was the unfamiliar engineer implementing that change.
In your case, the technical change is the implementation of the new collaboration tool. But what social ramifications will that change have? As in, how will the tool change the way your team operates?
Who will implement the change? Will it restructure the chain of command? Will it change staff roles? Will it put unfamiliar team members in contact with each other?
Lisa Quast, career coach and former Fortune 500 exec, adds to experiment takeaways with words from her own experience:
“If the individuals in a department highly respect their manager because the manager has built up trust over a period of time, the team will be more accepting of any changes. If the manager is new and has not yet earned the trust of their employees, then mistrust can manifest itself into resistance to change.”
“New” doesn’t necessarily mean “new to the company.” In the operator/engineer example, “new” simply meant someone the operator wasn’t used to working with. This trust of and familiarity with the change implementer is crucial, as are other social implications of the change.
If possible, have a senior member of your business initiate the adoption of your new collaboration software. And before you do, make sure you’ve forecasted the impact of that change.
Do your best to minimize resistance by keeping teams intact and roles the same. Otherwise, you could end up with a whole department of stubborn, self-sabotaging operators.
Clearly express the reason for the change
“If staff do not understand the need for change you can expect resistance,” says change management expert Tobin Rick. “Especially from those who strongly believe the current way of doing things works well… and has done for twenty years!”
In a joint study conducted by MIT Sloan Management Review and Capgemini Consulting, 63% of managers reported that technological change took too long to implement at their business, and one of the biggest reasons was unclear communication about the benefits of the new tool.
Remember back to one of the keys to success in the electrical factory. The familiar engineer explained why the change should be made before he asked his operator to make it.
The unfamiliar engineer simply “gestured,” without explanation, that he wanted the operator to test a new part. And she resisted. So will your staff if you don’t have an explanation for them.
Why now? What’s your reason for adopting this new enterprise collaboration tool? What’s wrong with the old method?
Make sure you have answers prepared because they’re undoubtedly going to ask “why?”
Wait for the right time to introduce the new collaboration software
Change doesn’t come easy — and that’s especially true when it comes all at once.
If your organization has undergone some major changes in a short period of time, consider waiting before implementing the adoption of your new tool. Not doing so, according to Quast, can also invite opposition:
“As the old saying goes, ‘Timing is everything.’ Heaping too much change on employees over a short period of time can cause resistance.”
If you’ve hired or fired anyone recently, or restructured roles or processes in your organization, give your employees some time to adjust before you spring yet another change on them.
Learn the ins and outs of the new collaboration tool before your team
Once you’ve decided (with the help of your team, hopefully) which collaboration software you’re going to use, learn the features most valuable to your team. You want to be ready for any questions they might have going forward.
Before you start training them on each feature, ask them how they’d like to learn the new tool. Your tech-savvy staff members will likely find an intensive course a waste of time, while others might need the additional support.
Gauge your team’s level of understanding before you start training them to customize the learning process specifically to each member.
Adopt your new collaboration tool successfully
Before you implement any change in your organization, make sure you’ve considered the implications, both technical and social, on your employees and their roles.
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