Technology is developing at a rapid pace. However, employees, particularly in industries not generally associated with high tech, can be reticent to embrace change.
Often people operate under a "good enough" mentality. Unless they are suffering, status quo is the path of least resistance. They reason that if the technology and processes they've been utilizing work, why change?
But this sort of thinking is extremely limiting for the organization as a whole, as it prevents it from successfully keeping up with competitors that have created a culture that embraces technology and change. These forward-thinking companies, those that recognize technology's ability to empower employees, will almost always pass their technophobic, change-phobic peers. So in today's hypercompetitive business environment "good enough" is never good enough. But how can an organization change its culture, and go from ignoring technological innovations to embracing them?
Lead by Example
Culture can be built top down, starting with management, or bottom-up from grassroots efforts by employees. The latter is much harder to guide. So start where you can. Show your employees that management accepts new technologies and embraces change. This takes commitment on the part of your management team. They must operate as a unified front. If the employees see their managers frustrated by new business processes, they will emulate this reaction. Be certain every manager throughout your organization embraces continuous improvement.
Listen to and Empower Your Team
It's important to recognize that some employees do embrace change while others don't. It's a mistake to react negatively to the technophobic. This tends to make people entrench into their positions and resent change, which makes change far more difficult. Instead, listen openly to their concerns. Make certain they feel heard. An employee that feels included is far more likely to accept the new direction the organization is taking.
Empower those employees that do readily embrace change. Give them a voice in the organization. Publicly recognize and praise them. This creates a powerful incentive for others to emulate them. Encourage these employees to speak with their less accepting colleagues. Cultural change is driven by critical mass. Once a certain percentage of your employees embrace specific technological interventions the rest will quickly follow suit through natural peer pressure.
Make sure all of your employees recognize they are not only accountable to management, but each other as well. Employees that acknowledge their responsibilities to each other are far more likely to accept correction from their peers, and peer correction is a basic feature of the more difficult to achieve, but more lasting process of bottom-up, grassroots culture change.
Communicate the Benefits
Not all employees will "get it" quickly. Others, particularly those resistant to change, will have a much harder time learning new processes and tools. Instead of getting frustrated, keep patiently working with your team until they have a full understanding, not only of how the technology works but also how it benefits them and helps them do their jobs better. Make sure they understand how these technological interventions make the entire company more efficient, which means everyone can be more successful.
When you and your employees recognize that training isn't a "once and done" event but a process everyone will be better off. Since technology is constantly changing, it's essential for employees to receive periodic training to keep them feeling comfortable with the direction of the company and make them feel the company cares about the work that they do.
Positive Culture Creates Positive Change
If you keep your employees engaged, make certain they understand how their positions benefit the company and their coworkers, and empower them to intervene with each other when negativity creeps in you'll be well on your way to creating a workforce that readily accepts change and champions it throughout the organization.
About Rory Brown (Charleston, SC): Mr. Brown is a Certified Public Accountant and received a Master of Business Administration from the University of Charleston, SC.