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How important is employee buy-in to the success of a tech rollout?

Employee buy-in and adoption are essential for the long-term success of any technology rollout in any business.

Many new workplace tools fail to live up to expectation, dying a quick death after the initial excitement of rollout. This often comes down to how it's implemented in the workforce as opposed to the tool's functionality or appropriateness.

Without strong employee buy-in, your next HR technology rollout will be doomed to fail.

Why employee buy-in matters

Introducing new software at work is usually a significant investment. If employees don't engage with it, or it doesn't manage to improve efficiency or productivity, then it's just wasted money. While you can always assign employees the task of getting to grips with new software, a lack of buy-in means that they won't engage with it in the long-term.

You could have a reasonably successful launch, only for usage to completely dry up two months down the line. Forcing employees to use tech that they're disengaged by could hurt their performance, even if the software is well-designed.

But getting high levels of buy-in for tech rollout makes it a whole different story. Getting your staff properly invested in their new tools can make them actually excited to use them. This is a great short-term boost for morale and engagement. And, if the new tech performs well (if it removes busywork, mitigates job stress, or enables greater creativity or productivity), your employees are bound to notice and be incredibly grateful for it.

Apparent technophobia in business is much more common than you might think. Research found that, in 2019, a third of businesses still used Windows XP to at least some extent. The fact that some people are still using an operating system that's nearly old enough to legally drink alcohol in the US is insane to think about. Even Windows 7, which is two iterations past XP, stopped being updated last year.

And, while the cost of upgrading was probably partly to blame at one point, computers don't even get made with XP anymore. That suggests that the last holdouts might simply be reluctant to move onto an unfamiliar operating system.

How HR can increase employee buy-in for tech rollout

It's not enough for HR directors to just pick a tech solution and worry about the staff response later. To increase the level of employee buy-in for tech rollout, you need to involve them from the outset.

  • Communicate the need for new tech-based solutions: If you want people to get onboard with new software, then employees need to be 100% clear on why it's being implemented. If it's looking like remote workers don't have the tools they need to collaborate virtually, then explain that. If possible, try to connect the new tech rollout to existing goals, so that employees can see why it matters for the business at large.

  • Involve employees in the tech rollout discussion: If you only tell employees about new tech solutions once they're locked in, then you're going to struggle with accumulating buy-in. Employees should be involved as soon as the need for new tools is identified. You need to know what employees think is essential, versus what's nice to have, or downright unwanted. And, if you're a tech company, using hackathons to develop your own solutions is a great way to get employees invested.

  • Tailor your pitch to the requirements of employees: A new tech solution standing to save the business a lot of money in the long-term might be a convincing argument for a board of executives, but it doesn't mean much to employees. If you want to build staff excitement for new tech, then you need to explain how it will positively impact their working lives. Will it give them more autonomy? Will it remove frustrating busywork and make their lives easier? These are the things that matter when it comes to employee buy-in for tech rollout.

  • User-friendliness is absolutely essential: If you've ever tried to teach yourself a complex computer application, then you know how daunting all those options and icons can be. Complicated software can be a huge obstacle for less tech-savvy employees. Sometimes, less is more, and the simpler, more accessible application is more fit for purpose.

  • Implement proper training: Unfortunately, not every useful bit of workplace tech can be learned in an afternoon. Sometimes, there's genuinely a need for complicated specialist applications. For example, maybe there's a new, radically different version of Photoshop out that your design department needs to get to grips with. Investing in formal training courses can save a lot of headaches down the road. If training everyone at once isn't feasible, consider asking your most knowledgeable employees to mentor their colleagues.

In the end, HR's tech decisions affect everyone in the business as much as they do the bottom line. Ensuring that employees continue to have a voice in deciding what tech to implement is the best way of getting them onboard and putting the "œhuman" back into "œHuman Resources."

Want more tips on how to successfully navigate your next tech rollout? Pre-order your free copy of The HRDs Guide to Employee Engagement in a Digital-First World now.