You’ve just discovered a great new digital tool for your business. It can save your company not only time, but money and resources. You’re so amped to share the good news that you call your team into the office and give a rousing speech announcing your find. With a final flourish of excitement (and a heaving chest), you finish your pitch and set your team loose to enjoy the benefits.
*Poke. Poke. Poke.*
That’s the sound of people poking holes in your enthusiasm.
As anyone who’s ever pitched a new tool to a room full of people can tell you, converting employees to adopt a new digital tool isn’t always easy. In fact, you’re up against a challenge every time you present a new idea, a product, or strategy.
There are a few reasons why it can be tough to intro a new digital tool into your business strategy. Time, money, and resources are some of the more obvious challenges. But while each challenge is unique, most share a common theme: resistance against the new idea.
Your employee likely experiences several forms of resistance, including:
- Resistance to effort. “More training? I’m already at capacity!”
- Resistance to risk. “What if the tool doesn't work? What if something goes wrong? Is this tool only going to make my job harder?"
- Resistance to change. “I get that things aren’t ideal, but they’re not THAT bad. We’re getting along OK. Let’s just stick to the status quo.”
These are all perfectly normal responses! That said, introducing a new digital tool doesn’t have to result in confusion or frustration. The secret lies in proper planning for the task ahead. The first step will be to get a handle on something we call "The Discovery Journey."
The Discovery Journey
Take a minute to think about what happens when you find something new and useful online. Most likely you go through a few different stages.
Your experience might look a little something like this:
- Phase 1: Discovery. "Ooo, this tool looks cool!"
- Phase 2: Exploration. "Let’s look around." *Clickity click click*
- Phase 3: Kudos. "This is cool. But seriously – really, really cool."
- Phase 4: Eureka! "Not only is it cool, I think it would solve this huge problem that my team’s been facing."
- Phase 5: Champion. "I can't wait to spread the good news! My team will love it!"
If you’re the one and only person making the decision about whether to use a tool, step 5 (or even step 4) is probably where you’d end your decision-making process. Once you reached the “Eureka!” step, you’d be free to use any new digital tool without a second thought.
But – as you probably already know – the process gets much more complicated when you're trying to inspire an entire team to adopt a new tool.
In fact, an entirely new leg is added to the journey:
- Phase 6: Resistance. "Whoa there, pushback! I don’t understand why people aren’t as excited about this as I am…"
- Phase 7: Education. "How do I communicate the benefit of this to them?"
- Phase 8: Success or Contagious “Eureka!" "Aha, now they get it! And bonus, they want to use and share the new tool."
Does it seem like a mighty long leap from Phase 6 to Phase 8? It can be. But the space between these steps is also a crucial part of rolling out any new tool. This space is where team members begin their own discovery journey.
Remember, while you’ve already had the luxury of warming up to a product, your team will likely enter into any introductory meeting back at Phase 1, or the “Discovery” phase.
To get your team to your vantage point, you'll want to empower each team member to go through the proper steps leading up to their own “Eureka!” moment. By inspiring your team to go through their own discovery journey (Steps 1 through 5), you can help guide them to the final destination effectively.
Now, onto that strategy part.
6 Steps For Introducing a New Digital Tool to Your Team
Step 1. Keep the initial introduction simple.
Want to overwhelm a team right off the bat? Jump right into the nitty gritty details.
Yes, there could be 1 million and 12 useful things about a new digital tool. But when’s the last time your brain was able to process 1 million and 12 things?
No matter which way you cut it you still have to eat a chocolate cake bite by bite. That’s why it’s important to break down a new digital tool into digestible pieces.
Start off by picking out and highlighting 2 or 3 key features that are directly relevant to your existing business strategy. These can include features that stand out as particularly interesting for your company and your team.
We can use Dropbox Sign as an example here.
Say that you’re a part of a company that’s focused on excellent customer service. Looking at Dropbox Sign’s features, you’d have a few different options to highlight: audit trails, 2-factor identification, document tracking, and customization (to name a few). While all these eSignature features might be useful for your business, think about each one from your employee’s perspective.
If you’re a user-focused company, which features could you share that would help your employees create a better user experience? Looking at the list above, customization would probably be a good one (adding a logo boosts your branding and gives a sense of authority). Even though all features of the tool may apply to your company, a customer service focused team might find user-centered features to be a more compelling “hook” as compared to an audit trail.
Step 2. Hear out your challengers (and find your champions).
Any team is made up of a bunch of individuals. That’s good! You want a team that offers diverse perspectives. Differing opinions can present a challenge, however, when you’re trying to get an entire team onboard with a new tool.
For example, say you found a new tool that could completely upgrade an old and outdated system in your business strategy. From your viewpoint, the tool is well worth the effort to install or integrate. It’s fixing a problem, after all! But for an employee who’s been working under the same system for years, an additional tool just looks like more work. The danger here is that a single challenger can direct an entire team's attention to immediate pains rather than longterm solutions.
Take a moment to consider who your top challengers might be. These are the individuals (or departments) in your company that see the challenges of a new tool rather than the problems it can solve. Once you’ve pinpointed them – listen. Your overall goal here isn’t to deter challengers from speaking up, but rather to start a conversation. Once you hear their concerns, you can use this information to start speaking effectively to those points.
Conversely, your champions can be a great source of support. Survey your team and consider who might have a particularly valuable insight or perspective to share with the team. If it’s a technical tool, chat with the engineering team to get a feel for what they can integrate easily and then have them share their findings.
Champions can help to share the benefit of a tool and also help to educate other teammates about unique pros of a new tool.
Step 3. Practice answering the hard questions.
Be prepared to answer a barrage of questions when introducing a new digital tool. And not just the easy ones like the name of a product or where you can install it on your desktop. You need to be know answers to the truly tough questions like "Why should I trust this new tool?" and "Why can't we keep doing things the way we were?"
It's important to remember that while you had the opportunity to go through an exploration phase, your employees haven't quite gotten there yet. Questions represent a form of employee exploration.
If you can give thoughtful answers to your team’s questions (including “Great question, I’ll have to research that more” when you don’t know the answer) you can be a helpful resource during their exploration phase.
Imagine that the tool is a prospective employee… what interview process would you put it through? Sit down with a fellow teammate (or plop yourself in front of a mirror) and get into “question mode.” No holds barred here. Layout the most difficult questions you can think of. Put the tool through the gamut of tests and - importantly - practice your answers.
Step 4. Don’t just share features, share specific examples.
Features that are interesting to one person might seem like noise to another. That's why it's crucial to include and emphasize relevant examples of what problems a tool solves, not simply list out the features of a new tool. This helps employees to connect the dots between initial effort and final reward.
Brainstorm the details of what integrating the new tool could mean for your team. Not just in the basic way, but at the foundation. If you’re having trouble distinguishing between a basic and a foundational solution, consider this: We don’t use cups because we think they’re great – we use cups because they’re tools that help us to quench our thirst.
What are some of the ways the tool will help solve the “thirst” question for your company? Connecting the dots between function and solution will help you answer to more of the concerns or questions your team may have.
Step 5. Give team members the autonomy and resources to explore.
People learn in different ways. Before simply setting your whole team up with a demo of the product, think about what would be most helpful for each individual or department. Sometimes it’s a demo, but sometimes it’s a quick presentation followed by a Q & A. Companies offering different exploration experiences (such as free trial periods and opportunities to test out the functionality) are always a great find.
Some tools are easy to explore by poking around online, others are better explored via a demo or a trial period. Take time to distinguish which teaching (or learning) method would be the best fit for your team. This will help you to equip your team with learning tools that will empower their discovery journey.
P.S. The best teaching modes can change person to person or department to department! For example, sales might be down for demos, but HR might be more interested in the logistics.
Step 6. Listen to (and use) feedback.
Whether you’re already convinced or on the edge of adopting a new technology, outside perspectives are incredibly valuable. Use feedback from your team to keep your eyes open to how you can use a new tool to your best advantage. This perspective will help you to get a sense of your team’s reception and keep you aware of potential weak spots.
Using employee feedback to shape your next stepsKeep in mind, listening to feedback is only the first step. Once you’ve collected feedback (either through conversation or online) – use it! Feedback can guide you as you consider the best way to implement or onboard a new tool. It can also help you pinpoint potential weak spots and work with your team to fortify them.
Remember: resistance doesn’t equal failure.
Convincing a team to adopt a new tool can be tricky, but overcoming their concerns is a also part of the process. Once you have a solid grasp of the journey, it’s a matter of empowering individuals go through their own discovery journey.