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Lack of Digital Adoption Is Becoming More Common in the Workforce, and That's Problematic

When employees fail to understand or properly utilize important tech tools in the workplace, it can have far-reaching implications and may even impact an organization’s bottom line.

In a workplace, somewhere, it’s happening right now. The company implements a new timecard system to track hours. The HR team socializes the tool with the company executives and then plans a company-wide rollout. Everyone gets the launch email — except those who are away on vacation, or sabbatical, or who just miss the memo. The new system is, well, new, and some find it hard to understand. Adoption is low, and the financial investment in the tool fails to meet stakeholder expectations. To catch late adopters, additional funds are poured into change management solutions — pushing the project over budget. By the time word gets back to corporate, the month’s time & attendance figures are a wreck delaying the processing of payroll and potentially paychecks. It’s a massive waste of funds, energy, and time and employees suffer…

When employees fail to understand or adopt  important technology tools in the workplace, it is often referred to as a  lack of digital adoption. Lack of adoption happens for a variety of reasons, but its end result is often the same: a loss of efficiency, a tangled mess of emails, disillusioned stakeholders, and frustrated employees. Sometimes, the lack of digital adoption can also cause significant financial impacts. Fortunately, it’s a problem that can be remedied. Here’s how.

What Causes a Lack of “Digital Adoption”?

Today, many mid-sized companies are faced with a tough choice: should they use a single overarching core system for tracking performance, hours, human resources, learning, compliance, and payroll? Or, should they combine a set of bespoke, niche tools that are more specialized for their particular areas? 

Whatever they choose, employees are affected on a daily basis by these digital tools. And now, given the pandemic and more employees working from home, employees feel more isolated when they’re dealing with digital tasks. Imagine an employee who needs to track hours, update performance goals, use messaging tools, and navigate other necessary systems where they complete daily tasks. 

“If a company chooses several digital tools for these tasks, it can feel disjointed,” says Kelly Suhr, Enspira’s Head of Technology Products & Services. “For instance, they’ll have to remember numerous logins, which can be an annoyance at best or potentially even a barrier to access when completing critical transactions.” On the other hand, using a single overarching tool meant to “do it all” might result in less flexibility or functionality for individual tasks. Either way, it can deter employees from getting done what they need to get done on a daily basis — and thus prevents your company from getting done what it needs to get done.

The biggest pain point for many employees, Suhr says, is trying to get their daily tasks done with as few clicks as possible. “In my experience, workers who are less tech-savvy are most likely to get frustrated — and tend to have low digital adoption — when a task is perceived to require an inordinate number of ‘clicks’.”

Who Lacks Digital Adoption?

Anyone can experience low or reduced digital adoption. “It is possible for workers of all ages and generations to experience digital disconnect,” said Michele Lodin, Vice President of Total Rewards at Enspira. “Especially in the remote work environment, receiving in-person tech support or benefiting from peer learning is increasingly difficult.”

But to better understand who is most commonly affected, we must understand the modern workforce, which is made up of five generations: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z. The breadth of American workers in age — and technological savvy — make the current workforce the most diverse in American history. Each generation has unique tendencies in regards to technology.

Still, employers should be careful not to oversimplify generational desires. “Ultimately, it depends on the employee’s work style and preferences, not their age,” Suhr said. “You’ll need to meet each individual worker where they are, depending on their tech savviness and access to technical support.”

How Can Workplaces Combat a Lack of Digital Adoption?

  1. Recognize and appreciate different “Employee Personas.” What systems and tools are required, preferred, optional, or not needed for each persona? “Think of this as a target shape — with ‘required’ systems at the center, and then work your way out through optional tools,” for each persona’s profile, Lodin says. What are the best ways to connect with each type of worker?
  2. Don’t rely on just one type of communication. Redundancy is key to adoption. When communicating about new technology tools, make no assumptions about your audience. Break the message down, and make it simple and accessible.
  3. Best training methods will vary. Common ones include the “buddy system” (pairing new or non-savvy employees up with savvy or already trained employees), formal training sessions, and easy self-reference tools. Videos and vignettes are a great way to provide easy to consume, bite-sized instruction. Consider always how you might motivate your workers to adopt new technology based on their various learning styles.
  4. Implement follow-ups. Follow-ups to ensure engagement, understanding, and to gather feedback should be planned and implemented — as should alternative accommodations for various situations, including employees with a disability, remote learning needs, or a language gap. Feedback from follow-up sessions can and should be used to guide future development or enhancement of your technologies.
  5. Go mobile and consider portals and native integrations. Additionally, more companies are moving towards mobile applications — the use of text and social media — to reach their employees. New tools that combine user portals with native integrations of tech tools have lately been embraced by a number of companies looking for an “in-between” option between a la carte and all-in-one programs.

Embracing Change Management

Collectively, these approaches to streamline and enhance digital adoption fall under  “Change Management,” an important approach all its own in the workplace. “Whether it’s a system or an organizational change, Change Management refers to how a company understands, handles, and communicates moving from point A to point B,” says Jeremy Corlis, Associate Director of Technology Products & Services at Enspira. “Do not wait to consider Change Management needs until you’re ready to roll out the change. Changes, and how those changes will affect employees, should be considered and noted from the very beginning as the company is designing their new solution.” With proper change management, companies can stay ahead of the digital adoption curve and help employees stay efficient and confident in their daily tasks. That’s a win-win everybody (tech-savvy or otherwise) can love.

Kelly has over 20 years of HR Experience with expertise in HR Systems implementations, Talent & Performance Programs, People Insights and Program/Project Management. Prior to Enspira, she worked at T-Mobile as a Sr. Consultant of Business Solutions in the HR Innovations Delivery group. Prior to T-Mobile, she spent more than10 years at Expedia where she played a key role in Expedia's Workday HCM implementation, focusing on the Talent and Performance modules. Her passion is acting as a liaison between varied client groups, making technical jargon meaningful to stakeholders, and helping to streamline system implementations and processes. She holds a bachelor's degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance from Western Washington University. Kelly lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two children, where she enjoys home improvement projects and travel.

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