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Recognize the fundamentals of user adoption

Nov. 18, 2019 | By Leslie Deutsch, Practice Director, Learning Solutions TEKsystems

a group of co-eds review training technologies

When it comes to realizing the value of any IT investment, user adoption is everything. Without the people to put innovation to work, the benefits and impact of any system or feature are limited at best. Realizing the full value of any technology requires effective implementation and project execution. Yet, according to a Forrester Research study, lack of user adoption is cited as the primary cause for 70% of failed projects.1 These figures apply to all types of IT projects, and talent technology is no exception.

For employers, the time and budget at stake for even a minor addition to the talent technology stack makes user adoption a priority, and simply hoping for the best is not enough. An active approach to addressing common user-adoption fundamentals can ensure a technology innovation delivers on its promise of user value and impact for the business. Accordingly, there are three top priorities in building user adoption: context, champions and reinforcement.

Context creates commitment

A successful user training effort involves more than showing people the tools and features of a technology product. In fact, users are unlikely to care how tools and features work if they do not first understand the “why” behind the technology and what is in it for them. It’s a fact that seems obvious, but organizations frequently devote only the most basic amount of time and training to educate users about a product, leaving them unconvinced that it will make their lives better.

To better reinforce user buy-in, deliver training that is contextual. Go beyond teaching how to use technology; instead, provide the big-picture promise that drove the organization to invest in the new tools. For example, teach recruiters not just how to use a new search feature of a database but also why to use that feature first before using other tools. Focus not only on skills but on building their confidence and belief in the new system or tool and how it will help them do their jobs better.

Champions pave the path to success

For employees, adopting and using technology is a leap of faith. That’s because they don’t know that a new solution is going to make their work easier until they experience the results for themselves. If inputting data into a new system becomes too burdensome, they may resort to workarounds, using Excel as their personal database or going back to old means of getting work done. The old, familiar way may be slow, but at least it’s a sure thing. That’s why a user champion is so important to facilitating the adoption of new technology.

The visible presence of a superuser and technology champion provides a vital bridge to engagement for everyone involved. That champion is different than the executive sponsor. It could be someone working side by side with those using the technology, or it could be a manager of those impacted by the new system. That person listens to the users, hears their fears and doubts, and relays daily the how’s and why’s behind the technology, enabling users to keep on the path to adoption.

Reinforcement connects the human side of technology

People don’t learn like machines. People absorb knowledge. They put it into practice. They have every intention to change how they do their critical tasks. Then they forget. Not surprisingly, user training that is treated as a one-time event soon loses its impact. Unfortunately, many enterprises perform only one round of training and overlook the need for ongoing learning and reinforcement. The better approach is to include these two critical components as an integral part of the user-adoption strategy.

When we work with companies to drive successful implementations, we include reinforcement as part of the strategy, such as self-service job aids, performance support, training materials and tools to enable users to practice. We measure and manage performance to celebrate strengths, then identify and address new training requirements. Finally, ongoing support in many cases involves the expansion of user skills to include knowledge of new features or additional applications of existing tools.

Putting the adoption picture into place

No two technology implementations are exactly alike, so employers should avoid a cookie-cutter approach to training and user adoption. In my experience, when helping companies start on the right foot or save troubled initiatives, an intentional focus on training and user adoption has a critical, positive influence on success. Employers would do well to partner with someone who not only understands the technology at play but also has broad experience in their industry and its processes. Don’t lose sight of the business value and objectives at stake. The purpose of the technology isn’t to put new features to use—it’s to give people the power to do their jobs better.

(Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in Allegis Group’s report, “Smart Power A Glance at Evolving Talent Technologies.”)

As the director of the Learning Solutions practice within TEKsystems Global Services, Leslie Deutsch oversees a team that drives learning and adoption services within our clients’ organizations. These programs focus on building a future workforce with tomorrow’s skills, upskilling and reskilling current teams, or changing behavior needed to impact productivity.

1Collins, Jeff. “The Connection between User Adoption and Project Management Success.” Innovative Management Solutions, 21 Sept. 2013,