Stop waiting it out. Here’s how to build buy-in for new technology.
While it may be tempting to delay looking for and implementing new technology or tools until your team seems open to it, or during a period where you’re less overwhelmed, it’s unlikely things are going to change anytime soon. Waiting it out is becoming a less and less viable option. The cost of “because it has always been done this way” is quickly starting to outweigh the benefits of implementing a technology tool to increase efficiency.
Building buy-in for new technologies can be challenging. This is especially true when your team feels overwhelmed. In the developmental and long-term care sectors, most staff are feeling stretched beyond their capacity, which has resulted in a staffing crisis industry-wide. Many organizations have found themselves so overwhelmed with staffing challenges, that they haven’t had an opportunity to consider other ways of addressing the number of challenges the staffing shortage has created. Thankfully, there are technologies that can help reduce the amount of stress on staff and streamline processes across organizations, allowing care organizations to move away from “just in case” staffing, to an “as needed” model. More on this later.
So here you are. Your team is tired, stretched thin, and on the edge of burnout. This can be a great time to try something new, like an innovative process or technology. But, for the same reasons, it can be challenging to get your team on board. You’re going to have to do the work to build buy-in. Here’s what we recommend:
1. Pick a champion Your champion is someone who loves to learn new things and your team looks up to. They are a natural mentor. Our most successful partners are strategic about which staff member they choose to introduce the technology to first. They pick someone who is open to learning, a natural leader amongst staff, and reasonably tech-savvy. That way, rather than having everyone try it at once, by choosing a champion and slowly rolling it out you can create a strong precedent for what a successful start looks like. It also means that when you start to roll it out to others on the team, they have someone to go to for mentorship on how to use the technology. This peer-to-peer learning element will go a long way to building trust and buy-in amongst your team. Having a peer your staff trust and look up to, that is also knowledgeable and confident about new technology is invaluable.
2. Approach it with empathy Whenever you talk about organizational and staffing changes, people fear for their jobs. The fear of losing employment is often a significant factor contributing to your employees' resistance to change. You can’t get away from it. Technology is often designed to work “with” staff rather than “for” them. This is why it’s so important to directly address these concerns from the very beginning. Be clear that you are re-allocating tasks, not replacing them. It’s common practice in the industry to have more staff on-site than absolutely necessary, just in case. Remote monitoring technology may make it possible for staff to triage where to go. It isn’t going to take away jobs from staff, but it can help reallocate and redistribute your staff to provide support as needed. With an as-needed staffing model, everyone on shift is able to do higher-value work. This also demonstrates a respect for staff’s time and expertise.
3. Let staff try it first While some people accept new things with open arms, a lot of us are naturally skeptical. That’s why just handing your staff a new technology to try with the people they support is a common stumbling block. A strategy one of our partners used that we now encourage to all our new clients is letting staff try the technology first. That includes the leadership team! If you want the people you support to wear a watch that tracks physiological arousal, wear it first. See what the experience is like, and learn firsthand how it works. If you’re using a medication dispenser, try it with multivitamins, just to see how it works. This will help build trust with your staff and the people they support as well as allow you to work out the kinks of using a new technology before you deploy it across the board.
4. Create opportunities for mentorship As much as I trust you are all great leaders and that your staff trust you, nothing can replace peer-to-peer peer camaraderie. Hosting an extensive training session where you train everyone at once may seem efficient at first. However, we’ve found that this isn’t always the best way for staff to learn. We’ve seen clients have a lot of success training a couple of motivated and well-liked staff and having these key team members be the point people, for the rest of a team. If staff can see their peers use the technology in their work, it is much easier for them to see how it will fit into their day-to-day. It empowers staff to seek solutions amongst each other rather than relying solely on a manager. This strategy is really helpful in an industry with as much turnover as ours. You need to make sure your technical expertise isn’t all invested in a single person.
5. Reduce redundancy and increase efficiency
Employees feel stretched to their limits as is, so you need to make extremely clear that this new initiative respects their boundaries. What I mean by this is you need to make it evident that you’ve allocated time in an employee's work day to get up to speed with this new technology. Technology can often increase efficiency and reduce redundancy but implementation can take time.
You will need to lead staff through the short-term cost of time during implementation so it will be worth the long-term benefit of increased efficiencies. How often is your staff overburdened with paperwork and reporting? For example, reporting behavior on an app so everyone can see it is easier than picking up the phone and calling multiple people to report it. One of our partners talks about framing the use of technology in their organization as enabling staff to do more high-value work. Less paperwork, more teaching life skills, and supporting independence.
These five things will go a long way to building buy-in across your organization. We’d love to hear how they work for you! Or let us know if you have a strategy you use that we haven’t mentioned, we’d love to hear it.