Employees who work directly with the public or manufacture or distribute your products may not sit at a desk all day, but they still rely on technology to effectively do their jobs. They need to access information quickly, complete tasks efficiently, and stay connected with your company culture. All of which are key to streamlining operations and delivering an excellent customer experience.
With the right tools, your frontline staff can help your company stand out in a competitive market. But technology adoption is often challenging for people, no matter their role. To ensure that your investments in frontline workforce solutions are successful, it’s important to be thoughtful about how you select and roll them out. The following eight best practices will help you increase the adoption of new technology among your frontline workers.
- Understand frontline worker needs
The people best equipped to know how technology will make frontline work more effective are the ones currently doing the job. As you develop requirements for new software or hardware, get input from the people who will be using it, such as:
- Learn what their biggest challenges are.
- Ask about opportunities that they think new technology could solve.
- Find out what obstacles might prevent them from using the tools you are planning to buy.
Once you begin evaluating software solutions, invite frontline workers to presentations and demos and solicit their opinions and questions about the technology you’re considering.
By engaging your frontline workforce in decisions about technology, you’ll not only ensure that you’re selecting the best solutions to meet your goals, you’ll also build a more inclusive culture, which will help encourage adoption of the new technology.
- Invest in easy-to-use technology
Digital adoption is much more likely if your technology is simple to use. Nobody likes software that’s clunky or hardware that’s slow. As part of your evaluation process, be sure to get a demo of the features that your company is most likely to use and ask your frontline workers if it looks intuitive given the unique circumstances of their jobs. For example:
- Is the screen readable from a mobile device?
- Can employees access the most critical features directly from the home screen?
- Are forms easy to fill out?
It’s also important to make sure your hardware and software are compatible. If you deploy new software, you may also need to upgrade your operating systems. New mobile devices may not work effectively with older software. As you plan updates and enhancements to your technology, make sure you consider the entire system. Software and hardware that works together seamlessly will help foster adoption.
- Incorporate technology into daily workflows
One of the best ways to encourage software adoption is to effectively integrate it into the daily routine. This is another reason why it’s so important to include frontline workers in the buying process. If you know when and where employees are most likely to use the new solution, you can make it easier to access in those circumstances. For example:
- Empower your employees to quickly look up product information while they’re on the floor talking to a customer.
- Make it easy to review work schedules while signing in or out.
- Create intuitive links, so it’s simple to switch between different apps and systems.
- Effectively communicate benefits
Your team will be more receptive to new technology if they know how it will help them and your company be more successful. Use the information you gathered during the requirements phase to remind them what challenges the technology will solve and how it will make their workday easier.
People also like to understand the larger strategic goals of company initiatives. Will this solution help the company become more efficient or improve customer service? Share your expectations for the new technology and how you will measure results.
What you say is important, but it’s also critical to deliver your communication in a way that your team will understand. Here are a few ways to make sure your frontline workers understand what is happening and why:
- Use several different channels such as emails, posts to your intranet, and verbal announcements from managers.
- Be positive about the benefits and your vision for new solutions.
- Empathize with people’s discomfort with change.
- Let your team know that your company will support them throughout the technology adoption
- Provide clear and concise training
If your employees are accustomed to working in a certain way, they may struggle to learn something new. Simplify digital adoption with good training.
Your training will be more effective if you tailor it for different roles and deliver it on employees’ devices, so they see it in context. Depending on the complexity of the app or the features you’re rolling out, you may want to use videos or simulations to demonstrate how to use the new software. It’s also helpful to encourage people to practice using a new feature within the training.
Your team will also need training every time you introduce new hardware. Make sure they know how to turn their devices on and off, connect to wireless and Bluetooth, and use features specific to their role, such as a barcode scanner.
Use analytics to track if people have completed training and send reminders as needed.
You’ll also want to incorporate technology training into the employee onboarding process so that new hires learn right from the start how to use all the hardware and software associated with their role.
- Offer ongoing support
Learning new technology is an ongoing process. Even after excellent training, people will forget some of what they learned after a few weeks. This is especially true for tasks that they use less frequently. Make it simple for people to troubleshoot issues as they come up with easy access to the initial training and links to help documentation.
After new features are released, send out training to the appropriate teams to help them understand how the new capability will make their jobs easier. You may also want to send out feature-specific training if your analytics data indicates that employees aren’t using it effectively.
- Lead by example
Digital adoption is about more than just a single piece of software or device. It represents a shift in the way companies do business and interact with customers and employees. A leadership team that embraces digital helps demonstrate how important it is for the company and encourages employees to be excited about it too.
Leading by example can take different forms depending on who the leader is. An executive may not use all the same tools as a frontline worker, but if those employees see the CEO posting to the company Yammer or using video during a conference call, they’ll intuit that your company is comfortable with technology. Managers and team leaders who work directly with frontline workers should be among the first to start using new digital tools. And, ideally, those managers should be empowered to help their teams overcome any challenges adopting new technology.
You may also consider recruiting technology ambassadors to help shift culture. These should be people on the frontline (not managers) who are already excited about using technology in their job and are interested in helping their coworkers get over their fears of a new way of working.
- Offer incentives
Another way to encourage technology adoption is incentives. To do this effectively, you’ll need to track technology usage and associate it with specific goals. There are a variety of ways to reward employees. For example:
- Consider providing gift certificates when employees complete certain milestones, such as downloading a new technology, completing a training, or using a feature for the first time.
- Offer a bonus at the end of the year if you have evidence that the team is meeting your technology adoption goals.
- Create a fun competition between teams by setting measurable goals and offering small rewards for the team that meets them first.
Empower your frontline
Your frontline workers are the heart of your business. They’re your face to customers. They build your products, and they make sure your operations run smoothly. Rolling out new technology won’t just help you grow your company; it will also help you retain this critical group of employees. By giving them the right technology, you help them connect with each other, be more productive, and feel more engaged with their jobs.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to motivate your frontline workforce, Microsoft conducts regular research, which is available through the webinar: Unlock the Power of Your Frontline. Watch it on demand to hear the latest insights from the Work Trend Index and explore how the Microsoft 365 platform can help you build a digital frontline.