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How to reduce employees resistance to new technology in the construction industry?

Posted March 06, 2019
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The construction industry is ripe with new technologies that allow your business to be more productive and efficient. You’re enthusiastic and ready for the change, but are your team? They know it’s coming, but they might be dreading it instead.

By Nick Hughes, Client, Solution and Strategy Manager

The construction industry is ripe with new technologies such as daily reporting and time management apps, BIM modeling, project and resources scheduling, construction management workflows – and so much more. These technologies are allowing construction companies to do business faster, more accurately, and with better distribution of resources – even raising revenues.

JB Knowledge’ premier 2018 Construction Technology Report shows that for 33.8% of businesses the most limiting factor in adopting new technology is employee hesitance.

You’re enthusiastic and ready for the change, but are your team? They know it’s coming, but they might be dreading it instead.

Where are your employees and contractors on the technology skill continuum?

In Protivivi’s 2019 Executive Perspectives on Top Risks report, resistance to change comes in at the #5 most common company risk. As they put it, “Whether covert or overt, resistance to necessary change spawned by disruptive innovations that alter business fundamentals can be lethal.”

While you may have a great vision, it’s your managerial team and staff on the ground that will be utilising this new technology.

In construction, your managers might be people who’ve been in the industry 10, 20 years, still more comfortable with paper-based processes. These people aren’t typically new technology adopters, they’re more hands on.

You may find younger hires more difficult to come by – as they are typically tech-lovers and construction isn’t exactly known for a tech-first environment.

With many people’s resistance to change and the unknown, it can make for a difficult environment to introduce new technology into the workplace.

Problem 1: They don’t see how a technology could make their life much easier

The US Commercial Construction Index Report (via Workyard) indicates that “74% of contractors expect the emergence of tech in construction to grow considerably in the next three years.

For tech-resistant people, sometimes resistance to change is due to not seeing the benefits of the technology, and there’s no curiosity to explore, due to an underlying tech aversion in general.

To be curious about a new technology is some realisation of how it can make life easier. Your employees may use apps like Uber, UberEats, and Tinder. They’ve made transport, food, and dating that much easier for their lives, and were probably convinced to try them out long after early adopters of these apps.

Think about the tech that you want to implement in the workplace, and how it draws parallels to your employee’s adoption of these type of apps.

The solution

First, sit down and write up all the ways why it’s so good for them to use. Then, think about the ways in which it makes their work lives easier. Your technology provider will often be able to help out with this process.

You need to convince your team that this technology is as beneficial from them as it is for you.

Then, it’s time to start the conversation about this new technology and start getting influencers or tech-savvy people in your workplace to begin trying it out. By starting roll-out or test first with this unique group of people, you get to have the trickle-down effects to others that they would experience in their regular lives: it’s normalising the process for them. This is also an intrinsic part of creating a technology culture within your workplace.

Problem 2: They know they aren’t great at technology and think it will take too long to learn

For tech-resistant people, even if they know all the benefits of using a specific technology and it sounds amazing, they still may not want to give it a try. You can liken it to smoking, smokers know all about the health benefits of quitting, but it’s just too hard – so they keep smoking.

How do you break down these sorts of barriers? By making it easier for them – holding their hand every step of the way.

The solution

There are numerous ways to tackle this problem however, they will take time and investment. If you want to affect change, you’ll need to write it into your budget and schedule.

Offer multiple different ways of learning. People have different learning styles which means that not every method will work the same for everyone. To accommodate for this, you can offer workshops, workbooks, one-on-one sessions, and more. Have meetings where common issues are aired and solutions are given.

Give them time. Allocate plenty of time to properly learn new technology: everyone learns at a different pace. This can be achieved by earmarking lead-up learning time, a long changeover period with both systems in place, and ongoing support, even after the changeover.

Concentrate on managerial training first. Your managers are who your employees look to when they’re having difficulties at work, and the same will go when they’re having difficulty with a new technology. By making your managers experts first, they’ll be able to provide employee support not only on a personal level, but on a technical level, too. A tech-support team may also be needed for guidance.

The problem: They already have a system they know well that works

This is perhaps the most difficult problem in the space in which to affect change. When your employees know an existing system inside and out and can complete tasks with it in their sleep, they won’t be keen to change. It’s easy, they like it, it works.

Resist the urge to take the old system away so they have no option but to adapt. This will only lead to resentment of upper management – something you do not want to (deliberately!) cause.

The solution

Getting your managers up to speed with the new technology so they are strictly using it instead of the old system is a good start. Change is good to implement from the top down. Reducing the level of support for your old system or making it slower or more difficult to access can be a small change that won’t draw too much ire but can help with adoption of the new system.

For all cases mentioned above, we recommend having technology ambassadors that will help you embrace and promote change. These are the people that share the vision with you and can see the benefits of getting others onboard. By having ambassadors that are not part of management you’ll ensure that change is not only happening from top down but spread across all levels.

Again, training is imperative, so employees learn the new system thoroughly – one day they’ll be able to use this without friction, too.

How Bremmar can help

As Stephanie Viers from Smartsheet (via Forbes) puts it, “We talk to hundreds of our customers in construction, and we hear the same story: it’s evolve or die. The competitive pressures are just too great to forego the advantages technology offers.”

If you’re looking to implement new technology in your workplace, we aren’t just the “tech people” who can help set it up for you. We’re also training and tech culture specialists, with deep experience in the Perth construction industry. We’re helping businesses just like yours to not only rollout new technology in the workplace – but to do it the right way, so you have happy, competently trained staff who understand and enjoy the value of their new systems. Let us make your tech rollout more effective – get in contact on 1300 991 351 to start the conversation.

Get an initial consultation with Bremmar!

We can help with software, technology implementation, strategy and staff training.

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By Nick Hughes, Client, Solution and Strategy Manager

Result-driven professional with over 10 years’ experience in the IT industry specialising in process optimisation, strategic alignment and driving continual improvement.

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