MLR

Bridging the Technology Gap

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Most companies have at least some divergence among employees when it comes to technology. Some employees can’t wait to get their hands on the latest applications, often viewing them not only as productive tools but also as extensions of themselves. Their first uses of technology — whether video games, e-mail or instant messaging — have morphed into a dizzying array of high-tech applications they seem unable to live without.

These people thrive on learning and mastering new technology and are the most likely to use it to its fullest potential. They are the ones you often see multitasking between several applications with complete ease.

On the other side of the divide are those employees who aren’t so eager. They may be less skilled in or comfortable with technology and in some cases they may even be intimidated by it. As a result, they tend to resist new software and electronic tools that threaten to disrupt their comfort zone. They may also be somewhat dismissive of the techno-enthusiasts and suspicious about using social media or texting applications on company time.

These employees, of course, use technology, but they often learn at a different pace. They may also be more inclined to want to know only the parts of an application that help them do their jobs and less inclined to venture beyond their initial training.

As a business owner, however, it’s in your best interests to try to bridge this technological divide so that your associates become more efficient, thus boosting your organization’s profits and value.

Despite the techno-cultural differences, most employees do recognize that high-tech electronics can streamline their jobs. To that degree, they welcome it. And in many cases, even for the most resistant, new applications eventually become second nature.

For example, sending and receiving data electronically, managing documents without paper and communicating by e-mail all were once cutting-edge technology. Now they are commonplace. As well, many employees on both sides of the technology divide have managed to adopt and adapt to cell phones and, in many cases, to multi-tasking smart phones.

Make Training a Priority

To help make embracing technology a company-wide attitude, you must start from the top down. Managers and supervisors must be shown that technology training is a priority because it:

  • Saves time by making employees more efficient;
  • Cuts costs and increases revenue, and
  • Leverages the money spent on new software and hardware.

Once managers realize this, they can help create an environment where all employees, including the most resistant, can be eased into accepting new work methods.

Social Media

Take social media, for example. A technology gap at your company can be most obvious when it comes to blogging or using social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn. While some employees see these sites as productive work tools, others view them as inappropriate and time-wasting activities.

Your company can help bridge this divide with training that shows how social networking and blogging can help market your business and make it more profitable. Properly trained, employees can become proficient in:

  • Blogging about your organization and finding opportunities to comment on other blogs, boosting your company’s visibility on the Internet;
  • Using social networking as a resource for generating new business;
  • Providing useful feedback on how to improve recruitment and marketing by using online tools, and
  • Researching the websites of your company’s top rivals and offering tips on how to make your company’s online presence more competitive.

Training Tips

Here are six tips to incorporate into your training that can help bring everyone on board when your company wants to make productive use of new technology:

1. Make sure your administrative staff understands the technology and its importance to the bottom line and efficiency of the organization.

2. Bring all employees together at least once to go over the plan. Explain the reasons for the change and the specific benefits of the technology. Outline your expectations and answer questions clearly and completely.

3. Keep training sessions relatively short – say 60 to 90 minutes. Focus on narrow topics each time. Give employees time to digest what they’ve learned and to see how it helps them do their jobs better.

4. Try to compartmentalize training without breaking groups into obviously age-differentiated categories. If you are able, identify training needs by skill sets. The more technologically inclined employees can go to one series of sessions and quickly learn all the functions of the new applications. Other sessions can be set up for employees who are less comfortable with technology. Trainers can go more slowly with them, focusing first on just what they need to know to do their jobs. Once they learn that, they can move on to other functions of the applications. The point is to let them learn at their own pace.

5. Recognize that some employees may need individual training. For one thing, they may feel their questions are uninformed and balk at asking them in front of colleagues. For another, some may be so slow at grasping the technology they hold the others back. Consider letting some of the skilled employees coach the others. Carefully select and train those you want to be coaches and follow up throughout the process. This type of mentoring not only lets the resistant employees learn in a more comfortable environment, it also gives the coaches some practical experience.

6. Encourage employees unfamiliar with using new technology to reach out to their more skilled colleagues to learn how to best integrate the new practices into their daily routines. And encourage the skilled employees to be receptive to requests for help.