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Why Any Workplace Technology Needs Proper Onboarding

Posted on February 16, 2015

It’s something that happens often enough in the corporate world - a new enterprise software solution is sought out by executives and workers alike. Slowly and methodically, these groups weigh the options. After much debate, a decision is made. Then, with great fanfare, vendors are paid and the software is put in place promising to cure the organizational problem.

And then, nothing. Users don’t like the new software or resist it (or worse yet, they don’t even know about it) and it languishes. Eventually the product gathers dust and is forgotten entirely. The company is already seeking a new, better solution, or they blame the concept saying “I knew it wouldn’t work,” instead of blaming the rollout or the platform choice. Management is left shaking their head, asking “What went wrong?”

What to make of this?

Partially, this phenomenon can be attributed to the fact that inertia is a powerful force - a body in motion tends to stay in motion and a body at rest tends to stay at rest. Likewise, users tend to stick to existing software packages and are unwilling to change their habits to accommodate something new.

All this underscores the fact that whenever launching an enterprise software solution, and especially a digital employee suggestion system, all stakeholders need a proper onboarding process.

There are five steps to this process:

1. Get management buy-in - This is the first and perhaps the most important step. It is absolutely crucial to get leadershipto buy into the employee suggestion program. Unless the C-suite shows they are serious about listening to ideas, workers won’t participate. If management isn’t listening, employees won’t bother submitting ideas. Have leadership make this point clear to employees through word and deed.

2. Spell out the benefit to employees - Habits are hard to break. The only reason someone does so is in an effort to make their life better. For an employee idea program to be a success, it is important to demonstrate the value to employees. If possible, show how employee suggestions improved operations at other companies. For example, when GM adopted Toyota production methods (specifically “Kaizen” or, as is known here, “continuous improvement”) workers got items that made their job much easier on the assembly line. For example, special mats for workers to stand on, shelves for keeping tools within easy reach and custom cushions for kneeling inside car frames.

3. Market the tool internally - When the software solution is picked, the internal communications department must build awareness of the system. When doing so - go big! Print up newsletters and flyers. Have management feature it in a company-wide meeting. Have the CEO personally create a video and send an email to all stakeholders, and immediately follow that up with a separate email with login information (if you’re going digital) or instructions on how to submit ideas. Promote the value you hope this product will deliver for everyone. Build awareness and promote, promote, promote!

4. Give good training on the system - Even after all these steps are taken, training must be provided. As stated before, old habits are hard to break. Only proper training will condition people to the new system. The more intuitive the system, the less training required. This is why it’s advantageous to have a custom solution, rather than hacking an existing system to perform a task it’s not necessarily designed to do.  

5. Continue to market the program - Onboarding doesn’t stop at the initial launch. It is important to continue to periodically remind stakeholders that the program is available to them, and be sure to promote success stories and let them know when new features or processes for the program are launched.

Not having a proper onboarding process is like having a sprint race, running as hard as possible for 90% of the course and then quitting and walking away with only a few yards remaining. It is crucial to get people onboard with the platform. To have a successful launch, enterprise software has to be marketed internally. The product will not “sell itself” and believing that it can will all but guarantees failure.

But by doing these five things, your digital employee suggestion system should be a big hit!

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