4 steps to get staff buy-in for your tech project

Planning to shed your old technology for a hot new product or service? You’ll need to condition your staff to accept and adopt the upgrade. Here’s how to build an agile, multiphase training plan that targets their needs before and after implementation.

This article contains excerpts from Strategies to Help Staff Adapt to New Technology, by ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership.

Step 1: Get staff on board

For nearly two years, Amy Williams was deeply involved in developing and executing an important communications plan for the American Society of Anesthesiologists. As its director of marketing and communications, Williams made sure that tailored messages were crafted and sent out at carefully chosen times to the many different stakeholders who were depending on ASA for information that would affect their professional lives.

What made this communications plan different from others that Williams had led was the fact that her primary stakeholders were all under ASA’s roof. Her mission: bring full transparency to staff as ASA implemented a new membership management system that would affect nearly everyone in the organization.

By keeping staff apprised of every step of the transition, “We really eased their anxiety,” says Williams.

If a full-blown communications plan like ASA’s seems like overkill for what some might see as an IT department project, think again: Major technology adoptions are no longer the sole province of IT. Rather, they are a critical component of an association’s strategic plan and have the potential to improve or even revolutionize what staff can accomplish.

In addition, today’s highly customizable technology products allow nonprofits to give staff a say in how the new product is configured.

Consider surveying staff on their learning preferences (laptop or smartphone? online learning or instructor-led training?) as part of the early communication strategy so you can plan and budget for training methods accordingly.

Genuine employee input not only will allow an organization to roll out a more powerful product optimized for each department, but people will also be more enthusiastic about using the new system because they will feel like they were heard and matter to the organization.

Step 2: Make time to train

Once the new technology tool is selected, organizations can choose from myriad methods and strategies to train staff. Learning products can be purchased online or through the product vendor; contracted for with an association management company, technology services firm, or professional training specialist; or even created in-house.

When you are ready to devise a training plan, you can build one that fits your organization’s size and budget and accommodates all kinds of learners.

Train in phases. Schedule a round of instructor-led department training within a week of deployment so lessons will still be fresh on go-day. After installation, continue training for several weeks to catch those who haven’t yet absorbed what they need and for those who missed the primary instruction.

Step 3: Recruit your training guides

Traditional guided or instructor-led training tends to be an organization’s default plan. Most people with several decades on their resumes are probably familiar with the “OK, everyone in the conference room!” approach to training. But it’s easy to go wrong here.

Targeted instructor-led training by department role that homes in on what users need. During guided sessions, it’s also important to prioritize fingers on the keyboard because 70 percent of adult learning is doing. Keep observation time to a few minutes, and then have staff practice real-life functions the rest of the session.

Pacing can be a drawback to guided training, particularly for staff who don’t grasp technology-related instruction as quickly as others do. Mentoring, including cross-generational pairing, can work well by allowing the more uncertain staff member to set the pace and feel more comfortable asking for a step to be repeated.

Step 4: Record your internal practices

Don’t forget SOPs! Compile any resources used during training, including screen grabs and specific instructions for common tasks, into a standard operating procedures document that can live on the network and be used as a refresher or an onboarding resource for new employees.

One size rarely fits all with a major technology project, so make sure your communications plan is baked in to the transition and take the time to get your whole team on board.


A version of this article originally appeared in the May/June 2018 issue of Associations Now magazine. Excerpts reprinted with permission. Copyright, ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership, Washington, DC. Read the full article here.

Maria Mihalik
Maria Mihalik is newsletter and supplements editor of Associations Now in Washington, DC.