number 12 on chartreuse wall with metal staircase overhead
PHOTO: Michael Skok

Encouraging users to adopt new collaboration technologies and ways of working is notoriously difficult in the workplace. Every company has introduced new applications with high hopes for digital transformation, problem solving and employee engagement. That’s what the vendors promise when we go looking for new solutions to old problems, but how can we build a bridge between the marketing dream and the reality of too few people using the technology?

Make User Adoption a Positive Experience

Having focused almost exclusively on adoption projects for the past six years I know success is possible and that there’s a formula. User adoption is about:

  • Providing people with something they need.
  • Making sure it works each and every time.
  • Selling the value to those people.
  • Inviting them to take first steps.
  • Providing outstanding learning and support experiences.

In short, it’s about leaving no stone unturned in making the whole user experience as positive as possible.

Related Article: Sound Familiar? 4 Phrases That Show Your Employee Experience Needs Work

The Art of User Adoption

User adoption can be done well or poorly, which means there’s an art to it. In practicing user adoption I've experienced successes and failures and with the help of many talented people along the way have come up with these 12 principles:

1. Adoption requires a multidisciplinary skillset

User adoption is about far more than just IT. The best teams have backgrounds in user experience, visual design, communications, marketing, training, customer services and more.

2. A business case is essential for long-term success

Knowing how the change effort fits within the strategic context of the business and contributes to the bottom line will keep the project focused on the right goals and justify further investment.

3. Adoption requires a top-down and bottom-up strategy

If it feels forced from above it will never land well with users. On the other hand, if it’s a purely grassroots effort it may be starved of corporate oxygen. Top management and champions on the ground need to work together.

Related Article: Who Owns the Digital Workplace? You're Asking the Wrong Question

4. Adoption is about getting many small things right

Multiple factors make up the overall impression of a new technology when it’s introduced. From the way we communicate its purpose, to the encouragement we provide for taking first steps, and the learning support we make available — every step needs care and attention to detail.

5. Understanding personas and use cases is essential

One size never fits all. Every company is different, and each has lines of business with contrasting needs. Great user adoption projects understand different audiences and tailor the service accordingly.

6. Never assume technology will just work or that it’s intuitive

There’s an assumption that modern software-as-a-service solutions just work and don’t need testing. Big mistake. Every environment is different and there will be bumps in the road. Find them all and iron them out.

Related Article: 3 Symptoms of a Fragmented Collaboration and Communication Ecosystem

7. We don't stop being consumers when we go to work

Just as we must be persuaded to part with cash for a new product or service, in the workplace we must be persuaded to part with our precious time and attention to consider new tools and ways of working.

8. We don't stop being customers when we go to work

Once we’ve purchased a new product or service, we expect to be dealt with decently by the seller when we have issues. In the same way, when we agree to try new technologies in the workplace, we expect to be supported in our learning and solving of problems, otherwise we walk away.

9. We won’t get sacked for not using new tools

When it comes to collaboration, people often stick to the old ways of working if they don’t like the new. It requires voluntary effort from employees before new ways of working become widely adopted.

Related Article: Use Employee-Driven Design to Simplify the Digital Workplace

10. Most of us need many interventions before we have our own lightbulb moment

Pointing people to a user guide or providing 30 minutes of training is not enough to change people’s habits. There need to be many opportunities for being shown the value before we see it for ourselves.

11. Adoption is a journey, not a point in time

It takes time, effort, patience, resilience and permission to fail. Companies often get disheartened after launching new technology because usage inevitably dips after initial curiosity and enthusiasm. But adoption effort continues after launch.

12. Adoption happens one conversation at a time

Technology rollouts often treat employees like a faceless mass, but every individual deserves the opportunity to be dealt with one-on-one. This is more feasible than you might imagine with dedicated coaching services and a well organized network of champions, helpers and enthusiasts.

Watch for more detail on each of these principles in future posts.