Humans are a fickle bunch. We moan and gripe about the way things are and throw riots when things change. It’s never really about the “old way” and the “new way” - it’s that interim change period that mucks things up. The old way is comfortable and the new way may be better, but getting there takes effort and compromise. Often, it’s easier for people to convince themselves that the way we’ve always done things is the best way rather than putting in the effort to adapt and learn.
The adoption of new technology is often a struggle in the construction industry. As more organizations adopt digital project delivery solutions, supervisors often find it challenging to implement new software with their field staff. Usually, the problem isn’t with an intuitive interface or training; it’s with philosophy. By shifting how you approach field staff change management, you may find it easier to overcome dissenting voices and bring excited team members on board. In our advice to managers, we suggest thinking small.
1. Sell Small Change
Upgrading from spreadsheets or pen-and-paper to construction administration software is exciting. It enables teams to be more efficient, decisive, and cost-effective when completing projects. But in the face of individual team members worried about their day-to-day, those are just words.
Sometimes, it can be better to not present an upgrade as a monumental shift or a new era for your company. Chances are it’s just an improved way of doing things you’re already doing - and should be presented like that. If you treat it as a minor shift in the day-to-day operations, it’ll be accepted as such. Don’t shrug things off - acknowledge any discomfort you sense about the change. Since your new platform will likely save time and make the field team’s work easier, it will be easy to address these concerns. But if you try to sell people upfront on a major improvement, it’s possible they’ll reject it as administrative posturing.
2. Test Small Groups
After announcing the move to a new construction management software, take volunteers for a small team interested in performing an initial test run with the product. This process will help with implementation in a number of ways:
It creates an aura of exclusivity around the software and excitement when it goes live to the entire company.
It allows you to deal with issues and concerns as they arise in a small beta, rather than putting out company-wise complaints.
It increases word-of-mouth interest in the new software as test team members share their findings with their coworkers.
It allows you to form concrete expectations on how teams will use the software before distributing to the entire organization.
It provides your team with a sense of control over the process.
3. Teach Small Functions
When organizations adopt new technology, there’s often a dreaded company-wide training session that feels a lot like a school assembly. The biggest flaw in assemblies is that the information presented is only partially relevant to the audience. People start to zone out when the presentation isn’t relative to their role and may miss out on crucial information.
Instead of bulk training sessions, consider hosting small, optional sessions that pertain to specific key functions like “Submitting a Daily Report,” “Managing a Change Order” or “Adding a Punch List Task.” While segmented training may delay the implementation schedule, it will ultimately expedite the process as team members get comfortable with the key functions they’ll use most often.
4. Assign Small Roles
After you’ve beta tested your new software with a small group, take what you’ve learned and see how it relates to large-scale implementation. How did your test group handle labor division when using the software? Who was responsible for what? If you can establish roles, responsibilities, and processes before widespread adoption, it will create a greater sense of ownership among field staff. Team members won’t see themselves as responsible for operating this newfangled technology. They’ll understand their responsibility in relation to the project and the program, like adding photos to the daily report or tracking materials as certifications come in from the field, and ultimately, delivering a successful project. Eventually, their usage with the program will enable them to expand beyond their defined roles once they’re completely comfortable, but segmented responsibilities can be a great start to implementation.
Despite initial resistance, we’ve found that field teams ultimately enjoy using modern digital project delivery solutions once they’ve overcome the learning curve. By using these tips, you can vastly shorten the learning curve for your team (with the added benefit of squashing out gripes and grumbles). Project management will be more efficient, cost-effective, and collaborative in no time.