4 Trends Driving Digital Adoption in 2021

February 15, 2021 7 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The ramifications of the pandemic have accelerated the rate of digital transformation across companies of all sizes. As the world shifted remote, organizations relying on legacy technology (or substituting technology by being in-person) were forced to rapidly adapt. 

Prior to this transformative moment in time, the process for evaluating and implementing was often very structured, methodical and time-consuming. If you’ve ever glanced at an RFP, you know exactly what I’m talking about. But that all changed as of March 2020. Instead of months, teams had weeks to fill crucial informational and operational gaps. Digital transformation, or the process of reimagining how your organization uses technology to drive performance in the digital age, became a matter of survival.

With all of the benefits that accompany technology, the consequences of rolling out new tools and processes at quantum speed have already begun to surface in the form of employee confusion and fatigue. 

  • 41% of managers have noticed a higher gap in knowledge retention since going remote.

  • 43% of IT teams are battling an increase in support tickets from employees. 

  • 30% of managers recognized an increase in employee questions as a result of confusion from frequent changes. 

Related: Digital Adoption Is the Key to Scaling Business Systems

As a result, the challenge for the rest of this year will not be about cobbling together more technology, but investing in , enablement and the to maximize the adoption of the technology you already have. The following are four trends I’m seeing that will help you do that just.

1. Investing in the employee experience

Humans, at our core, are inherently resistant to change. As companies start to think about the employee experience first, the processes and strategies for driving adoption will be optimized to mirror the way employees want to learn. 

A study on the factors affecting the technological adoption by employees identified three key influencing factors:

  • Perceived usefulness. Overcoming the natural resistance to change by highlighting what they stand to gain. Helping them understand the “why.”

  • Ease of use. Facilitating conditions that make it incredibly easy for employees to learn and retain information about the change.

  • Peer influence. Identifying champions within the organization to support and drive the change. 

Traditionally, you might have introduced a new tool with a lengthy training session or shared a PowerPoint. What happens when you incorporate the above factors into your strategy?

Launching with a short webinar, hosted by internal champions, could get buy-in, explain the “why” and get your team excited. Perceived usefulness and peer influence — check! 

How do you make it incredibly easy for your team to retain that information? A defining insight by McKinsey revealed employees only remember 10% of what they heard after a training session is over. In contrast, they remember 65% of what they learn by doing. 

Retention comes as a result of comprehension, and comprehension comes through repetition within an employee’s workflow. Incorporate methods of reinforcing training on tools and new processes where employees are working to drive ease of use and, ultimately, adoption. 

By focusing on the employee experience this year, companies will identify the combination of solutions and strategies that will help teams embrace changes long-term. 

2. The rise of the digital adoption and enablement hybrid

In 2011, the first digital-adoption platforms came to market featuring step-by-step walkthroughs. These solutions were created under the belief that, if we show someone how to use a tool, they’ll adopt it.

Since then, our understanding of adoption and the way we work has radically evolved, yet many companies are still using these 10-year-old strategies to try and drive adoption. Today, we know that walkthroughs are only a small piece of the puzzle. You can walk someone through how to hit a tennis ball, but without constant repetition, they’ll never be Serena Williams.

Real ongoing adoption occurs when your strategy evolves from helping employees “learn the flow” on day one to “keeping employees in the flow” from that moment on. This is where enablement kicks in. 

If you’re in sales, how can you surface battle cards, playbooks, objection handling tips and more at your fingertips? If you’re in operations, how can we make the policies and procedures you need to do your job effectively instantly accessible, right where you’re working?

This year, companies will look to newer platforms that combine the power of both adoption and enablement solutions to instantly surface crucial knowledge and training, throughout every touchpoint of an employee’s learning journey. 

3. Training accessibility is king 

Gone are the days of burying crucial technology training and documentation within long-form PDFs, PowerPoints and LMS courses. In 2020, we learned just how essential accessibility is in helping employees learn their tools and navigate changes. Without the ability to turn to a coworker for quick answers, employees were left waiting for responses in email, support tickets or dredging through resources for guidance.

While the goal of implementing new technology is elevating productivity and efficiency, in many cases companies witnessed the adverse effect as a result of inaccessible training. A recent study reported since going remote, 71% of employees said they spend an hour a day looking for answers.

Accessibility will be a key factor in driving adoption in 2021, with teams exploring new strategies to make information easier to access, consume and retain from anywhere.  

4. Change enablement gets a front seat

Our ability to embrace change was put to the test over the last year. As we implemented new tools to help us adapt to an ever-shifting landscape, we overcame the initial hurdles of rolling out solutions at record speeds. But, with the rapid rate of technology evolution, these solutions will look significantly different in six to 12 months. 

The tools themselves will evolve over time with new features, functionality and user experiences. And our use of them, from the processes we employ to the customizations we design, will advance. Yet, when planning a digital transformation project, ongoing change training and enablement gets little attention and even less of our budget. 

According to Gartner, companies only allocate an average of 5% of the overall system implementation budget to efforts. That means if you’re spending $500,000 on implementing and licensing a solution like Salesforce, only 5% of that is dedicated to ensuring it’s successful. It’s no wonder an estimated 70% of change initiatives fail

Adoption doesn’t stop at . It’s a continuous process that requires rethinking priorities, planning for the future and incorporating the employee experience every step of the way. 

Related: Why Digital Transformation is More About People Than Technology

Above all else, we’ve learned that digital is here to stay. Recent studies reveal just one in 10 companies expect all employees to return to the office. We cannot count on the return of in-person training sessions and must set ourselves up for success in a future that enables employees to adopt and embrace technology in a way that’s not obstructive, but integrated. 

Focus on the employee-experience, remain agile, and treat every implementation as an ongoing learning journey with your team, setting them to be successful in their roles and, in turn, making you successful in yours. 

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