“We don’t need new software.”
This is a common refrain from trade contractors’ teams.
It’s understandable, too. In the last decade-plus, trade construction professionals have had to deal with software adoption and the introduction to different kinds of digital tools — time-tracking apps, apps for clocking in and out of work, whatever project management tools the GC on a given project uses.
Tradespeople aren’t in the habit of finding new ways to complete familiar tasks. These are people who learned that there is exactly one correct way to weld a certain joint, fit a certain pipe or frame a certain roof. To come to them and say, “OK, we are going to use a new system for managing projects,” seems entirely at odds with how productive work should get done.
But that’s where the realities of doing business meet the realities of skilled work.
When your subcontracting business needs to change a key process or go through software adoption, here’s how you can get your teams onboard with the change.
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Employees in Every Industry Resist New Software Adoption
There are predictable reasons that employees push back against change and software adoption. Tim Creasey, chief innovation officer at the change management training company Prosci, identifies the five most common objections from team members:
- They don’t understand why change is happening.
- They are worried that their jobs will change.
- People naturally have some fear of the unknown.
- They might not fully support or trust the company’s leaders.
- They feel excluded from decision-making.
Interestingly, Prosci’s research finds that the people who are most resistant to change are mid-level managers and frontline staff. Company executives and senior managers are the people most open to change.
That’s a big reason why trust is necessary for change to take root. If field teams and project managers don’t trust the company’s leaders, they’ll feel as if the change is being dropped from the sky onto them.
3 Tips for Software Adoption in the Construction Trades
Prosci’s tips are especially important here because what we are talking about is change management — the systematic approaches businesses use to transform a process, a team or a tool while keeping everyone in alignment and mitigating risks along the way.
Introducing new software to your team is a great example of a change that requires careful management.
Within the context of the common objections listed above, here are three things construction trade contracting businesses can do to get their teams to embrace new software.
Explain Why the Change Is Necessary
If people resist change because they don’t see the point, then an important first step is to show them why change is needed.
June R. Jewell at AEC Business Solutions points out that you need to tailor this message to the interests of your team members. They aren’t especially interested in knowing whether a change will boost productivity by X percent or profits by Y dollars.
They want to know what’s in it for them, Jewell writes. Tell them how a change can lead to higher pay or bonuses, for example. If that’s not applicable, show them how the change can create opportunities for career growth or open up new leadership roles.
Or, just show them how the software can turn a cumbersome task into an easy, 30-minute task.
Remember that resistance to change is often the result of mistrust in management. If you feel your team won’t give your initiative 100 percent support, then transparency becomes the best policy for moving forward.
Jelena Simonovic at team chat app Pumble writes that transparency in this context typically has three qualities:
- It means disclosing all information possible, so long as that information isn’t sensitive.
- It means inviting others to participate in the decision-making process.
- It means holding yourself accountable for what you say and do.
Imagine your business struggles to turn around change orders quickly because it takes three days to dig up project documentation and create new work estimates. It’s OK to tell your team exactly this, and say that’s why you want to roll out new construction project document software.
Follow that up with an invitation to provide feedback on what other people need from that software. You can then demonstrate accountability by collecting that feedback and talking through each point in a meeting with your team.
Loop Your Field Team and Managers Into the Decision-Making
Top-down change can be especially jarring for teams that are accustomed to collaborating on work.
Houman Payami, office quality manager and project manager at Fluor Corporation, uses the example of design-review sessions, in which ideas get discussed and modified several times before work commences. There’s a cycle to planning and executing work in construction. Breaking that cycle by pushing for change unilaterally can foster resentment.
The solution is to simply do what you normally do: Bring in team members to discuss, evaluate and modify plans. “Frequent alignment sessions and educational campaigns can help project leadership establish a sustainable solution for managing changes,” Payami writes.
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