Get Your HVACR Field Technicians On Board with New Technology

Often times, managers want to immediately start implementing the new technology, but a phased rollout may be the best approach. It doesn't have to be a long, drawn-out pilot process, but there are benefits to letting a few team members – or even just your champion – begin using the technology before introducing it to the rest of the team.

One of the most frequent concerns heard from service companies is that it's increasingly difficult for their team to adapt to new or changing technology, such as software and smart mobile devices. Benefits that may be obvious to managers may not always be crystal clear to the end-users, but there are steps organizations can take for ensuring the office and field teams have an easier time dealing with the changes any new technology will bring.

Learn it Yourself
Spend the time to get under the hood of the new capability and understand it. Even try to “break” the new device or solution to better learn the ins and outs. It's hard to sell change when a leader appears to be immune to it. Not every manager has to become an expert, but it’s important that each try to at least become a power user in order to answer any questions that arise. If managers seem uneducated on the proposed technology, it is probable the field team will not fully recognize or appreciate the benefits it offers, and the investment won’t be realized.

Show What's In It For Them
New technology is typically introduced to solve a problem. It is important to make sure the entire team understands both the problem and how this new technology will work to solve it. As with any persuasion, it helps to focus on what's in it for them and how it will help them succeed on the job. By pointing out how they will become more efficient and improve their workflow, they will have more of a reason to adopt the new solution.

Consider having a knowledgeable “super-user” co-facilitate training
sessions to demonstrate buy-in and provide real world examples.

Find a Champion
Two or three voices are better than one. Recruit a few team members that have the respect of the team and are capable of picking up the new technology quickly. These "champions" will help in a variety of ways:

  • Help spread the benefits of the technology solution
  • Answer “how to” questions
  • Act as "beta testers"
  • Report any issues or complaints with the technology
  • Ensure proper usage by team members

Roll It Out In Small Doses
Often times, managers want to immediately start implementing the new technology, but a phased rollout may be the best approach. It doesn't have to be a long, drawn-out pilot process, but there are benefits to letting a few team members – or even just your champion – begin using the technology before introducing it to the rest of the team. Doing so:

  • Provides an opportunity to identify, address and resolve any issues that the rest of the team may run into before moving on with broken processes
  • Helps shape the training program by understanding what aspects need more focus and which will likely go smoothly
  • Builds excitement and anticipation around the initiative as well as organizational buy-in
  • Gives companies and their vendor partners a chance to make customizations based on feedback.

Hold Training, AND Training Refreshers
A solid formal training process is critical to the success of any new process. This could be a one hour session or a three-day workshop, depending on the complexity of the system, but having a formal training process in place is essential for new and existing team members. Consider having a knowledgeable “super-user” co-facilitate training sessions to demonstrate buy-in and provide real world examples. Follow-up training or "refresher” courses are just as important as the initial training, because even a good training program loses steam after a while. Initiating conversations with users to share what they’ve been seeing will spark interest and discussion.

  • Are people neglecting to use certain features?
  • Are other features used improperly?
  • Are people resisting adoption?

Training refreshers also give managers an opportunity to receive feedback on the changes. Starting refresher sessions with open-ended, positive questions such as, "How is the new software helping you in your daily work?" will encourage actionable feedback.

Employees may start off using the new technology well, but may become ineffectual over time. And some may never have fully understood in the first place. It will be crucial for managers to support the adopters and play hardball with resisters. Obviously, the preference is to let team members come to their own conclusions about the importance of adoption, but there will always be some who need a push.

Leverage Vendor Support
Technology vendors will likely provide onboarding and training support so it will be beneficial to take advantage of all they have to offer. If the vendor offers to perform online or in-person training and offers online support, the whole team will need to know how to access the information. Vendors want their customers to succeed, so choosing the right vendor who will view the relationship as a true partnership will also help keep them accountable. 

Make It Fun
Keep the momentum going. Advertise “WINS” early, often and imaginatively, including what the win means to the users. Contests can also be surprisingly effective at instilling technology adoption and encouraging participation.

For example, a commercial construction company developed an incentive program where for the first week of using the new technology they gave out coffee gift cards to field team members whenever they completed all their jobs without turning in paperwork for the day. On Monday the company gave out one coffee card. On Tuesday and Wednesday they gave out three gift cards and on Thursday, six. By Friday the company was giving gift cards to all 10 technicians.

Innovative uses for the new technology should also be recognized and rewarded appropriately. Offering a gift card for the first person to successfully accomplish an element of the new process can boost company participation. For instance, the first team member to upsell a product from the new system, or complete 10 error-free work orders could win a prize. This can easily lead to the development of acceptable minimum standards for all that have been vetted by experience.

Mike Raia is senior director of digital strategy and eMarketing for FieldAware.

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