As technologists have been telling us for many years, different individuals adopt technology at different speeds (see Figure below).
Source: Diffusion of innovation, Everett Rogers (2003)
This shows the process by which an innovation is taken up over time. Sustainability comes when we reach a critical mass of people adopting the technology. The ‘innovators’ and ‘early adopters’ will adopt the technology early but are unlikely to drive full corporate absorption. It is the early and late majority we need to focus on getting on board.
Thinking about your team, who are likely to be the early adopters, majority and laggards at adapting to a new technology that you will be introducing – whether that is marketing automation, social, mobile or collaboration technology? How can you engage your early and late majority in accelerating adoption of the new tools and ways of working?
We also need to think about what we will do about our laggards – in the past we could often get away with ignoring them – but nowadays some systems may only work if everyone uses it (such as forecasting through CRM) and non-use is not an option.
To tackle this, some companies are identifying a baseline of digital knowledge required for their company and industry and are supporting each employee to get to at least this level. For example, the digital transformation team at L’Oreal have provided their different regions with tools including gamification, incentives and executive communications to get 90% of their global workforce to at least the base level. It seems to be working – with L’Oreal’s e-commerce sales rising by 33% in 2016.
But what about two years from now – today’s base-line will have moved again. So as well as helping people learn to use the new digital tools, we also need to help them learn to be more adaptable.
Organizational psychologists have begun to recognize the importance of adaptive as well as traditional performance, with adaptive performance defined as “responsiveness to changing job requirements”. This includes cognitive/ skills-based adaption, as well as being able to adapt to broader interpersonal and organizational changes. One study with front line employees at a Power Utility in India demonstrated a clear link between employee adaptability, emotional intelligence and increased job performance and satisfaction.
A recent extensive review of the relevant academic studies found what makes people adaptable is a mix of stable individual differences such as their general cognitive ability and how conscientious and emotionally stable they are, and things we can affect such as:
- Perceived manager/leader support
- Communicating our vision for why the change is required
- Exposing people to training and learning that encourages people to explore, make errors and think through how to adapt
- Building up people’s self-belief/efficacy in their ability to adapt and succeed at new challenges
- Fostering a ‘team learning climate’ (see previous blog on psychological safety)
So to help keep your laggards (and the rest of your team) adapt to a new technology or more virtual and digital way of working – pick three of the tips above and try them out today.
To find out more about how to rewire your culture and skills to thrive in a digital world, download our new digital white paper here.
 Rogers, E. (2003) Diffusion of Innovations, Simon & Schuster (5th edition)
 Jundt, D., Shoss, M., & Huang, J. (2015) Individual adaptive performance in organizations: A review. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 36(S1).