The trucks are huge—big as houses , with tires larger than a family sedan. They are operated by one of the world’s largest mining companies, and they could easily crush the crewmembers who slip underneath them to access the bearing mechanism that helps keep the machines functional. It’s dangerous work, set in the searing heat of the Australian outback, and the company recently implemented a hardware and software system that now allows workers to diagnose mechanical issues from a remote panel instead. An executive from the company ventured into the field to gather the employees’ reactions to their new digital team member.
She probed the miners for feedback on the system. Were they happy that its remote capabilities kept them safer and improved productivity?
Sure—but that’s not the only reason they liked it.
One miner gave it to her straight: “It lets me stay in the car and enjoy the air conditioning.”
A guy in his car, blasting the AC and listening to the radio, may not sound like a technology adoption success story, but it absolutely can be, says Kate Nowak, a behavioral scientist at Microsoft: “Technology must be rewarding to be adopted,” she says. “It best serves multiple human needs—it helps you get the job done and is enjoyable to use.”
Digital tools are key to attracting and keeping the most talented people and helping them do their best work. So when it comes to both frontline workers in the field and remote and hybrid workers toggling between the home office and the office office, how do you get them to adopt a technology—technology that will ultimately delight them—in the first place?
“Hybrid working is making it even more important for people to be comfortable with using technologies—in particular collaboration technologies.”
One approach to technology adoption is to treat it more like onboarding and integrating a new colleague, says Boston Consulting Group partner Nadjia Yousif . She first introduced this concept in her 2018 TED talk, and her thesis is even more relevant today, as frontline workers increasingly use software tools and handheld devices to do their work and as hybrid and remote workers integrate technology into every aspect of their lives.
“The ultimate goal shouldn’t be to let technology do all the work,” Yousif told WorkLab, “but rather to have it maximize our potential as humans.”
Here are her steps for getting it done:
First, she says, envision a “bionic” organizational chart. Which teams are using which technologies—and for what? This will not only allow you to understand how specific employees work but, moreover, sketch out a top-down understanding of how different facets of the company interact with one another and the potential inefficiencies therein. Is one team working remotely and now disconnected from another in a profound way? Is one team overloaded with a certain task that could be shifted to another team if they had the right technology at their disposal? This org chart will show where, and how, new technology can be implemented for maximum effect. And if the majority of your employees are operating in a flexible capacity, it’s all the more important to understand how they work, especially with one another.
“Hybrid working is making it even more important for people to be comfortable with using technologies—in particular collaboration technologies,” Yousif says, adding that it’s especially important for business leaders to take advantage of shared document repositories, communication platforms, and task management and brainstorm platforms. In the age of flexible work, Yousif says, these are some of the most important digital colleagues a business can onboard.
Next, “Find out who your ‘Lighthouse Team’ is going to be,” says Yousif, who explains that it’s crucial to create a core network of employees who will be the first to adopt the technology and act as a springboard for the rest of the company. This should be a team that can benefit from the technology in the short term (say, a team that has long worked remotely and could act as a case study for other hybrid or flexible teams), and whose increased productivity can have a ripple effect throughout the entire organization. They’re the test pilots, sure, but they’ll be the employees who get most excited about the potential benefits.
And provide proper training: it should be as fun and easy as possible. According to the recent Work Trend Index special report on frontline workers , more than half of these workers say they don’t get proper training when they are given a new digital tool to use. Educational instruction is also critical for information workers whose duties may rely more heavily on technology but who may not be familiar with everything a new tool has to offer. The Lighthouse Team has to understand not only the value of the new technology but how to use it effectively.
We have to be willing to adjust how we work in order to embrace technologies that make our work lives easier and more productive.
From there, create a feedback loop: let the team use it, give their thoughts on what they like and dislike about it, and then adjust the technology accordingly. “So now you have a proof point,” Yousif says. “It’s not theory, it’s not in some sales deck—it’s what actually happened in your organization.” This step is key for organization-wide adoption: personal incentives will be brought up, tweaks can be made to increase the likelihood of adoption, and your Lighthouse Team will feel a sense of agency over how this new technology will be implemented throughout the rest of the organization.
Finally, scale it throughout the business. Remember, you already have a Lighthouse Team that can act as a champion for company-wide adoption and explain to other teams how to use the technology, promote its benefits, and explain why they like it.
From unlocking collaboration-first work with tools like Microsoft Teams , to reimagining the employee experience—and bringing learning and training into the flow of work—with a platform like Viva , to automating business processes with Power Platform , enabling new work patterns has never been more critical. Indeed, as Microsoft’s Kate Nowak points out, so much of this transition to machine-human collaboration is behavioral—we have to be willing to adjust how we work (especially as many roles become more flexible) in order to embrace technologies that make our work lives easier and more productive. The fact is, change is hard. “And what's really, really important in the process of changing is to emphasize the benefits of new tools,” Nowak says, “and to make it as easy as possible for employees to understand and realize them.”
If Yousif’s approach were a bumper sticker, it might read: “Follow the 10/20/70 Rule.” Which is to say, 10 percent of the value derived from new technology can be credited to its algorithm, 20 percent because the technology itself is really solid, “but 70 percent is about how you’ve changed the business process, or how you’ve changed the hearts and minds of the users,” Yousif says. “And that 70 percent is so under-invested in.”
And this is all the more apparent in the age of hybrid work, so that should be the end goal when it comes to implementing new technology—to form an emotional connection between employees and their digital colleagues and create a bridge of trust that will ensure longevity and progress. No one is going to decorate their desk with a framed photo of a collaboration app any time soon, but when they’re properly introduced to the team, these digital tools will enhance everyone’s work experience all the same.