Disruptive technology is changing the way that businesses operate, creating unfamiliar competition and forcing new business models.
Disruptors like Uber have changed established business models by using technology to track your taxi arrival and pay by mobile phone. Uber has fundamentally shifted the expectations of those of us who travel by taxi.
The benefits of such a fundamental shift is usually the ease, simplicity and certainty of disruptive technology.
SMEs are very adaptable to changes in their market and can react quickly to new technology. However, in order for established SMEs to become digital disruptors themselves (which is not easy), they need to look at how a new technology will bring ease, simplicity and certainty to the market they operate in.
In order for SMEs to harness disruptive technology such as artificial intelligence, they usually enter into a collaboration with tech companies. This can be risky for a business as it is difficult at the outset of any R&D project to establish what technology will disrupt a market.
Help employees embrace change
Introducing disruptive innovation is the ticket to successful growth. However, introducing change is difficult and challenging for any business. To ensure your business maintains its competitive edge, employees should embrace change and the potential it offers.
Often, employees feel stressed and anxious about new technology coming into the workplace because anything that disrupts routine pushes employees outside of their comfort zone. The key to successfully implementing disruptive technologies within your business is to manage the change effectively, which, in turn, will ensure employees are engaged, optimistic and embracing innovation.
Here are a few steps you can take to make change in the workplace less daunting:
Open a dialogue
By opening a dialogue with employees, employers will have a much better chance of implementing change if employees are consulted and involved before they begin using new technology. Share your vision and make the future sound exciting and positive to encourage compliance. When carrying out a transition, it is important to make employees feel part of your agenda by explaining the benefits and importance of the change and by providing real-life examples. Be open and clear about the disruption and provide reassurance to employees who have concerns about their future and their role.
Listen to feedback
Allowing employees to feedback throughout the process will assist in a smooth transition and will help manage any resistance to change. It is important to let employees air their feelings in order to understand their concerns. Constructive feedback during this process will enable you to implement any changes that may not have been originally predicted.
Hire a specialist
Often employees are reluctant to listen to internal management when it comes to change, regardless of how much knowledge or experience this person has. Employees are more likely to accept and embrace change if an external specialist gives them the same information. Experts are perceived to be objective. Although the temptation may be to deal with this internally, it is always worth considering this option.
implement change by starting with a small pilot scheme consisting of the right people. Recognise individual contributions and celebrate small wins to boost employee engagement and confidence. When change creates positive outcomes, employees are more likely to be motivated. Once the change has been successfully implemented in one part of the business, this would be a good time to expand into other departments.
Provide online training
Allow employees to digest topics in bite-size pieces at a time and place that suits them. One size often does not fit all and therefore online training should consist of a general overview, as well as tailor-made training relevant to each department.
Be patient as employees familiarise themselves with technology because change can be stressful and confusing. Allow employees to explore what the technology can do. It may take a while before they get up to speed with new technology and they are likely to make mistakes before getting it right. Although this can be frustrating at times, continue to provide support and encouragement during any teething periods. A little time spent doing this now will save you a lot of time later.
Chris Cook and Vincent Billings are partners at SA Law