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Why storytelling helps employees to adopt technology

By 2nd October 2018August 10th, 2023No Comments

Once upon a time… 

…Back in the late 1990’s you’d board a plane for a week away with work, with a looming feeling that you were closing off all contact with your family and friends…and your personal life. If you were lucky, you might get to make a rushed call from your hotel room landline, and in return you’d get a huge ‘phone bill – oh, and a ton of work to come back to in the office. And, you’d feel a little begrudged.  

Fast forward to the mid-2000’s on a work trip and technology had liberated you; it had quickly become your No 1 luxury item! Without the restriction of network cables or ‘dongles’ you could mail your family and friends from wherever, catch up with work on the go and easily make an international call on your mobile. Even if you were away, you felt included and connected to your life again.  

Why are we telling this story? Because by adopting new technology it changed our lives for the better. Why did we engage with it and go through the pain of learning a new way of working? Because we emotionally connected with the personal benefits to us; like being able to stay in touch with the people we love and care about, and keeping on top of our workload so we didn’t have to work extra hours and miss out on fun time.  

The most effective way to get employees to adopt new technology and love it is through storytelling. Why? Since the beginning of time we have been educated through stories as it connects us to our humanity, helps us to identify with our culture, and provides a reference point so our brains can process information.  

So, how do you tell a story to convince your employees to adopt a new technology?  

  1. Rationally engage your employees using facts and statistics to stimulate their mind. Think, ‘…with this technology you’ll be able to do your job quicker, giving you back an hour of your day’. 
  2. Emotionally engage by tugging at their heart. Give them hope and a motive for change. For example, ‘…that hour you get back in your day will free you to take an exercise class at lunchtime, so you’ll feel healthier and have a better work balance’.  
  3. Recognise while you’re saying this they’ll be arguing in their heads whether your promise will come to fruition. Right now, they don’t trust how you’re going to reach this utopian world. So, access their fears, frame the pain points, talk about how you’ll solve them and show them the ‘dark side’. Be honest and share your life stories to gain their compassion. For instance, ‘…it’s not going to be an easy journey and there will be upheaval, but if we don’t do this now the organisation will buckle – especially as we’re growing. If we stick with the current systems it will make our working day even longer. I’ve had burnout in the past from overly long-working hours, not looking after myself or exercising regularly; I don’t want this to happen to you. Also, I desperately want that hour back so I can get home in time for my children’s bed time and say good night. This is how we’re going to do it…’  
  4. Understand the profiles of your audience – what’s their context and need? Then develop personas for each profile, so when you tell their story to them it creates a link between the goal and their emotional framework. Using the example in our introduction: active work traveller feels like they’re missing out on life, but technology helped them to get in touch with the people they love, do their job…and have time for leisure. 
  5. Remember, every story needs a hero. Which employees are behind the technology change, are credible and influential with their peers, seniors and juniors? Make heroes of these employees by getting them to tell their stories – of how they’ve used the technology once it’s implemented, how they’ve helped the organisation, and most importantly, how it’s helped them. What have they done with their hour of extra time? And, remember to blast their stories through your communications channels. Your heroes will tell their story to their network and through a viral effect of positive story-telling, your heroes will win the resistors over to ‘save the day’… 

There’s a reason why our childhood stories always began with ‘once upon a time…’ It told us it was time to stop, sit and listen so we could learn about something new. And, as children we knew that we were about to be told something that was engaging and memorable. The Inform Team’s ‘once upon a time…’ story about technology adoption is called Excite!

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