Closing the Technological Gap: Taking the Fear Out of Updating Your Association’s Technology
Not everyone feels the same about technology, so associations shouldn’t expect every member to welcome technological changes with open arms. Each generation and each individual relies on technology in considerably different ways. While some use it in nearly every aspect of their lives and can adopt new innovations easily, others use it more sparingly and may find it challenging to learn new technologies.
For those members who interact with technology infrequently, innovative changes can be met with resistance, which can be the result of discomfort, insecurity, and fear. That doesn’t mean that these members will never adopt new technology, it just that technology changes need to be implemented carefully and with intention. The following information highlights just some of the steps that associations can take to ensure every member, irrespective of their level of technological comfort, is prepared for a technology update.
Understand the Fear of Change
To properly address member’s feelings toward change, associations must first understand them. Psychologically, the fear of change is connected to the fear of the unknown. In regards to adopting a new technology, this fear comes from the uncertainty of success while using it. Older members or those more unfamiliar with technology are likely comfortable completing tasks in more traditional ways.
To help overcome these fears, associations can provide some clarity to members. This might include clearly explaining what the technology is, how it works, and how it benefits each member. Ensure that hesitant members feel assured and confident that their concerns are heard and supported. Keep the communication lines open and the messages clear to help ease the transition along as best as possible.
Show Them the Value
When presenting the prospect of change to an unsure party, a powerful way to get buy-in is to demonstrate the value the change will bring. Rather than provide a list of features offered by the new technology, show users how this change will result in time or cost savings. Show them how tasks will be made simpler and easier to manage.
How value is communicated is also important. Focus on the intuitiveness of the technology. Keep the messages themselves simple, using analogies and relatable examples. Avoid any jargon or tech-speak to ensure all members get the message. This should not be limiting either. Instead, it should help keep the communications clear and concise, as well as understandable for a diverse member demographic.
Know Your Audience
In order to present ideal communications and create an effective technology roll-out plan, associations need to know their members and what they need and want from their membership. When addressing the value new technology can bring, for example, consider what value means to the different demographics. Highlight various elements of the technology that might speak to the different subsets.
It might even be beneficial to create different value presentations and communications. Separate members into different groups and use targeted mailing or advertising campaigns, like Mailchimp or Facebook, to send personalized communications to them. Each group will see only the information, features, and the value that speaks directly to them. For the roll-out itself, offer different options for different members. Make training optional or provide different training courses so as to not alienate more tech-savvy members.
Provide an Orientation
Since members are on different levels when it comes to technology familiarity and comfort, what appears simple for one user might be quite complex for another. For that reason, no matter how basic or easy to use a newly introduced technology might seem, it’s important to provide usage instructions and support. This ensures that no member gets stuck or locked out of a technology based on their experience level.
Associations can post a recorded visual demonstration highlighting the primary controls of the technology. A written or visual walkthrough can be linked for additional support. Users should also get access to a glossary to help them identify any terms they may be unfamiliar with. Any training or support documents should be written clearly and headlines and sections should be plainly marked. For the more complex technology additions, associations may look at offering training courses. This can be a useful way to ensure users know enough to use the technology successfully.
Take Baby Steps
While some users can handle a full roll-out without any problem, others need a slower and more deliberate introduction. If any resistance is in place, a new technology can prove overwhelming for some users. Associations should take time with these roll-outs. Give users a chance to learn different elements of the technology, taking in small pieces at a time, before giving them the entire system. Offer small trial runs of a basic version of the technology to give users a running start.
Providing a slow roll-out can be done through communications or through training. With a paced-out introduction to technology, users can build some familiarity and comfort in one aspect before moving on. Problems can be addressed in sections and solved before they become too large and discouraging. This approach also demonstrates to users that the association is considerate of their feelings, taking the time to assist all members make the most of the new technology.
Ask for Input
The final step, and arguably the most important, for closing the technological gap is to ask members and potential users of the technology for their input. After introducing or proposing the technology, reach out to members for feedback. Ask them to voice their questions and concerns about the roll-out. What is missing? What looks most challenging? After they participate in training or demonstrations or they use the technology for a short period of time, ask members where they struggled or where the technology missed the mark.
Associations will still want to try and preempt these concerns in communications and training materials, but this input can highlight things that were not considered. It will also prove to members that their feelings are considered and valued, especially when the association follows through and addresses this feedback.