Technology evolves so fast it isn’t always easy to keep up. It seems like new tools are constantly surfacing to help self-storage operators save time and money while boosting productivity. The trick to making them work for your operation lies in successfully introducing them to staff. Proper implementation will rely upon their acceptance and use.
Not everyone will be at the same comfort level with technology or adopt it at the same speed. We can all relate to this. For example, when texting became popular, my father was a “finger-pointer texter.” In every text, he wrote, “Hi, Jim, it’s your dad” at the beginning and signed it “Love, Dad.” It was endearing and funny. He’s much better and faster at texting now, but it took him a while to become familiar with the technology.
There’s a curve with anything we learn. Some of us need to read a manual or see how-to pictures while others would rather fumble through it and figure it out on our own. Similarly, each of us has our own way of absorbing technology. When investing in tools for your self-storage business, the goal should be to ensure a smooth transition from the old way to the new for all team members. Consider the following five steps to help employees embrace technology, no matter their age or learning style.
Who from your team will be affected by this change? Those people need to be informed from the start. They not only need to know it’s coming, they need to know why, how it will affect them and what your expectations will be. Few people do well with change when they’re blindsided, so try not to keep your team in the dark.
Highlight the Benefits
The process of learning something new can be daunting. To ensure buy-in from your team, help them understand the decision to implement new technology. Identify the limitations of the current process and get them talking from the beginning. Help them see how technology could solve those problems and assist them in their day-to-day tasks.
Fear is normal in the face of change; however, we can’t let it prevent us from making good decisions that benefit the company. Technology will make employees’ jobs easier and allow them to be more productive. Staff may need help seeing past the short-term pain—the learning curve, new platform or system, etc.—to the long-term vision.
Find a Tech Champion
There are always people in a business who readily accept new technology. These are your “champions.” They can help convince other colleagues, especially reluctant ones. Get these power users engaged from the beginning. They’ll have ideas on how to promote new technology to the rest of your team. Make them available to respond to questions and concerns as well as to help those who need it.
Some employees may need to see another staff member use the technology before jumping on board. It’s understandable that they’d like to see someone else have success in the platform before using it themselves. Your champion needs to ensure everyone works together and no one is left behind. Once an employee feels he’s behind the group, it’ll take longer for him to adapt. Finding your champion is vital to ensuring your team moves forward together.
If your team doesn’t have a tech champion and you don’t feel comfortable being one yourself, there are people in the self-storage industry who can help. These include your vendors, state associations, consultants and other resources. You can even reach out to other operators and ask for advice.
Ask for Feedback
Get true, honest and constructive feedback from your team. Listen to their ideas, concerns, frustrations and suggestions. Make them feel their voices are heard. Many technology solutions can be modified to suit your business needs. The more your team can express how they feel about the new technology, the readier they’ll be to explore and try it.
Provide Ongoing Training
The simplest reason employees fail to embrace new technology is lack of training. When choosing a platform, consider what training tools are available from the vendor. What services are free? How will your team access them? Will there be in-person or online training available? Make sure the vendor will continue to assist you during the transition as well as beyond the initial implementation.
Everyone needs help when learning something new. Having learning tools at their disposal enables staff to become more comfortable with new technology and grow at their own pace. The key to successful implementation is to create a supportive environment with plenty of communication to ensure everyone feels included and empowered. Everyone must be on board and using the platform for the new tool to work effectively. Patience is probably the most important element, but you also need persistence and support to help staff commit to improving their environment.
Jim Ferguson is a consultant with Ferguson Storage Consulting. He has nearly 10 years of industry experience, with expertise in marketing, sales, technology, project management and enhancing the vendor/customer partnership. He launched the exclusive think tanks Best Practice Group and Marketing Best Practice Group, which include top operators in the industry. For more information, call 910.617.3602; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.