In this blog we’ve talked about the necessity of getting your employees and other team members on board with new technologies.
But what do you actually say to them?
In this post we’ll cover how to talk about technology with your team. Even those who don’t understand technology.
What Is This Technology We’re Talking About?
“Technology” can mean many things. Usually the word evokes devices or other hardware, but It can mean hardware, software, and services as well as gadgets.
But regardless of the specific technology, any discussion of it will be too technical for some people. Other people don’t want to know anything about the technology they’re using, as long as it does what they need. Still other people love apps and gadgets and like learning how they work.
IT people are trained and work with tech every day, notes the Forbes Technology Council. But this “can cause issues. As they handle the tech needs daily, they may not remember that coworkers and peers may not always have the same level of comfort or understanding about the issues—especially in departments far removed from the tech realm.”
Nonetheless, clear communication and understanding are key to onboarding new technologies in your organization.
“Obviously, not every employee needs to know everything about the company technology, but there should be a common ground over which tech team employees and other teams can communicate clearly, in order to prevent miscommunication and promote inter-team solutions.”
Fortunately, there are simple principles and techniques any manager can use to talk about technology with their people.
How to Talk about Technology with Non-Techies
Let’s take a look at those:
1. Disarm their fears.
People used to be afraid of technology because they didn’t understand it. Now they’re afraid because they know too much.
Sometimes they fear that new apps or workflows may make their jobs harder, not easier.
Start by understanding your team members’ fears, concerns, and needs. Think about what they need to hear — not just what you want to say — to feel reassured.
2. Use basic terms.
Technical terms have their use, but don’t start with them. There’s usually simpler words you can use to explain technical concepts. Don’t assume everyone understands tech-speak.
3. Talk about outcomes and results, not capabilities.
This is a variation on the old sales adage to “sell benefits, not features.” Explain what a new technology can do for you, not just what it can do.
“Non-technical departments are often more concerned with business results and less concerned about the tech required to achieve them,” writes the Forbes Technology Council. One member suggests focusing “primarily on business problems, only diving into technical implementation details when asked.”
4. Provide information in small pieces.
Break things down. It’s as simple as that.
Technology is a lot to absorb, and any piece of technology — app, device, platform — is probably loaded with features, menus, and all kinds of things that the average person just can’t take in all at once.
So take it in pieces. Explain processes one step at a time.
5. Use familiar analogies.
Technology is pervasive in our lives. And yet, much of it remains unfamiliar to most people.
You can make it more familiar by comparing it to things your audience already knows.
To pick an easy example, Evernote and OneNote are both sophisticated, feature-rich note-taking applications with lots of views, tags, sharing and collaboration tools, and much more.
Whoa! That was already too much information. How about this? Each one is a bookshelf where you keep your notebooks side by side, and each notebook has many pages. And you can share each page or notebook with a co-worker so they can write in it too.
6. Use demos and visuals.
A picture’s worth a thousand words, and a demonstration is probably worth more.
Part of effective communication is realizing that people learn and process information differently. Some like to read; some have no patience for reading, but need pictures or videos for something to make sense.
In any case, presenting information in a variety of ways makes it more likely to be remembered by everyone.
7. Be personal.
Team meetings and such are fine, but sitting down for a friendly, informal, one-to-one talk can be just as effective, if not more.
Mainly, informal conversations remove much of the stress and strain of talking about technology by making it more personal. You have a chance to listen and empathize, and make communication a two-way street.
8. Build cultural awareness of technology.
When your workplace technology is part of your daily conversations, it’s far less scary to introduce change. People are already familiar with it and comfortable talking about it.
“Everyone across the business must understand that successful IT-led change is about more than simply buying the right kit,” writes ZDNet. “Instead, transformation requires a cultural change and an awareness of how technology can be used to help the business meets its objectives quicker.”
9. Be very clear.
Clarity is critical. Technology is complex and opaque enough as it is without you being obscure or, worse, sounding evasive.
This applies to more than just the hardware and software. It’s important to be clear about expectations, people’s roles and responsibilities, and organizational successes.
And equally important, to be transparent about challenges (delays, problems, etc), so it doesn’t sound like you’re fudging the story or hiding something. That will only wreck the sense of trust and confidence you’re trying to build.
10. Be patient.
Just as people learn in different ways, they learn at different speeds too. Don’t be condescending if someone doesn’t understand right away.
Patience is a virtue times 10 when it comes to talking about technology with non-techies.
How to Write About Technology
Sometimes you may need to write, not talk, about technology.
The first thing to note is that everything above still applies when you’re writing.
The second thing, the flip side, is that tech writing tips can be useful in verbal communications.
You still want to break down concepts, explain big words, take it step by step, and use illustration. And keep your reader’s needs top of mind. Unless you’re writing a technical paper, benefits are still more important than features to most readers.
But also, just as you’d use titles and subheadings in a blog post, break your talk into logical sections. Start by stating the topic clearly (title) and providing an overview of what’s coming, like a good first paragraph.
And remember, unlike when you’re speaking, it’s hard to convey your tone of voice in writing. Not impossible; you just need to be aware of it.
Make Technology Personal
“Better communication will make all of you – and your entire enterprise – much more flexible and adaptable in the face of ongoing technological change and disruption,” counsels DEG Digital.
Technology advisor Nadjia Yousif has put forth the radical idea of viewing your technology as an actual co-worker, a literal colleague.
From there, consider presenting technology as though you were introducing a new team member that others will be working with. Look at technology training as a team building exercise. Take time to get to know your new cubicle mate.
Remember, technology may be about machines and code, but talking about it takes place person to person.
At PC Professional, we love to talk about technology. You don’t need to know how it all works, just how it can work for you. Drop us a line to find out.