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Adopting technology in the restoration industry: top tips to engage

As a restoration contractor, no doubt you are feeling immense pressure to digitize your workflows in the field to meet the ever-increasing data requirements of carriers and TPAs. The old paper-based workflows have become a significant liability. Poorly documented jobs can lead to delayed payments and endless back and forth negotiations with adjusters. While it’s one thing to know you need to transform your in-field workflows to digital, it’s another thing entirely to actually do it. That’s why implementing tech is a team event that requires a coach, team captain, players who want to win, training, and a clearly laid out playbook.

The blue-collar worker is by far the least served by technology, even now. So much of the technology we see is built around administrative workflows that just don’t work for field teams. Most of the restoration industry’s job management platforms fall into this category. Your field teams need a field documentation solution that visually and interactively aligns to the tactile way they work. It is imperative that you choose digital tools that your field teams can actually use and not just pretend to use. Most often, this means a field documentation platform tool for your field teams and that integrates back to your job management platform.

Fighting the failure to engage 😖

Digital transformation requires the buy-in and support of all parties, especially the owner, GM, and senior managers. If your team doesn’t feel the commitment from the top of the organization, there is a good chance your team will fail to fully engage in the effort. Conversely, if there is full buy-in from the top, it will be manifested in senior management’s level of investment and effort to get it right for all parts of the company. There will be a team coach appointed who will lead the effort and own the results. A team captain will work hands-on with the team motivating them to stay engaged while working out the inevitable kinks. You will have a well laid out playbook (documented workflows) that the team will be regularly trained on and managed to ensure compliance. Your goal is to continue to train and manage your teams until these workflows become second nature.

One of the biggest mistakes we see restoration contractors make is simply assuming that they can make their field teams use an administrative piece of technology in the field with enough force. The administrative workflow makes sense for your administrative office staff, but this is completely foreign to your field teams and the way they think and work. This is where most projects fail due to team members refusing to engage out of frustration both in your office and in the field. To avoid this, the management team must live in the field team’s shoes, testing the technology and optimizing workflows.

Even with a coach, team captain, solid playbook, and training in place, you will experience resistance from your team members who just don’t want to change. If you’re coaching a team and a member refuses to come to practice and doesn’t follow the plays, what do you do? If this is a player with significant talent, you’ll probably spend time coaching them into alignment. Likewise, there are several reasons why members of your company may refuse to engage in the digital transformation, many of which can be overcome with the right coaching and encouragement.

Let’s examine the reasons why some team members may choose not to engage with a digital workflow:

  1. They already have a process they have honed over many years that they feel is best in class.
  2. Learning something new, especially technology, can be scary for many people.
  3. Mental laziness is a challenge in every industry, one that often inhibits learning and progress.
  4. Ego gets in the way for many as they don’t want to seem unintelligent if it takes them longer than others to learn the new system.
  5. They don’t understand why this digital transformation is important and don’t see what’s in it for them.

Let’s review each one of these to see how to avoid digital dropouts.

1. Many restoration contractors have highly experienced members of the field teams that they rely on to make critical decisions. They have built up their experience and workflows over many years and can’t be expected to change on a dime. These are team members you will want to engage early in the digital transformation process to help design and document the new digital processes. If these individuals feel they have a voice and their expertise is respected, there is a greater chance they will be key champions during the rollout. Their expertise will also be vital in highlighting issues that could potentially become roadblocks in the field. Engage these individuals early in the process and give them a reason to get behind the project.

2. Learning something new, especially technology, can be scary, particularly if we’re swamped. It’s natural to ask yourself “what if this makes my job harder or doesn’t end up working? Is this just a waste of time?” It is essential to allow the necessary time to properly train your team in order for them to learn the new workflows. If your team feels fully supported, and their concerns are heard, you will find that their resistance to change will be greatly reduced.

3. Mental laziness is an epidemic that costs restoration contractors tremendous amounts of money each year. One of the reasons for implementing your digital workflow is to more effectively manage your team to avoid mistakes caused by mental laziness. While laziness may be hard to overcome in a team member, mental laziness is often caused by complacency due to a lack of effective processes. With the new digital workflow, it is important to ensure each team member understands what’s in it for them and why the team as a whole will benefit from a successful implementation.

4. Resistance to change can sometimes be ego driven. Individuals who feel this way have often produced what they feel are outstanding results and don’t feel the need to change. They often fail to understand the impact that their inefficient workflow has on other team members, especially back in the office. You want to involve these individuals in the problem solving and digital workflow creation process as early as possible. A hero complex can be a good thing when these individuals are asked to help with problem solving. There is a greater chance they will embrace the proposed changes and the result of your solution might be much better off.

5. Getting buy-in from your whole team is essential early on in the process. When employees feel that change is just being dropped on them with little consideration to how it impacts them, they are very likely to sabotage the project. Lay out the reasons for the change and clearly answer the benefits that will emerge. Change is never easy in a business that has to continue full operations during planning, training and implementation, therefore realistic expectations have to be set.

Digital transformation requires a leader 👑

As an owner or GM, your responsibility is to lead your team and ensure success for your business. You guide the business strategy, establish the culture, and inject positive energy into the business. But ask yourself, “am I a leader who embraces change, or do I push change on everyone else but fail to fully embrace it myself?” You are the person who sets the tone for the rest of your organization, and with digital transformation you must lead by example.

Teams can accomplish amazing feats when the actions of their leader inspire them. Very few teams are inspired by leaders who haven’t walked a mile in their shoes and who can’t show true empathy.

For some, there’s a tendency to feel that as a leader, you don’t need to know or follow the new systems and processes as you won’t be working in it day in and day out. While this may be true, your staff’s perception is that this can’t be that critical to your company’s success because the leader is not spending the time to fully understand it. If you walk a mile in your team’s shoes as it relates to the new system and processes, you will no doubt come to learn where your team may feel pain in the early roll-out stages. Being able to empathize and support your team based on knowledge will be truly inspiring to them.

Don’t live in the past 🤖

Business owners like to think that they are operating their business as productively as possible, but too often, that isn’t the case. Failure to manage and refine existing processes can cause process creep. This happens when old means and methods are not adapted for today’s situations. These can erode the productivity of some of your key people and can lead to process complacency.

Each time you upgrade your systems and processes you’re typically looking to improve your business’s efficiency. Many restoration contractors think that their business will magically improve if they put a digital veneer on their existing processes. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work. For a digital transformation to positively impact your company’s efficiency, processes need to be redesigned with digital at the heart, not on the periphery.

When the digital transformation is done right, your team will be engaged, and continuous improvements will become part of the culture. Pain points in the day to day operations get worked out quickly as complacency becomes a thing of the past.

Celebrate the simple wins 🎉

Even with the best technology and well thought out workflows, digital transformation takes a ton of commitment from the whole team. To energize the troops, you need to celebrate the small wins regularly. This will reinforce the value of everyone’s contribution to the successful outcome of the project. It will motivate the team to work through the challenging parts and find solutions to the roadblocks that pop up.

What are some examples of the small wins to celebrate?

  • The first successful use of the new process in production.
  • Weekly acknowledgement for the best example of the process working.
  • Most improved user of the new system and process.
  • Best idea to further improve the system or process.
  • Kudos for being a team player.

Your team needs to be acknowledged for supporting the digital transformation and shown appreciation for taking on the additional effort to learn and implement the new system and processes. What may seem like small achievements, will actually represent significant personal accomplishments for some of your team members, such as becoming more proficient with technology.

Keep’em or let’em go? 🤝

Even with your best efforts, some individuals may inevitably become digital dropouts, digging in their heels, and refusing to engage in the digital transformation. These individuals’ refusal to change or adapt can slow the implementation or worse yet, ultimately undermine the outcome of the project.

How should you respond?

Letting the individual go is easier said than done in a tight labor market. This person may have skills that are critical to your operations and may have been with you for many years. This is probably one of the toughest decisions an owner or GM will face!

As we discussed earlier, it is very important to engage these individuals early in the process in order to give them time to understand the “why” behind the transformation and understand the “what’s in it for me?” Assigning a digital coach can be immensely valuable in bringing along the most hardened resisters.

At the end of the day, there isn’t an industry on this planet that doesn’t need to embrace end-to-end digital workflows in order to remain relevant and profitable. If you don’t do it now, you risk a tougher transition later when competition becomes even more fierce and your company is further behind the industry. Allowing digital dropouts to undermine this transformation is equivalent to allowing them to sabotage the future of your company. Who would allow that to happen? If they’re not willing to be part of the transformation they can’t be part of the future of your organization.

If there are people that you want to retain within the company, that you anticipate will be challenged with the changes, your duty is to provide them with solid leadership and coaching to help them embrace those changes.

Digital transformations aren’t easy for any company, especially for restoration contractors whose staff tend to struggle with the administration-heavy technologies that dominate the restoration industry. This challenge is real, but you can prevail just like hundreds of other restoration contractors who have dramatically improved their operational efficiency. It comes down to leadership, team commitment, not allowing digital dropouts and choosing the right technology and process.

Looking to adopt technology for your company? Learn more about vetting the right technology for your restoration business.

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