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Convincing your employees to adopt new software

Posted on: October 4th, 2017 by Simon Swords

Bespoke software developed and built specifically for your business needs can increase staff productivity, boost sales, save time and money, and help you make smarter business decisions. But getting your employees to use new software is more often than not an uphill struggle. What can you do to get your staff onboard with new software? How can you reward staff who use it? And should you reprimand staff who don’t?

What the experts say

According to the ‘Embracing Digital Technology Study’ from 2013 by MIT Sloan Management Review and Capgemini Consulting, the vast majority of managers believe that “achieving digital transformation is critical” to their companies growth. However, 63% said the pace of technological change in their workplaces was slow, due to a “lack of urgency” and poor communication about the business benefits of the new software. “Employees need to understand why [the new software] is an improvement from what they had before,” says Didier Bonnet, co-author of Leading Digital and Global Practice Leader at Capgemini Consulting, who worked on the research and co-authored the study. “The job of a manager is to help people cross the bridge — to get them comfortable with the technology, to get them using it, and to help them understand how it makes their lives better.”

Managers should expect to face technophobes, people who aren’t naturally tech-savvy, and critics whose instant ‘knee-jerk’ reaction is to be distrustful of new things. “There are always some people who have their [regular] routines, and they just don’t want to change,” says Michael C. Mankins, a partner in Bain & Company’s San Francisco office and the leader of the firm’s practice in the Americas. “That [attitude] persists as long as the company permits it.”

So given the challenges we now understand your new software will face, here are some ideas for encouraging the adoption of new software in your company.

Choose your software wisely

Whether you have bespoke software developed or you purchase off-the-shelf software  — be it Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software or software like Staff Squared our HR software to manage employees — it’s a good idea to bear your team’s interests in mind. Functionality is, of course, critical, but so is user-friendliness through a great user interface (UI). “If your goal is a high adoption rate within the company, make sure you’re choosing the most approachable, most intuitive system possible,” says Mankins. New software that requires multi-day training programs and large user manuals [that are never read by anyone] are a surefire recipe for employee moaning and a stalled adoption. Bonnet suggests running “comparative pilots” of various software to ensure you’re choosing the right one. “Encourage your team to do trials, get feedback from your team, and learn from that before you take the leap,” he says.

State your case

Persuading your team to adopt new software requires putting forth a “compelling vision for what the software is and what it’s going to do,” says Bonnet. First, you must demonstrate the new software offers “economic and rational benefits for the company and the individual,” says Mankins. Perhaps it will help the company quantify its marketing efforts; maybe it will enable your team to track customer data more easily. Help your team understand what’s in it for them, he adds. Will it enable salespeople to meet their quotas faster — which gives them the chance to make more money? Or increase productivity in a way that reduces weekend work? The best argument for new software is “that it will make your life better,” Mankins explains.

Get influencers onboard

You want influencers onboard ahead of the software being introduced, not just in the early stages of the new use. If you can involve influencers from the outset prior to choosing the software they’ll feel they have been considered and will buy into the aims of what the new software is for. In the early stages of the use of new software, focus on getting “a network of evangelists” fully invested in the new software, so they can “train others on how to use the software to their benefit,” says Bonnet. This “group of evangelists” should “replicate the company” and include your star performers. “Don’t just pick the geeks – those who are most interested in software and technology,” says Bonnet. “You want people who are able to work horizontally across the company and who have good teaching, communication and networking skills.” “It’s most important not that early adopters adopt, but that evangelists adopt,” Mankins emphasizes. “Getting evangelists on board early is critical.”

Customise software training

Because “familiarity with digital technology varies widely” among employees, your training efforts should reflect those differences, says Bonnet. Some employees might prefer an online training session; others might need a bit more handholding with classroom training or even 1-on-1 training and support in the form of a personal trainer. “You don’t want to send people who are tech-savvy on a course because that’s a waste of time,” he says. “Instead, ask your team members what kind of training they’re most comfortable with.” During the instruction phase, it’s important that you “lead by example,” he adds. “Show that you are investing time in learning the new software. Show your humility and empathize with your team” about the challenges you’re all facing.

Make it routine

As soon as reasonably possible, try to “institutionalise” the new software and “show employees that you are transitioning from the old way of working to the new one,” says Bonnet. Make the software “part of the routine of the way the place works,” adds Mankins. If, for instance, you’ve recently introduced new sales-tracking software, start asking for weekly updates on the numbers. Of course, employees could still provide the information without using the new software, but it would be more labour intensive and time-consuming. The goal, says Mankins, is to “implicitly raise the cost of not using the new software.”

Highlight wins

Once your employees begin to use the software more and more, draw attention to the positive impact it’s having on your company. “Publicising wins help build a case for change” and encourages further adoption, says Mankins. Emphasize individual gains, too. “Say, ‘Simon uses this software and he’s been able to retire his quota in 10 months rather than a year,’” says Mankins. Depending on the size and scale of the rollout, you might consider enlisting help in getting the word out about the early successes. “Leverage [your company’s] marketing department to communicate and disseminate that message.”

Make it fun

“Rewarding the behaviour you want to see is much more effective than penalising the behaviour you don’t want to see,” says Mankins. You’ll need to know “which employees are adopting the software and what kind of rewards mean the most to them.” Is it financial compensation, company perks, recognition, or the ability to innovate faster? Bonnet suggests experimenting with gamification to “make it fun and create a bit of buzz around the software to motivate and engage people.” Employees might accumulate points, gain financial incentives, or achieve new levels of “status.”

Consider penalties

If you’re still having a hard time getting your staff on board, consider instituting penalties for non-use. “It depends on how damaging it is to the company to have resistors,” says Bonnet. “At a certain point, [lack of adoption] becomes an issue of productivity and ultimately the company’s bottom line will be affected.” Let’s say, for instance, members of your sales team are especially resistant to the new software. Mankins suggests telling them that only data entered into the new system will count toward their quota.” He adds that, although penalties like these can be effective, they should only be used as a last resort. “They’re a blunt instrument,” he explains, “and they reinforce the notion that the new software is a hassle.”

Principles to Remember


  • Win ‘hearts-and-minds’ by emphasising how the new software benefits the company and makes your team’s lives easier.
  • Get your influencers onboard ahead of the implementation of the software, their buy-in is instrumental in spreading the use of the software throughout the team.
  • Encourage adoption by rewarding your team in ways that are most meaningful to them.
    Build the new software into the routines and rhythms of the workday as soon as possible.


  • Pick software that’s more complicated than it needs to be; for a swift adoption, select software that’s approachable, intuitive and easy to use.
  • Overlook the importance of getting your most influential employees on board early in the process; they will help you bring around others.
  • Leap to punish your employees who don’t use the software; penalties should only be a last resort if incentives and rewards aren’t working.

Case Study #1: Staff Squared

Staff Squared is our online HR software for small businesses that we support and train users to use on a daily basis through our dedicated Staff Squared support and training team.  

We usually demonstrate the use of Staff Squared over the phone to the company directors or HR managers, where our team talks them through the setup and use of the system and explains how using our software will improve both theirs and their staffs working lives, by making the HR admin of employee data easier, less time-consuming and available all in a single, comprehensive system.

We also provide a brief staff user guide, that the company directors or HR managers can provide to staff when the new software is introduced and we are always only a phone call or email away for help and advice on using the software for any of our users of Staff Squared.

Case Study #2: Fundipedia

Fundipedia is our mutual fund data management software used by fund management companies such as Investec Asset Management. As Fundipedia is completely customisable to the bank or financial institute using it, our system for getting users to adopt the software is different than that of Staff Squared.

We start by demonstrating the system either at our offices in London or Essex to the head of the department that controls mutual fund data information. Traditionally mutual fund data has been stored in spreadsheets like Microsoft Excel across many users and departments, making ‘one-source-of-truth’ for the mutual fund data impossible, until now.

Once we have demonstrated the software to new users and explained how powerful it is, by being completely customisable to their user’s needs and the company workflow of fund data information, user adoption is guaranteed.

We also find that once the software is introduced into a single department within a bank or financial institute and because it is so customisable, intuitive, easy to use and works so well, it quickly and organically spreads within the bank or financial institute to other departments who add their data to the system, as they recognise the power and ability of the software to be their ‘one-source-of-truth’ for mutual fund data within the company, instead of having multiple Microsoft Excel spreadsheets spread across multiple departments all containing different versions of the truth of the mutual fund data.

Simon Swords


Managing Director

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