5 Steps To Help Your Team Actually Use (And Love) New Tools

Tara Storozynsky
May 3, 2024

It’s your best friend’s birthday party. You’re enjoying the festivities, but all you can think about is them opening that perfect gift you bought. When the paper comes off, you’re just brimming with anticipation...then you beam with pride as you hear, “Oh. Thanks!”  

Giving, it turns out, is the greatest gift of all.

However, fast forward a few days. Every time you ask, they just haven’t gotten around to using the gift yet. Why are they resisting? Some silly excuse about not having batteries or time to read the manual? How rude!

You feel defeated—and maybe some déjà vu—since the whole thing reminds you of when you found a totally idyllic software product for your team, and no one even logged in. How rude.

Lack of adoption drives project managers, creative directors, IT wizards, and team leaders absolutely mad. It’s a rampant problem, because it turns out resistance to change is a very real phenomenon in all areas of life, and so is overwhelm in the workplace: that feeling that we’re too busy to take on something new.  Since these psychological conditions afflict all humans, it's no wonder that team leaders struggle to make meaningful progress after introducing new software solutions.  

Lucky for you, we believe tool and process implementation can be dramatically more successful with these five approaches. Jump ahead if you’d like!

  1. Explain The Need (And Hype It Up)
  2. Take Advantage Of Onboarding And Training
  3. Create A Timeline And Incentivize Adoption Behavior  
  4. Crack Down
  5. Listen And Respond To Feedback 

1. Explain The Need (And Hype It Up)

Clearly explain the value of the new solution to your team:

  • Need. Why is the solution needed? What problem is it going to solve? Make sure you speak to the specific pain points of your team’s workflow, not just high-level value propositions. For example, with a tool like Connect, leadership might be most excited about licensing compliance, but the team is more likely to be motivated by saving time and cutting down busywork.
  • Short Term Goals. Explain what you want to accomplish, and when. This could be better collaboration, faster feedback, reduced busywork, or just a more streamlined process. Emphasize short term goals with timelines and detail how individual efforts can help meet them. This helps set the stage for immediate action and can reduce procrastination.
  • Vision / Long Term Goals. Most strong tools provide room to scale over time. By explaining how a solution fits into your vision, you can inspire your team to build towards that brighter future with you. Sharing your vision also shows that you are committed to implementing the solution for the long term and that you trust your team with this information, which inspires folks to get started.  

2. Take Advantage Of Onboarding And Training

Let’s be honest. Teaching yourself a new skill or system is time-consuming. And in creative work environments, time is money. That pressure can make self-instruction almost impossible.

Luckily, these days, a strong solution will provide onboarding support to ensure your team becomes comfortable with the tool quickly.  

For example, here at Extensis, we provide resources and even live training events for teams, so people in any role get comfortable using Connect and receive maximum value from it.

3. Create a Timeline and Incentivize Adoption Behavior

We recommend creating an adoption timeline. Setting realistic expectations is crucial to success, and an adoption timeline provides both structure for benchmarks and flexibility for folks to fulfill their other obligations.  Timeline steps may look like:

  • Migrate from one system to another over the course of a month.
  • Get team members individually onboarded and settled in by one date, followed by another date for team members to start collaborating with the tool.  
  • Establish key utilization milestones with deadlines, such as everyone creating their first project, communicating via the tool, or uploading a certain number of assets by a certain date. Alternately, you might ask that your team all complete light training by a specific date.

Note! Positive reinforcement goes a long way in effective onboarding, but for maximum engagement, we recommend perks for your team. Gamify the process. Give them coffee and pastries for the training sessions, gift cards for folks reaching new levels of product mastery, candy bars for good questions, cartoon stickers for dumb questions, and high fives for everyone all the time. Aim for positive associations with product use.

4. Crack Down  

We think this one really gets the job done and ensures you don’t turn into a doormat.

Would one team member rather submit work for review over Slack? Don’t accept it.  

Part of the team using an outdated spreadsheet? Lock it.  

Designers bringing in their own fonts when that’s prohibited? Write them up.

Tough love is still love, and you can also let your tech stack do the talking for you. It’s easy to control user permissions in most of your team’s applications using admin functions, empowering you to define how processes work day-to-day. Cracking down can be uncomfortable, but it’s the best way to ensure consistency and maximize the value of your chosen tools.

5. Listen And Respond To Feedback

Cracking down is only effective when it’s balanced by care and empathy. Otherwise, things feel, you know, authoritarian.  

Your team is going to have questions, concerns, and even strong objections.  

It’s important to understand where they’re coming from. Updating processes to include a new tool may take more time initially. Folks may simply prefer “the way it was before” or argue that the benefits are too intangible for them to invest their time.  

This is a great opportunity to gain insight into the real challenges of your team’s environment, and to understand the very different drivers and concerns of all players involved. For example:

  • Person A might resist an automation tool because they have a strong sense of ownership in their work.  
  • Person B might simply feel overwhelmed at the prospect of learning a new tool when there are so many other tasks to complete.
  • Person C might resist the same tool because they fear it will lead to job insecurity. 
  • Person D fears it will lead to more work.  
  • Person E feels burnt out and just dreads learning something new.

All of these objections, while seemingly insignificant compared to what the tool can do for your organization, are extremely reflective of how your team experiences the work environment. Each concern deserves an engaged conversation. Consider each contributor’s objections, and also consider how you can improve their sense of wellbeing in the workplace so they are more comfortable with change.

Understanding the team’s experience holistically will inform a better process overall, not just for this one tool. You don’t need to compromise, but you do need to optimize because no process is perfect. Or if they are perfect, it’s only for a few brief moments. Continual reflection and optimization will ensure that things keep moving in the right direction.

In our personal lives, we don’t have much control over how gifts are received. However, in our work, we can ensure the tools we provide have their chance to shine.  

Want to find the perfect present for your team’s process? Check out our ever-evolving roundup of the absolute best collaborative creative tools. You can then have your team get together to praise and/or talk smack about said tools, and let us know what we should add next.

Go, team!