Magazine article Training & Development

Training Technophobes

Magazine article Training & Development

Training Technophobes

Article excerpt

Public speaking and death currently top the list of Americans' greatest fears but computers may soon displace them. Although organizations find computers indispensable, they strike terror in the hearts of many employees.

In teaching wordprocessing, spreadsheets, email, faxing, and document management, trainers who prepare people to use computers must find a way to keep their fear from paralyzing their learning. Trainers face the challenge of creating a curriculum that not only energizes technological learning, but also caters to technophobic employees.

Most of us have experienced technophobia - the nerve-wracking moment when we first touched a computer or the realization that children understand technology more than we do. In the workplace, if those fears are not allayed, they can impede performance.

A technophobic employee is someone who fears technology and avoids it at all cost. He or she feels unqualified to use computers, and may feel displaced by new equipment and machinery. Veteran employees who are experts at their jobs may think that learning a new technology will take them back to a novice state. They may experience anxieties long forgotten. Often, veteran employees resist computer technology most.

Ignoring technophobia can be detrimental to an organization. It may result in lost revenue, high turnover, absenteeism, and decreased productivity. The transformation from technophobic to technocompetent should begin in training. There are techniques that can help overcome technophobia.

Conquering technophobia

There are several ways that trainers can help technophobes become comfortable with new technology. For instance, with company approval and at least one month before training begins, a trainer can begin using change management, an inexpensive and effective way to ease people's fears and generate excitement. The attitudes of employees who doubt their importance and role in the technological change tend to improve as a result of carefully planned change management.

To ensure the successful implementation of new computers, upgraded systems, or other technological changes, consider these suggestions:

Post signs regarding the imminent change. Postings bolster people's anticipation regarding an upcoming change. The wording should reflect a positive attitude and focus on ways that the change will improve unpopular or difficult tasks. Post signs in well-populated areas such as break rooms, cafeterias, and entrances.

Distribute a periodic newsletter. It should outline the changes that employees will see in the future. Contents may include management editorials, articles about ways that the change can empower employees, the training process, and approaches that employees can use to prepare for training.

Stage an event. This lets employees have a sneak preview of upcoming changes. In particular, an open house may help diffuse their uncertainty. It is also an excellent opportunity to set up several computer demonstrations that illustrate the time-saving functions of the new technology. A display lets trainees see and touch the new technology. It also may abate their fear and replace it with anticipation.

An open house is inexpensive and a wise use of time. Because employees can browse the displays on their breaks, they aren't taken away from work. Open houses and displays emphasize management's concern and reassure trainees that they will receive help to ease their transition.

Use humor. This can be a good way to ease employees' tension. For example, during a technological conversion, a company staged a memorial service for the old computer system. Such events can transform a change from threatening to festive.

Create a mascot. Sport teams have mascots to encourage team spirit, unity, and camaraderie. A mascot can do the same thing for your organization. For example, a large midwestern company facing a major equipment change introduced a computer mouse mascot. …

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