Before COVID-19 upended the workplace and redefined how people work, transformational change was measured and tested to ensure employee buy-in. But when COVID-19 suddenly closed office doors and sent employees home, change was fast-tracked, bypassing many of the stages along the adoption curve. Law firms still needed to serve their clients, so there was greater acceptance—and patience—for new legal technology adoption.
Listen to the first of three webinars in the series ‘The key to technology adoption is in your firm’s culture’ on demand to learn more.
While the cultural implications of this new landscape remains to be seen, the experience revealed an important lesson for a radically changed working environment: successful adoption of new technology requires a clear understanding of the workplace culture and the needs of those who will use and benefit from new tools. Panellists in the first webinar of the HighQ Smart Law series discuss why firms need more cognitive diversity in the decision-making process in order to influence culture and prepare for the future of work.
Culture change in context
Culture is the way things get done in an organisation—the norms, conventions, and accepted codes of behaviour. Because many firms have interlocking and overlapping subcultures, introducing a new technology in the legal workplace can be a complicated, even frustrating, process.
Why the reluctance? One reason is that people question the interest and value of sharing their work. Second, there is a fear of opening themselves up to criticism. And finally, they may view the transition process as too overwhelming and time-consuming. Firms have to be mindful when making new investments, ironing out all the glitches to reassure their employees.
“You just have to make life easy for people. And when you make life easy, then that’s when change can happen”, said Ian Rodwell, Head of Client Knowledge and Learning at Linklaters, in this first webinar in the HighQ Smart Law series.
Having the right culture in place will help people move along the adoption curve as quickly and smoothly as possible. It also ensures people’s vulnerabilities are not overly exposed, which can have unintended consequences like disrupting the transition for others or causing departures.
Success rooted in necessity and urgency
In the past, many of the problems that firms had with new technologies stemmed from their approach to adoption. They often recognised the ‘cool factor’ of a new tool or app and then sought a need for it. They focused on how to use it, not whether employees needed, wanted or were ready for it.
COVID-19, however, reversed this trend. Arguably for the better. An immediate need to work remotely made people willing to accept any technologies that allowed them to continue doing their jobs. “All of these new technologies, we had suddenly found a very willing and grateful audience”, noted Rodwell.
Innovation flourishes in crises because people are prepared to experiment and take risks. The culture changes on its own because people have to transition quickly—and make it work. This ‘group mentality’ ensures success. But for how long?
Preparing for a growth mindset
Because culture is about values, customs, and social behaviour, it raises the question of whether this virtual environment is a temporary thaw in how we work, or something more permanent. One thing is certain: there’s no going back to the way things were before COVID-19.
In the long run, a growth mindset toward technology and culture will serve the legal community better. Instead of focusing on all the shiny new tools available, employees should pay attention to how technology fits into the firm’s culture. This requires actively listening to how people want to work, what kind of culture encourages trust and collaboration and how we can make the technology we already have work better.
“I see an increased commitment to investing in technology and using technology but also thinking how can we improve it. Are there ways that we can make this smarter or is this a question of looking at our process or our checklist instead of fixing technology”, posed Jessica Magnusson, global head of legal knowledge management at HSBC Legal. “What I hope is that it will lead to more imagination, more curiosity and more bravery to try different things”, added Rodwell.
To prepare for a growth mindset, you could consider the following steps:
- Focus on how technology fits into the firm’s culture.
- Actively listen to how people want to work.
- What types of culture encourages trust and collaboration?
- How the technology you already have could work better.
- Work to replicate impromptu interactions in the virtual space.
Although employees showed tremendous enthusiasm for using communication tools to stay connected during the early days of the pandemic, it was a bit unorganised and lacked the value of the ‘watercooler effect’ —the impromptu interactions that can spark new ideas. Moving forward, it’s important to find a way to replicate this element of serendipity in the virtual world and to manage the communication so people do not get fatigued or overloaded.
Despite its challenges, the pandemic did have one positive effect on the digital transformation of the legal world: It took take the fear out change. Samantha Steer, Director of Large Law Strategy at Thomson Reuters, summed it up best: “There’s a new confidence.”
To learn more about how HighQ and how it can fit into your firm’s culture and the way you work, click here.