User Adoption of EHS Software: Best Practices from the Mining Industry

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Courtesy of Intelex Technologies Inc.

On Friday, June 17, Intelex had the pleasure of hosting senior leaders, program managers and consulting partners at its first ever Mining Thought Leadership session. Attendees came to our downtown Toronto offices from as far away as Utah and northern Quebec to share their ideas, best practices, and insights on the use of technology in their industry.

Specifically, they were there to discuss EHS software, often referred to in the mining sector as Health, Safety, Environment, and Community (HSEC) management systems, underscoring the particular importance of community and stakeholder relationships for mining companies. Some of the event’s attendees were already using software systems to manage their processes, while others were just beginning to explore the opportunities. The mix made for some enlightening and thought-provoking conversations. In particular, the discussion centered around user adoption challenges and lessons learned.

The half-day event was designed to be interactive but was guided by five great presentations from mining industry consultants, a VP of Corporate Social Responsibility, and software experts. In addition to user adoption strategies, they spoke about risk identification and mitigation throughout the entire mine lifecycle and key performance indicators for the mining industry. Also included was a case study exploring the lessons learned from implementing and trying to sustain an HSEC management system. The discussion was lively (everyone participated), thought-provoking (I took five pages of notes), and extended (we ran long and continued to discuss over drinks at the reception). Some key themes surrounding user adoption emerged from the day.

User adoption of software is more important than features & functions.

The liveliest discussions revolved around the concept of user adoption. While technology presents many opportunities, ultimately it is useless if no one uses that technology. But as our discussion illustrated, working to ensure user adoption is a complex and multi-factored process. Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet and no one way to drive user adoption. A company’s approach depends on the type of solution being deployed, but is also influenced heavily by the company culture. However, there are several best practices you may want to include in your next HSEC software deployment:

  • Spend the time to understand the end users’ inputs and outputs of the solution. We tend to only think of end users as data entrants. In reality, end users need to also be able to receive information from the system in order to recognize its value. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself if everyone who puts something into the system can also get something out of the system.
  • Involve the end users in the selection, design, building, and testing of your solution. By having participation and gathering feedback throughout the entire implementation, you’ll catch things you would have missed and positive perception of the system will increase.
  • Provide a means for end users to suggest enhancements. While you will want to carefully vet these user-generated suggestions through a steering committee, you’ll likely find many of the best ideas will come from the end users of your system. But most importantly, act on some of the low-hanging fruit quickly and be sure to communicate the reason for the change to your users. This is a great strategy for improving internal buy-in by demonstrating your commitment to making the software solution work for your end users.
  • Create a reward system for early and frequent system adoption. Take work observations, for example. Consider setting a target and an associated reward for the number of records entered in the first few months. Track progress towards your goal and every 100 records, give that end user a small prize, even if it’s something small like a company-branded pen or a mug. When you reach your target number of records on time, follow through with your team reward.

A senior VP put it best, “Whenever I put a new process in place, everyone wants to know what my output reports are. I don’t care what they are. Start with what will make it easy for the end users. I’ll be able to get the reports I want if they can easily enter data into the system.”

There’s a difference between enforcement and suggestion.

Organization structure and company culture have a significant impact on how a solution is deployed and adopted. Much of the conversation was focused on how to enforce and track user adoption.

One program manager spoke up. He was a member of the corporate team and provided programs and systems to his sites’ HSEC teams. “My greatest challenge is that I can only provide suggestions on how to use the system. I can’t force them use it. But because my suggestions are for their benefit, and I can show them the benefit, they use the system.”

He simply flipped the question, “How do I make them use this system?” to “What do I need to do to make them want to use the system?” and found success.

All in all, it was both an interesting and educational afternoon, and a great chance to get together with leaders in the industry who are helping to shape the future of their company. Thank you to all who attended and made the event a success, and we hope to see even more of you at our next event! In the meantime, you can keep an eye out for Intelex on the road at one of the many industry conferences we attend.

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