Feeling tentative about technology? If so, you’re in good company.
“We’re all teetering on the edge of being stressed out by all the technologies,” said Larry Rosen, author of “iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming Its Hold on Us.” “It’s not just young people either. It has now permeated all ages.”
Rosen, a psychology professor at California State University at Dominguez Hills, has been studying digital discomfort for three decades. During that time, he’s seen an entire generation tossed to the technological curb by communication tools that today seem commonplace.
“Many mom-and-pop storage facilities were handed down, and now the new moms-and-pops are in their 60s and doing things the way they learned to do things: face-to-face on a handshake. They’re not part of the tech revolution; they’ve kind of been swept aside,” he said.
Bringing in new blood alone won’t necessarily solve the problem, according to Jay Wallace, president and owner of Management BluePrints, a consulting firm in Charleston, SC.
“They may know how to check email and receive text messages, but it’s a 50-50 shot whether they’ve ever bought anything on the Internet or used social media,” Wallace said. “Owners don’t want to train people because they’re just going to move on, so their business suffers and the employees do move on—a self-fulfilling cycle.”
The sobering reality is that self-storage owners, managers and employees have little choice today but to overcome their fear of technology if they want to survive in the industry.
The question is: How do you warm up to the digital age? Here are seven steps to help you overcome your fear of technology.
1. View technology as a solution, not a problem.
Julie Taylor, a senior training specialist with Centershift, a self-storage software management company in Salt Lake City, says a cup-half-full attitude can be a technophobe’s best friend.
People “need to be reassured that what they will learn is relevant to their job,” she said. “Effective software training can reduce the frustration or the fear of an extreme learning curve that some students have.”
2. Vow to upset the apple cart.
Wallace said that mastering tech skills could be disruptive—in a good way.
“Usually, people get into this mode of ‘I’m doing good enough,’ and they don’t want to upset the apple cart. So when they start hearing about technology, they stay away from it—not because they’re scared of it, but because it’s an unknown factor. It’s the devil you know versus the devil you don’t,” he said.
3. Do it for your customers.
If you don’t get on your customers’ wavelength, how do you expect to communicate with them?
“If you are a store manager in New Haven, Connecticut, and rent to students at Yale University, you have to be fairly technologically sophisticated to deal with what you’re going to get from your various customers. And if you’re not, you’ll be very frustrated,” Rosen said.
4. Pick the best learning platform.
Technology training is available in many forms and formats. Pick the ones that best suit your interests and schedule.
“Some believe classroom or instructor-led training works best for them; others get the same benefit by attending live virtual training sessions,” Taylor said. “Others see on-demand training as optimum because of its flexibility and brief lesson times, which provide training in short bursts.”
5. Don’t go it alone.
“At this level, they [tech newbies] must have human interface,” Wallace said. “They don’t have the skills to find the right YouTube videos to watch and learn from. That’s a skill in itself that they don’t possess yet.”
6. Let technology help you.
“Smartphones and tablets are reducing a lot of the anxiety,” Taylor said. In fact, Wallace uses these simple tools frequently to help clients make the left-brain/right-brain connection that speeds up tech literacy.
“I got one client a smartphone that can run all of the software that the self-storage industry uses. It’s quite slow, but that’s OK, too,” Wallace said. “When you take away a lot of the fancy stuff, you can literally use gestures and hand swipes to control your gear.”
7. Set limits.
Rosen said that learning to limit your use of technology may be the most critical skill of all.
“We’re now in a 24/7 society, so you need to clearly assert your connection preferences to your customers, such as ‘We do not check voicemail at night; we’ll get back to you between 8 a.m. and noon the next day.’ And put your communication devices away an hour before you go to sleep. What happens to you in the last hour before sleep has been proven to be critical to a good night’s sleep,” Rosen said.
“It seems simplistic,” he added, “but we’re carrying around an incredibly powerful device in our pocket, and that device is controlling our lives instead of us controlling our lives right now. Set limits!”