Invest in employee-driven tech

October 20, 2022 By    

Employee fear of technology is not new.

The Luddites were a secret English society in the 19th century who opposed the use of new machinery in the textile mills so much that they destroyed the equipment. Today’s 21st-century employees share some of the same anxieties as their 19th-century colleagues.

Whether you are investing in new technology or updating existing tools, it’s critical to also invest in your team through communication, employee participation, training and patience.


Propane marketers should be clear about the benefits that technology investments present to employees. Our monitors, routing software and other tools have not eliminated a single position. However, they have all but eliminated customer runouts and the routine winter Saturday delivery schedule. We communicated this goal from the beginning.

We have also shared how technology helps to keep our headcount lower and invest more in our existing team. Our team’s improved efficiency and business growth allow us to improve our health care, retirement and paid time-off benefits, which we aim to remind our employees of during annual reviews.

We have also made clear how technology improves the average workday. Our business now is 80 percent digital, reducing phone volume by almost 70 percent. This has freed up hundreds of hours for our customer service representatives to identify and implement business process improvements. We communicate these wins at each weekly meeting.

Employee participation

The best evaluators of new or modified technology tools are the day-to-day users, our employees.

We also include them in the evaluation of existing tools. We recently began experiencing serious customer support and software performance issues with an important component of our propane software. Our team has been critical in identifying and addressing those problems. We also include them in the evaluation of potential replacement software, an exercise that will begin this fall.

Chris Caywood

Training and support

We shy away from technology tools that don’t have robust training and support tools and staffing, and we are quick to take action if the tools we have fail to provide adequate training and support. We also work hard to develop our own tools, an ongoing process that involves employee participation.

We have spent the past few years developing our own user’s manuals for our technology tools and how we use them. Our documentation includes screenshots and step-by-step instructions. These materials give our team confidence to use the tools correctly. These documents are particularly important for infrequent activities, and they reduce our reliance on the training and support tools provided by software and technology providers.


Patience for us is a “be better” approach to our work. Mistakes are opportunities to learn and change, not disciplinary events. This outlook reduces anxiety and encourages self-identification of training and experience needs. We have a lot of tortoises on our team, especially me. It takes a while to learn and grow comfortable with new technology tools.

This approach has allowed us to improve as coaches and be a better, more process-driven operation. When mistakes are made, we take the time to identify root causes and solutions. What initially surfaces as a human error is typically solved by a process improvement that reduces or eliminates the opportunity for human error to occur.

We all win

Technology has enabled us to:

  • Share cost efficiencies with improved compensation and benefits.
  • Make responsibilities less difficult with performance improvements that reduce after-hours service calls.
  • Increase employee engagement by growing their participation in technology decisions.
  • Improve job satisfaction by freeing up time for more interesting, value creation tasks.

Improved compensation and benefits, increased engagement and job satisfaction add up to a more compelling place to work, which can translate into improved retention and when the need arises, more attractive positions when hiring and recruiting.

Christopher Caywood is a co-owner of Caywood Propane Gas Inc. Contact him at

Comments are currently closed.