What’s behind this intense interest around social collaboration?
Organizations clearly see value in technology that will help them get better aligned, with the two main drivers for adoption generally being the need to solve communication breakdown issues by giving people an easy way to connect and discuss, and the agility they offer across entire project teams to stay informed minute by minute (if necessary) on the progress of tasks and shared activities. But once a company selects a tool to help improve communication and agility, gaining buy-in from the workforce can be problematic since many employees are finding some of these platforms to be more of a hindrance than a help, and just another thing they need to check.
What should companies do to make employees recognize how the tools will help and get people using them?
The first step is realizing that technology alone will never make collaboration happen. Great collaboration involves people working with other people, so they must buy-in on using the tool. Changing corporate culture and introducing a new way to communicate within an organization to shift the way we work must be driven by the leaders of the organization first, and only then will it become part of the DNA of the company.
Choosing the Right Tool
According to a recent McKinsey Report, 72 percent of companies use social technologies in some way, but very few unlock its full benefits. McKinsey says that “companies will go on developing ways to reach consumers through social technologies and gathering insights for product development, marketing, and customer service,” but that “twice as much potential value lies in using social tools to enhance communications, knowledge sharing, and collaboration within and across enterprises.”
When it comes to senior leadership choosing social tools to enhance communications, share knowledge and collaborate, it’s important to select a solution that works the way people work. Don’t choose a solution that solves few issues, is cumbersome to use and creates more work, but look instead for one that complements natural interactions. Apparently most of us prefer to communicate via email rather than face-to-face or over the phone – the average employee spends 28 hours per week writing emails and searching for information mostly contained within emails. Choosing a tool that facilitates natural interaction among individuals instead of the static nature of email is the first step to adding value and driving efficiencies in managing everyday tasks, which should be the main requirement for any solution you choose.
Imagine going from only talking to your manager during formal meetings and via well-thought out emails, to IM-ing with them in real-time and capturing the entire back and forth conversation automatically so it can be stored and/or picked up again anytime. Seems intimidating. But if it makes the interaction faster and more effective and leads to a better solution to a problem and greater value to the organization, “intimidating” isn’t really a valid argument for not pursuing social collaboration.
Think about selecting tools that are valuable beyond the office. In her book 11 Rules for Creating Value in the Social Era, Nilofer Merchant talks about creating value by connecting individuals – even with those who aren’t even part of your organization. Today’s employees are blending personal and work life more than ever, and companies should consider a social collaboration tool that facilitates connecting a person’s work and home life, blending the two to create value. Workers are juggling project deadlines, meeting requests, soccer practice and running clubs. Why not give them a way to connect with their groups inside and outside of work to make all of their life easier to manage, leaving more time to focus on value-added tasks at work. Social collaboration tools should help people get things done on life projects too, and the more people become familiar with a social collaboration tool at home, the more it will be adopted inside the enterprise to the benefit of the organization.
Getting People on Board
According to the Dachis Group, users “express frustration regarding the slow pace of adoption and engagement.” Most point to a lack of education, awareness and traditional change management as the reason for being frustrated with a new social collaboration platform. Simply choosing a tool, setting up logins and sending an email instructing employees to use it won’t suffice here. Large organizational shifts take time, thought and employee buy-in. While it may seem like a lot of work at the start, it will be worthwhile once employees start to effectively use the tool to collaborate in groups and get things done more effectively.
The first step in implementation is executive buy-in, the key to any change of significance. But buy-in alone isn’t enough; a leader must set an example. Once employees see the CEO using social collaboration tools to interact with employees at all levels of the organization, and see colleagues interacting with the CEO and other senior leaders on a more personal level, excitement will spread.
Next, get IT involved at the start. Don’t let social tools just spread virally with no oversight. Treat it as seriously as any major technology implementation. IT should create a full roll-out plan, and implement it in stages that make the most sense for your business. Once the executive team and IT are on board, the tool should be implemented in a way that best reflects the ways employees learn and interact – starting in a small group probably, then spreading as excitement builds and advocacy grows. IT should encourage constant and honest feedback among the employee base on their experiences with the platform and how it can be used better. Finally, resources such as support, tutorials and working sessions need to be readily available in the beginning. Creating a formal learning program that includes video, live chat and optional meetings will give employees the resources they need for success.
In short, employees won’t embrace a more social type of collaboration unless it is easy to use and makes their work (and home life) easier, more effective and more enjoyable. And they will be even less likely to use it if it’s implemented haphazardly and without proof that it works. Give employees those two things – value and proof – and the tool you spent all that money on will start to work for you. In an industry that Forrester predicts will hit $6.4 billion by 2016, getting it wrong isn’t an option. Your competitors might have gotten it right, to the detriment of your business.