helping employees to work out loud

Small and effective steps to help your employees work out loud

Congratulations! Your company has implemented an enterprise social network. You drummed up excitement with your fancy launch campaign, created initial content on the platform and training material to help your colleagues understand the why and the what. Yet after the initial hype, interest and activitity are slowly fading. Most people might have logged in once to look around, but are never seen again.

There are many reasons why this happens. One of them though is that people are thrown into unknown waters. They might have understood what is expected of them, but they still feel highly uncomfortable.  Simply telling them to share what they are working on or participating in conversations on the platform gives many people the chills. It may sound easy but it’s not! Very crucial steps towards becoming comfortable with this new way of communicating are missing that create barriers to participation.

What I have seen successfully working in my projects is showing  people a clear path towards making full use of an enterprise social network. Explain what they can do at the different levels to become more comfortable over time. Explain that they don’t have to post anything in the beginning. Normally, people don’t appear at a party shouting what they have to say. Normally, people listen to conversations first and if they feel comfortable and have something to say they will participate. It’s very similar in an enterprise social network.

Steps to helping your company work out loud

The ladder below shows the different levels of engagement. You will need to read it bottom-up.

Helping your company work out loud

Helping your company work out loud

Any good learning material takes the fears and concerns of people into account. It explains the Why, the What and the How in a language that is relevant and easy to understand by the audience. I have seen many training and awareness material created for enterprise social network platforms, but many fail to speak to the target audience. Often the Why is  primiarly based on why the platform is good for the company but not the individual. The What is often describing abstract use cases and user scenarios and the How talks about the functionality to make the magic work. Maybe I will write a blog post about the right content of ESN learning material. 

To sum it all up, if you want to influence behaviour, do not only look at the end game. Take good care that you make your target audience comfortable by taking small steps without much risk. It may take a while longer, but in the end it will all be worth it.

Bridging internal and external silos in a connected enterprise

Recently I was involved in a project with the aim to support a M&A process. It was about thinking of traditional and innovative formats and means to help employees learn about the M&A process but also about new tools, especially Yammer, which had been in use for years at one of the companies.

As I was collecting thoughts and ideas of how to support the M&A process, I was also thinking about easy ways to provide interesting and relevant content in Yammer. We often underestimate people’s readiness to actively use new tools if those are not mandatory. This is especially true for social tools. In the beginning most people will simply observe and lurk before actively engaging with content and colleagues. It’s easier if content can spark thoughts and discussion instead of trying to convince people to post their questions or what they are currently working on on the company’s collaboration platform.

This initially triggered the idea to automatically bring in external content from the company’s own external blog into Yammer. Thanks to services like Zapier and IFTTT (If this then that) and their integration with many SaaS based solutions, including Yammer, this is usually a piece of cake. No IT involvement needed.

But why stop at posting the content from the company’s own external blog in the home feed on Yammer?  Admins or community managers could set up feeds for their groups to automatically pull in content from blogs relevant to their purpose. This builds current awareness among group members and could potentially spark interesting conversations.

There are also some potentially interesting scenarios when thinking about pulling in conversations from Twitter. These days many companies are already using social media engagement tools to monitor and respond to conversations in external channels. Some of them even allow to pull in employees that are not part of the monitoring team in case relevant questions come up. If a company doesn’t use these kind of tools or use one that doesn’t offer this kind of functionality, you could pull mentions and questions from customers on Twitter into a Customer Service group in Yammer and discuss the right response there before posting it on Twitter.

Are you using applications like Zapier or IFTTT for your enterprise social network or other applications? Or have you developed other bots to automate mundane processes?

A book on Networked Organisations

A couple of day ago I received my personal copy of a book called “Vernetzte Organisation“, in English “The networked organisation” or even “Social Business”. In the context of the book the word “social” is a synoym for “related”, “connected”, “networked”.

Vernetzte Organisation - Book

I contributed a chapter in which I describe a practical method for influencing effective behaviour change called “6 Sources of Influence“. It’s a method by Patterson which I have come to use in some of my client projects. It’s a great way to think through the different methods and pressure points that can be applied to an individual or target group to influence their behaviour.

The book is comprised of a large number of contributions written by academics and practioners from various view points but all talking about the future of work and organisations. It provides the theoretical framework to grasp the changes that organisations need to face if they want to be successful in the networked century. This is followed by various practioners presenting their respective projects and programmes which they initiated to prepare their organisation for the necessary changes and related challenges. Last but not least, the final third of the book is devoted to methods and toolkits that can help to successfully navigate the difficult waters of organisational change.

I am very grateful to be included in the book. Alexander Richter, the publisher of the book, managed to assemble a very impressive group of academics and practioners to create a thorough, practical and inspirational guide for anyone interested in the future of work and organisations.

Alex created a Twitter list of the authors, which also provides a great stream for inspiration and learning.

Successful social business stories from Germany

I recently published a guest post called “A German perspective on successful social business stories” on the Ripple Effect Group blog.

Many know of examples of social business transformation in the Anglo-American hemisphere, but in the past few years some German companies have stepped into the limelight. In the post I present the stories of adidas Group, Robert Bosch GmbH and Continental and highlight some unique approaches these companies took that contributed much to their success and might in the end be rooted in certain German cultural norms and traits.

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Everyone is a Change Agent but there is only one Change Agents WorldWide network

Change Agents WorldWideI recently became a member of Change Agents WorldWide. It’s a global network of experts from very different fields, but we all have a common vision and passion: We help organisations thrive in the 21st century!

If you only have 2 minutes, I recommend flipping through the slides below to learn more about CAWW.

In the 20th century people were busy creating the most efficient companies the world had seen to that date. Every company introduced processes, procedures and structures to manage every little single aspect of the organisation.  Companies adopted a mindset of control, distrust, opacity and shareholder value. By doing so they alienated employees, partners and customers. Paradoxically, these are the very same people who keep a company running!

Whilst these people felt powerless against the de-humanising companies of the 20th century, the tide has started to turn. As we move into the 21st century (“The Networked Century”), traditional companies need to evolve into networked companies. Companies are not at the center of networks anymore, they merely form part of it. This changes pretty much everything we know about companies:

  1. Why companies exist: Shareholder Value vs. Stakeholder Value
  2. What companies do: Consumption vs. Sharing Economy
  3. How companies create value for themselves and the ecosystem that breeds them: Short-term Profit vs. Sustainable Outcomes

These fundamental changes do not affect just  one industry, one company, one department, a single employee or manager. It affects everything and everybody. It affects people, processes, structures, culture and technology. Since this change is so complex, there is no single company in this world that can provide the expertise and credibility to facilitate the necessary change.

Imagine a company with a rigid structure trying to tie hundreds of experts to it, that are then controlled by overpriced and frustrated managers and supported by a thick administration layer and located in expensive offices. We are everything but that!

What is Change Agents WorldWide?

  1. A group of psychologists, anthropologists, linguists, technologists, management consultants, marketeers and other professions.
  2. Expertise in organisational design, (organisational) psychology, organisational learning, social business, collaboration & communication, knowledge management, innovation management, gamification, enterprise technology, change management and other disciplines.
  3. Solo change agents that work independently with a large variety of organisations and enterprise change agents that work as intrapreneurs within organisations like Deutsche Bank, Disney, UNICEF, BASF, Evonik, Walmart and many others.
  4. A lean network that thrives on distributed leadership but has no managers.
  5. A learning and evolving ecosystem fueled by passionate and engaged people connected globally and virtually together.

 How can Change Agents WorldWide help you?

  1. You have a business problem and believe it could be (better) solved with new business thinking and technology? Contact us! Seeing is believing, which is why we have created Project Green Room. It’s free of risk and charge! It allows you to pose your business problem and questions to the change agents that best know your industry and have the most expertise in the required field. If you like what you see and feel that change agents could provide sufficient value in helping you with your business problem, you are free to engage with selected change agents without having to give up access to the wider network. Please feel free to contact us to discuss Project Green Room or contact me directly.
  2. It takes knowledgable, curious and courageous leaders to make the shift from a traditional to networked business. But the managers and employees of your company are stuck in their daily business and ignorant to the changes around them? Engage us to help educate and coach decision-makers to prepare your organisation for the change necessary. We are not only good in creating the right content, but also in knowing how to influence people and facilitate change.
  3. You are looking for sponsorship opportunities? We are currently working with leading universities, but also social technology vendors to spread the messages near and dear to our hearts, i.e. the changing face of business in the 21st century. You can download our first free e-book or tune in to the webinars we have done to date.

How to engage with Change Agents WorldWide?

Additional information

Have a look at what some fellow change agents (link to the entire team) have written about their involvement in the network.

There are currently 3 change agents in Germany. If you would like to chat further, please do let me know.

Thinking about the next generation enterprise