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
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.
Together with co-author Shimrit Janes we published an article in the Ark Group’s latest publication called Legal Knowledge Management: Insights and Practice (link to the TOC and a sample). The article looks at crucial success factors of such change projects, but zooms in on the most daunting task: influencing people and their behaviour.
Examples of truly effective KM programmes in the legal sector can be difficult to find. Challenges such as securing budget, engaging leadership and employees in the necessary change process and influencing their behaviour can all stand in the way of a succesful project. The article looks at crucial success factors of such change projects, but ultimately zooms in on the most daunting task: influencing people and their behaviour.
Change is hard. The ‘9x effect’ states that people tend to weigh the benefits of something new by a factor of three, and equally also overweigh the cost of what they have learned by a factor of three. Thus, something new needs to be nine times more appealing than the status quo. Whilst the ‘9x effect’ is more a rule of thumb than hard science, it is a useful story for illustrating why overseeing a change project can be so hard.
We should be under no illusion; implementing new social tools within a KM programme requires change. This is not just because of new interfaces and functionality. More importantly, they break with long-learned behaviour patterns in the enterprise. In order to be valuable to the firm and its people, these technologies require its users to share instead of hoard their knowledge; ‘work out loud’ instead of either alone or within their confined team; to trust and be open instead of control and being secretive; and to actively build their own reputation, instead of passively relying on their manager to choose them for promotion.
The Influencer Framework
There are two fundamental elements that impact the probability of someone changing their behaviour: motivation and ability. Simply having the motivation to change does not mean you have the ability to do so, and vice versa. Consequently, both elements need to be considered in equal amount when trying to influence people to change.
This logic lies at the heart of a framework developed by Patterson et al. called ‘The Influencer Framework’. It can be used in any situation and context in which encouraging change is necessary. It is not, however, a change management model in and of itself. Rather, the framework can be appliedto different elements of a wider change management programme, for example to communication promotion, education and coaching, and technology selection. The framework identifies six sources of influence as shown in Table 1.
|Personal||Why should they care?|
What's in it for them?
|How cn we make it simple to use?
|Social||Who are the relevant peer groups that have already adopted the desired behaviours?||Do colleagues support the desired behaviours, and help their peers when needed?
|Structural||Is there a reward system in place to encourage desired behaviour, and discourage undesired behaviour?||Does the physcial environment support the desired behaviours?
Table 1: An adapted version of The Influencer Framework
We just published an article (in German) in the Community of Knowledge called ‘Einführung von sozialen Technologien im Unternehmen – Erfolgsfaktor Mensch‘. It looks at a variety of barriers to introducing social tools in the enterprise and presents strategies on how to overcome them. In particular, it focuses on how human behaviour can be influenced to overcome the stated barriers.
Today, there is hardly a company that has not already experimented with social technologies. The high expectations, however, have only been met in very few cases. Will this new software category suffer the same fate as the first generation of knowledge management tools? Disillusionment is spreading, but also the realization that the introduction of social technologies is not a typical IT project and that this is not a sprint but a long process.
To be successful and economically viable social technologies require nothing less than a new form of organization – the networked enterprise. Depending on the size of the company the cultural and organizational change, however, tend to be extremely difficult, costly and above all very tedious. On the other hand, large companies can benefit most from using social technologies because of network effects.
For managers of initiatives tasked with the introduction of social technologies, this results in a dilemma. The success of their initiative depends not only on technology, but depend even more on employees and organizational factors. See diagram below:
Diagram: Corporate struture and culture can only be influenced indirectly, yet are very important for the introduction of social technologies
© Picture Credit: Christoph Schmaltz