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.
Summary: In this post I present a change tactic to help executive management see the value of their company’s enterprise social network without risk and time commitment.
Many employees only know the name of their CEO and that he probably earns lots of money. That is not much to trust him as a leader. In large traditional organisations the executive management is often far removed from the workforce. Once a year the company might hold a town-hall meeting, at which the management team lays out the company’s strategy and answers employees’ questions. The rest of the year the Internal Communication department prepares and distributes updates on behalf of the management team. Thus, in traditional organisations there is hardly any interaction and communication between the executive management and workforce leading to misunderstandings, mistrust and potentially disengagement. How do managers expect employees to trust and follow them if they don’t know them?
And yet, some managers may still refuse to use such platforms actively, partly because of different reasons or excuses, e.g. lack of time, unable to see the value or other higher priorities. But rather than just giving up, maybe there is something that can be done to ‘nudge’ executive management and accelerate the necessary change? Two ideas that go into this direction are ’Ask Me Anything‘ by John Stepper of Deutsche Bank and ‘Open up the corporate ivory towers‘ by Daniel Martin Eckhart of Swiss Re. In both cases the goal is to make executive management more accessible and certain decisions taken by them more transparent. The initial investment taken by the management is low, but the value that can be shown is high.
Based on a similar thinking there is a change tactic I call ‘One day in the life of…’. The title is actually inspired by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s novel ‘One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich’. Thanks to Solzhenitsyn and his remarkably detailed narration, the reader can get a sense of the inhumanity and brutality that inmates of the Gulag prison camps suffered. Whilst many of them were not able to speak out, Solzhenitsyn gave them a powerful voice in his book.
‘One day in the life of…’ in a corporate setting is (hopefully) taking place in a different context ;). The idea is to open up a world to people which they usually don’t have access to. It can provide a glimpse into the demanding but interesting day of people that employees know the name of but not much more than that. This builds trust and probably to a certain extent understanding of why certain decisions are taken.
How can ‘One day in the life of…’ work? It should be set up as a campaign supported by proper communication and also educational elements, since it is not meant to be done just for the fun of it but to help people adopt new behaviours and tools! One employee is selected to follow a senior manager or C-Suite member for one day to meetings, lunch, events (whatever is on the schedule). The employee uses the company’s enterprise social network or Intranet during the day to keep other employees updated obviously leaving out any confidential information. It needs to be ensured though that there is no censorship by anyone, otherwise the communication becomes inauthentic and not trust-worthy and is perceived as yet-some-other-internal-comms content. The employee can use #hashtags to update his status, so others can follow the conversation, ask questions or ask the employee to ask certain questions to the senior manager or C-Suite leader. Since asking a question on the enterprise social network or Intranet is in most cases not anonymous, it can be assumed that there won’t be any difficult or inappropriate questions. Quite the opposite, it might be difficult to get people to post questions. That is why it is important to facilitate this process carefully.
What does the manager gain? Well, let me ask you: ‘What does the manager stand to lose?‘ A skeptical manager can experience the power of using such platforms with very low (time) investment. There is not much he needs to change in his daily schedule if anything. At the same time he can get to know the platform and how he could use it himself. It’s a supervised learning by doing exercise. More importantly though, the manager might be able to earn higher trust, credibility and better understanding among employees. And hopefully, the next time he will use the tool himself to keep his employees informed of what he is doing by ‘working out loud’. Of course, this idea is also valuable for further increasing the use and reputation of the company’s enterprise social network or Intranet. Thus, a win-win for all!
Enterprise social platforms allow for and at the same time require new behaviours. It is a learning process. However, sometimes traditional learning formats like videos, presentation, brown-bag lunches etc. are simply not sufficient to help with the first steps. If your managers and employees don’t see the value or don’t know how to use these tools for their own benefit, it’s time to explore new ways of learning and helping them to get started!
In a previous blog post I looked at WHY and HOW managers, especially executive managers, could and should use their company’s enterprise social network or social intranet. In this post I describe WHAT they can do to quickly get started.
Quick recap from the previous post. Not only the technology to interact with employees changes, but more importantly certain character traits need to exist or to be learned. To become better managers, managers need to be
To make things easy I will refer to enterprise social network and social intranet platforms in generic terms. Some of them may not have the features mentioned below. Some of them, for example IBM Connections, Jive, Yammer, Socialcast, Communote, Chatter and many others, might have, including other relevant features.
If you have 30 min with an executive manager, here is what I would do after having explained the WHY and HOW:
1) Fill in your profile
Every employee should have a profile on platform, which is visible to the entire company. In some cases information is pulled from the Active Directory. In most cases this information is incomplete though. A photo, About Me, Experience and other profile fields are probably missing. Depending on the platform policy the picture may not need to be a formal corporate photo. Remember being authentic and human!
About Me section: Of course, some formal words about the manager, his role but it’s also important to include something interesting that maybe few people knew.
2) Get the app on mobile
Especially managers and executives are often in meetings or on the road. Having easy access to the platform through mobile devices lowers the barrier to participation. Thus, help the manager to download the app or provide other means of mobile access to the platform. In some cases, the app can be pushed to the device beforehand.
Once this is done you can start with using the microblogging part. If you have only 30 min, I would focus on this. Few executives will immediately join communities, collaboratively work on documents or want to start a blog. Microblogging is something quick and easy to pick up and can already provide a lot of value.
When it comes to the microblogging part it is important to remember the principles of this new way of communicating a – build trust by being visible, authentic, human, valuable and compassionate. To make the microblogging part more tangible for your executive, explain that it is similar to working out loud, i.e. working out loud in public but within the company, of course.
Quick starting points when thinking about what to post:
Share what’s on your mind
Collaboration can start with just four words: ‘what do you think …’, ‘anyone heard of this …’
Share what you are doing
‘I was just interviewed by Bloomberg. We talked about …’, ’Here is an interesting article I recently read. Wondering if we are doing anything in this area already…’ or ‘what do you think about…’
Share something personal
‘I went to see the Red Sox game on the weekend. Great atmosphere…’ or ‘I just finished reading War & Peace. It took a while, but glad I read it till the end.’
Share to care/give praise:
‘Thank you <employee> / <team> for your contribution…’ or even just by simply liking a status update or comment by other people! This takes about 5 min of your executive’s day but can be invaluable and motivating to his employees.
If the executive feels more comfortable, he can also give praise in private channels in the beginning. Even this will show employees that he is actually aware of what is going on in the company.
When talking about microblogging you should also introduce @mentions and #hashtags. @mentions are relevant because you can ‘tag’ people in a post. That means if they are mentioned they will receive a notification. #hashtags are another way of disseminating information on the platform. People can subscribe to #hashtags. Maybe there is a particular hashtag that is relevant for your executive or he would like to introduce, e.g. ‘innovation’ or some campaign he is responsible for. When you click on a #hashtag people will be able to see all posts to the microblog that have been tagged with the #hashtag.
Point out to your executive that he does not need to check the microblogging stream every 10 minutes. Important information and discussions will flow to the top.
What to avoid
Purely promotional posts.
Too formal updates. Being authentic and human is key.
Posts by others than the executive
Useless or frequent posts with same content. Just writing ‘I am meeting person x today’ every day becomes boring over time. More context and variety should be given.
Giving up. In the beginning people might be hesitant to interact, especially if they don’t know the executive personally. Some are probably shocked by the fact he is actually reading people’s updates and even responding. That is scary and people need to get used to it. One way of breaking the ice is by being proactive – asking questions and going out to where the people are having conversations.
4) Follow relevant people
Obviously, your executive should start following all other executives and maybe their reports. Also, he should follow people from his team, people he worked with at the company etc. Explain why he should follow other people and what impact that has on his interaction with the platform.
Whilst the above already provides concrete, practical steps to get executives into using your enterprise social network or social intranet by working out loud, you will still need to tweak the messages and steps for your managers. There is lots more that can be done (e.g. particular use cases for executive management) or said depending on the experience, behaviours, requirements of the managers.
If your executive needs some more inspiration and convincing, you may want to show him this video of Giam Swiegers, CEO Deloitte Australia talking about his own use of the company’s enterprise social network based on Yammer.
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.
Why should they care?
What's in it for them?
How cn we make it simple to use?
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?
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
This presentation, given at the Legal KM Conference in London in May 2013, talks about these changes and challenges of introducing an enterprise social network in a professional (legal) environment and particular workstreams of a change acceleration programme.
In the past, knowledge was treated as just another company asset, that could be captured, stored and retrieved in a big warehouse. The role of knowledge management was to ‘manage’ knowledge. This is still important for certain knowledge, but most of our knowledge is inherently attached to people. Thus, Rather than desperately trying to connect employees with some KM system, it is even more important to connect people with each other. Therefore, the role of a knowledge manager has all of a sudden become even more interesting by thinking of ways to enable employees to connect with others inside and outside the company. The introduction of an enterprise social network is only one aspect to facilitate these connections.