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.

UN Security Council

A change tactic for helping your executive management to work out loud

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?

An enterprise social network or similar can help bridge the (communication) void between management and employees by ‚working out loud‚. In a previous blog post I talked about why managers, including executive managers, should be using such platforms. There are many others that highlight the necessity of the C-Suite to become ’social‘ (aka connected!). In a recent post I also wrote about very concrete first steps for managers to get started with a company’s enterprise social network.

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!


© Picture Credit: Christoph Schmaltz

4 steps to get executive management use your enterprise social network

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

    1. Visible
    2. Authentic
    3. Human
    4. Valuable
    5. Compassionate.

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.

3) Microblogging

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.
    • Lengthy updates
    • 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.

This post is part of the blog parade of the Social Business Arena. Check out other blog posts that deal with the adoption of social tools in the workplace.

Changing one mind at a time: Influencing behaviour in legal KM projects

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.

Excerpt:

Changing behaviours

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.

[table id=1 /]

Table 1: An adapted version of The Influencer Framework

From knowledge management to knowledge networking

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.

Introduction of social tools in the enterprise

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.

Excerpt:

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.

Excerpt:

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

Influencing Human Behaviour to Increase Enterprise Social Networking Adoption

[ I originally published this post on the tibbr blog in 2012. ]

In my previous post, I promised to elaborate on one of the three pillars of successful adoption – people. Changing people’s behaviour is hard, but not impossible. It just takes more thought than some blunt incentive scheme or gamification strategy. Successful adoption of an enterprise social platform means influencing human behaviour.

Humans behave in certain ways, sometimes illogical ways. This is the result of evolutionary processes, education, cultural norms and tools. For example, in the absence of better suited tools people have come to use email for everything from private communication, team collaboration to audit trails and task lists. Now many people automatically turn to email without giving it a second thought.
For an organization to grow and evolve with their social network, encouraging positive and discouraging negative behaviour is critical. We need to provide certain stimuli. These stimuli vary greatly and depend heavily on the desired behaviour, the audience, their current behaviour, tools, and culture.

Recently, gamification has moved into the limelight as part of a change management initiative. It describes the application of game mechanics in a non-game environment to nudge people to take certain actions. It is an interesting concept and can indeed be helpful in influencing behaviour in the short-term if applied correctly. However, as with everything there is the good, the bad and the ugly.
If you recently followed the #e2conf hashtag of the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston, you may have stumbled across the hashtag #badgeburnout. It reflects the view that too often gamification is reduced to handing out badges. That’s the ugly. The bad are tactics that incentivise the wrong behaviour. Companies create leaderboards of people that created the most content, have most comments, likes etc. But how meaningful is that? Have you ever thought about creating a leaderboard for people that wrote the most emails, received the most replies, cc’d the most people? Ask yourself, do you roll out a collaboration and communication platform to create as much content as possible or do you roll out your platform to solve business problems? Don’t get me wrong, I think it is important to have a good insight into the activity on your enterprise social network, but I think activity data only shows the health of your community. In the quest for showing value organisations turn to data that is easily available and unfortunately use it in the wrong context.

So, what’s the good? A good gamification strategy aims at business metrics and not just project metrics (e.g. engagement, number of visits, most active group and others). For example, if you want to improve the performance of your regional sales teams to increase leads or revenue why not make that kind of data visible? Why not rank them according to those metrics instead of competing based on how many discussions they created last month? In most cases companies have the data. It’s a matter of identifying the right data sets to influence certain behaviour and making it available where it matters.

Change Agents WorldWide

How to increase adoption from your enterprise social network

[ I originally published this post on the tibbr blog in 2012. ]

This week the McKinsey Global Institute published a report on unlocking the value and productivity through social technologies. While it was light on actionable recommendations, it provides a superb overview of how social technologies impact both the consumer and enterprise market. A great seal of approval!

Over the last decade more and more organizations have started looking into the use of social technology to solve business problems. We are now at the threshold going from experimentation to institutionalisation. But how do we take what we learned in pilot deployments to the next level and apply it across an entire organization? How do we get people comfortable with new technologies and the dynamics that come with them?

Three years ago I published three blog posts with the title: ‘Second-wave adopters are coming.  Are you prepared?’ The articles talked about the challenges organizations have to address to move beyond the early adopters championing a new technology to the rest of the organization. Much of what I wrote back then still rings true today.

No doubt, adoption is critical especially for social tools because of network effects. The more people use them (both actively and passively as lurkers) the greater value they can potentially generate. That is certainly one of the reasons why organisations seem to be chasing the Holy Grail of Adoption. However, it does beg the question: is adoption the new ROI of collaboration? Are you deploying an enterprise social platform to achieve high adoption? Does a high level of activity equals business value? I would argue no. It reflects first and foremost the health of a community, but you deploy enterprise social networking platforms to solve certain business problems.  Activity and hence adoption is a good project metric, but not a business metric. This observation has a big impact on your adoption tactics, the messages you send to employees and the (social experience) design of your technical solution.

In a recent presentation I talked about the three pillars of successful adoption for an enterprise social networking platform, which include technology, organization and people.

I focused on the people aspect in particular, as this is the most interesting and challenging part of introducing social tools.

In future blog posts I will look in more detail at how to influence people and encourage them to change particular habits to ultimately achieve a successful introduction to their social platform.

Edutainment and competition makes the world go round

I originally published this post on the Headshift blog in 2009. ]

The New York Times published an article today on how utilities turn their customers green. For years and years the Sacramento Municipal Utility District had tried to push people to using less energy by offering for example rebates for energy-saving appliances. However, all tactics seemed to be in vain until they applied a very simple but effective principle – peer pressure.

Last April, [the Sacramento Municipal Utility District] began sending out statements to 35,000 randomly selected customers, rating them on their energy use compared with that of neighbors in 100 homes of similar size that used the same heating fuel. The customers were also compared with the 20 neighbors who were especially efficient in saving energy.

After about six months an assessment showed that people that had received personalized statements reduced their energy use by 2% more than the ones that had received a standard statement. Encouraged by these results the approach is now piloted in ten other major metropolitan areas.

The results of this initiative seem to validate a study conducted by Dr. Robert Cialdini, a social psychologist at Arizona State University.

In a 2004 experiment he and a colleague left different messages on doorknobs in a middle-class neighborhood north of San Diego. One type urged the residents to conserve energy to save the earth for future generations; another emphasized financial savings. „But the only kind of message to have any significant effect, Dr. Cialdini said, was one that said neighbors had already taken steps to curb their energy use. (ibid.)

The article mentions similar initiatives, for example at the Central College in Pella, Iowa, and in Massachusetts where towns are competing in a reality series, called „Energy Smackdown,“ which is shown on a local cable station.

Most of these initiatives are locally. Using the power of the social web though, competitions can span the entire world and increase its impact considerably. Headshift has been involved in two green projects which are using peer pressure and competition as engagement models. Do the Green Thing is a fun and engaging way for people to tackle climate change. It’s based on the premise that simple actions done on scale can have a big impact. If you do a green action it is automatically communicated to your peers and wider network enticing them to do the same. The results speak for themselves. Within 18 months people were able to save as much as 5.86m kgs CO2.

The other initiative has been set up by NESTA and is called ‚The BIG Green Challenge‚.

NESTA put out a £1 million prize fund to come up with the best ideas to tackle climate change. Out of the 350 projects that entered, they are now down to the final ten. These ten communities have one year to implement their idea and prove its practicality and effectiveness to reduce carbon emission. By the way, our colleague, Robin Hamman, is currently traveling the country up and down to visit the finalists and bring them up to speed with social media, so that they can reach their audience. You should subscribe to the blog to get the latest info.

It will be interesting to see where the competition leads us to. It has already spread awareness and unlocked the innovative potential of the people involved. Whatever is saved in terms of carbon footprint will simply add to the success of the project.

So, what can enterprises learn from these insights? A lot, I believe. Let’s take a look inside the enterprise first. We quickly remember the study of Dr. Robert Cialdini, in which he left three different messages at doorknobs to see if they had an effect on the energy usage of recipients:

  1. Save energy to save the world
  2. Save energy to save money
  3. Save energy because your neighbors are doing it already

Only the third note seemed to have a significant impact on the behavior of the people. These three notes could be translated in a business context as follows:

  1. Contribute and share information to make our organization better
  2. Contribute and share information to gain some sort of financial reward
  3. Contribute and share information because your peers are doing it already

Experience shows that notes one and two very rarely work. They reflect a very top-down approach. People are under a lot of pressure and therefore need to leave their altruistic spirit at home. They are concerned about getting their own work done and do not have time to think of others. And who could blame them? Financial incentives have been discussed widely. The general tenor on this is that the approach is flawed, as it can easily be abused and the initial effect wears off after some time.

This leaves us with the the third note. Competition is unlikely to instigate the cheerful sharing of information. It’s more about reputation, thus intrinsic motivation. The more transparency there is across the organization to easily identify topic experts, the higher the motivation to become more visible. This in return means the person needs to engage with others and contribute through his work. It won’t be enough to brag about oneself. Reputation is based on one’s action and other people’s judgment. Will transparency be enough to kick start communication, collaboration and connections between employees? Surely not! Tools that increase transparency will need to be easy to use, embedded into peoples‘ work and make them more productive. You may want to think about whether your email client, your IT and Internal Comms driven intranet, proprietory DMS and CMS caters for that.

Now let’s take a look outside the enterprise. With the advent of social tools customers have become increasingly deaf to brands‘ marketing messages and blind to their shiny advertisement. Customers want to be engaged. They want to feel part of the producer / consumer equation. The traditional model did not reflect that. Some brands have acknowledged this shift and are actively listening to and engaging with customers. By now there are a lot of brands that have set up a blog, Twitter account or Facebook fan page / group. But really, how many brand or product based FB groups / fan pages are out there and enjoy a large number of followers? Most of them are inactive or dead. That’s because there is nothing to engage them with (but also because of the shortcomings of FB). Competition, entertainment and education can be strong drivers for engagement if applied adequately.

Recently I found out about a NYC based start-up called StyleHop, which is a social fashion recommendation site. (Disclaimer: I don’t have any equity in that company and never spoken to the founders). That’s what they are saying about their concept:

‚Stylehopping takes shape via several fashion-orientated games that are an engaging way of checking out the latest styles while voicing your opinions. You’ll accumulate points and rewards for playing along the way, such as gift certificates to popular stores and websites.‘

Playing games is such a fundamental part of our childhood (and beyond) that it is an easy way to engage people. Most games come with some sort of competition, which keeps people coming back. They can reveal things about ourselves that we didn’t know of, would rather like to hide or were not able to express. In the case of StyleHop retailers can show and sell their products. They receive genuine feedback and can identify upcoming trends, because it is based on data collected with the games. The girls on the other hand can see what is out there, receive better recommendations, can compete with their direct friends or even their network (e.g. university) or other networks.

StyleHop is just an example. The principles at work here can be applied to other retailers, products, target audiences. The implementation though is the tricky part of it.

We are all human beings. We love to be entertained, play games, compete with others. We have done that for thousands of years. The Internet is not going to change it. Instead we need to figure out how we can make use of it for a good cause or to thrive our business.