Government // Enterprise Architecture
Commentary
3/21/2013
09:49 AM
Jacob Morgan
Jacob Morgan
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How To Market Collaboration To Employees

Creating a collaborative organization requires leadership, training and a little creative marketing.

One of the most common challenges organizations face when they deploy collaborative platforms and technologies involves employee adoption: Many employees don't use the tools, or adoption quickly falls a month or so after deployment.

Some managers try to mandate the use of new tools, but generally, adoption grows organically. I don't know of any companies where 100% of employees joyfully use their collaboration platform. Evolving the way we work takes time.

There are many reasons your employees might not be fully embracing collaboration tools. Here are a few of the most effective ways I've seen organizations handle the adoption challenge in both the short- and long-term.

Management Should Use and Encourage

Lead by example -- not just the executive team, but mid-level management as well. There are creative ways to do this. For example, one large enterprise encouraged managers to reply to employee emails with only a link to their profile page so employees would contact them via the collaboration platform.

[ For more tips on encouraging new practices within your enterprise, see 10 Ways To Foster Effective Social Employees. ]


Jacob Morgan's The Collaboration Organization is a comprehensive strategy guide on how to use emerging collaboration strategies and technologies to solve business problems in the enterprise. It has been endorsed by the former CIO of the USA, CMO of SAP, CMO of Dell, CEO of TELUS, CEO of Unisys, and dozens of other business leaders from around the world.

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It's also crucial that managers and executives leverage the collaboration platform to provide more real-time feedback to employees, even if it simply means "liking" a comment. Here's an interesting experiment: Pretend there's no email -- everything must be directed to a collaboration platform. It takes discipline.

Provide Ongoing Training

The most successful companies provide ongoing education and training for their tools. This includes everything from reverse mentoring programs to lunch-and-learns, regular open webinars and discussions, and in-person training sessions by community managers.

Embedding collaboration into the employee onboarding process is also very effective, as it helps new employees hit the ground running. The key is for employees to feel that the organization as a whole has embraced an evolved way of working. This needs to a virtually tangible feeling; it should be "in the air."

Listen to Employee Feedback

One of the biggest mistakes many organizations make is not listening to their employees' feedback. If your company is planning to implement new policies or changes, reach out to employees for their preferences -- just as you would, for example, if you were considering new insurance programs. Employees will be quite opinionated.

It's important that employees who offer their thoughts feel heard; otherwise they will disengage. This doesn't mean that you need to cater to every request -- you might create a voting system where the most popular ideas are explored, for example. But at least acknowledge all feedback.

Use Appropriate Internal Communication

I can't tell you how many times managers at large enterprises have told me about their great collaboration initiatives -- but when I spoke with non-managerial employees, they "never heard of anything." This happened even with one of the largest casino companies on the Vegas strip!

You can't simply deploy a tool and hope people will find -- and use -- it. Leverage your marketing and communication teams to make a big splash, and make it fun. In one of my favorite examples, Yum! Brands pasted decals on bathroom mirrors and elevator doors.

Accept and Adapt to Change

One of the most powerful effects of an enterprise collaboration platform is its ability to make your company more agile and adaptable. That means things are inevitably going to change -- whether we're talking about corporate dress codes, reporting structures, or compensation and benefits -- and you need to be okay with that.

They key is to become more nimble. Don't be afraid of change -- you must be willing to accept and adapt to become successful.

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JoanM
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JoanM,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/26/2013 | 7:34:23 PM
re: How To Market Collaboration To Employees
Look for any existing influencers that are also evangelists--perhaps people who have used the same or a similar technology with good results before. They will often champion the cause for you if they will benefit. Leverage their influence and enthusiasm.

I would also add- go for the pain points that are low-hanging fruit. Solve a key challenge that's a time suck and big drain on resources, and you will usually find your evangelists willing to lead the charge.

As you start, accept that a certain percentage will resist, so you can identify possible roadblocks. The solution may be something as simple as training, or reassurance their credibility and expertise is not in question.

Above all, have a governance board to help marshall the program so it doesn't become a wild child out of control.
Melanie Rodier
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Melanie Rodier,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/26/2013 | 2:43:05 PM
re: How To Market Collaboration To Employees
I would also add that it if a company successfully and consistently highlights the benefits that the collaboration platform offers each and every employee, (whether it is for training, sharing opinions, finding out about cross-company job opportunities and much more) they will ultimately naturally gravitate towards it.
Drew Conry-Murray
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Drew Conry-Murray,
User Rank: Ninja
3/21/2013 | 9:34:22 PM
re: How To Market Collaboration To Employees
I'd add a few points to this.

--Before you roll out a top-down collaboration platform, find out if employees are already using one (or more). If you're really after organic growth, there's a lot to be said for trying to build from a base of users that have already adopted a platform--they'll be the company's best advocates for it.

--Go to where your employees work. I think a lot of collaboration platforms suffer because they pull employees out of the applications where they spend most of their time, or try to force people into a new workflow. If you can find a collaboration system that can integrate nicely with popular apps (e-mail and Salesforce come to mind) you may get more uptake.

-- Have modest expectations. I'm somewhat skeptical of collaboration platforms because I think vendors go overboard in promising how it will transform an organization or provide oodles of value. (Not that collaboration vendors are the only ones guilty of this). But managers who expect an upswell of productivity just because everyone can now share status updates are going to be dissapointed.

Drew Conry-Murray
Editor, Network Computing
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