Tag Archives: social media

Strengthen employee engagement while working remotely

Happy New Year to you!  I hope you had a relaxing break and have recharged your batteries for 2014.

I was recently asked by Simply Communicate to follow up my 2014 predictions with one for internal communications.  Here it is:

Organisations increasingly face the challenge of how to strengthen employee engagement while their workforce increasingly work from remote locations or while mobile. There is a great opportunity for internal communications to take a leading role with developing a plan that addresses these challenges with greater use of communications channels.

What is different now from previous years is the range of tools and know-how which can be used to successfully have engaged and mobile employees. The key to this will be the rich experience employees will have online as they are able to read communications when they need to, where they need to, and be able to share, feedback, rate the value of the messages with other people who share a similar interest.

An example of this could be combining collaboration tools with traditional online communication channels will help provide that rich experience so a key company announcement video, CEO blog post and detailed background information available is strengthened by a discussion forum managed by internal comms to continue the conversation with quick polls on the awareness and understanding of key messages.

It is how it is implemented and how it is managed within a wider governance framework will help decide how successful it will be. Good luck with whatever you do in 2014!

Read about more 2014 internal communication predictions from simple communicate.

BT field-based workers use the digital workplace

I read Jane McConnell’s latest blog post ‘Floor-field workforce: the forgotten people?‘ with great interest.  I agree with Jane that office workers are currently the main focus for digital workplace transformations.  But there are some enterprises who lead the game for field-based workers.

It reminded me of when I was the BT intranet manager.  BT had employees who worked mainly from offices or while mobile or remotely from home or local hubs. I was involved in a project to give everyone, including field-based workers, access to BT’s intranet and developing digital workplace.  The project was seen as key to BT’s overall transformation as a business and was closely linked to wider strategic business priorities that included, higher customer service, improved employee productivity, and reduced office and travel costs.

The hardest part of this transformation was equipping all the field-based engineers who visited customers at their homes or places of work.  At the time BT had around 30,000 field engineers spread across the whole of the UK.  Some places were very remote and customers in difficult places to get to.  But this was not just a change of technology project.  It would bring about a huge change in how engineers worked and behaved with other team members, manager, everyone in BT and most importantly their customers.

Equipping every engineer with a laptop or smartphone with access to the digital workplace to upload and download customer progress reports and next job was expensive and technically complex.  The time needed to plan, test and implement for so many people didn’t encourage senior managers to commit easily to this project when quick results counted.  Because of these factors – cost, complexity, time to roll out – BT’s field engineers were the last group to be connected to the digital workplace.

To answer Jane’s point, the field-based engineers were not forgotten in BT but prioritised with everyone else because it wasn’t easy, quick, or cheap to achieve or for business benefits to be realised.

Before the transformation engineers would meet at the start of each day at one location to be given their work by their manager and to plan their routes from there to the each customer’s home or place of work.  They shared knowledge with their team members over a cup of tea before they started on traffic problems, technical tips, new products coming soon, etc.  Any news was given by their manager before they left for their first visit either individually or if appropriate together in an informal meeting.

After the transformation field-based engineers downloaded their first job (not their day’s work schedule) at home using their laptop and free broadband  connection to the online work tool in the digital workplace.  Travel was straight from their home to their first customer saving time and costs – there was no visit to their usual location at the start of each day.  When each customer’s visit was successfully completed the engineer uploaded this outcome to the online tool and be informed of the next customer to visit and what the work involved.  At the end of each day the engineers go home.  They were able to use the digital workplace to read the latest information about BT the same as everyone else.

As I said earlier it wasn’t just a technology project but more about changes to working practices which had been the same for decades.  It was very difficult for everything and everyone to benefit when this amount of change is made.  There have been many benefits but some drawbacks.

The biggest benefits were increased productivity with engineers able to go to their first customer visit straight from home.  The digital workplace was resilient and always available so the online tool could be trusted 24/7 to accept and provide work updates.  Customer service also improved with more flexibility in times for customer visits and quicker changes to work schedules.  Less buildings were needed with home starts with huge savings in costs.

Culturally for the first time in a long while field-based engineers felt part of the same BT team again.  Access to information and news on the digital workplace helped to remove a perception that they were missing out on important information affecting them.

But there were some drawbacks.  Engineers didn’t like the isolation.  It meant they did not see their team members for days sometimes and their manager less frequently.  Many found it hard to adjust to the new approach and considered leaving risking a huge loss of knowledge from BT.

BT has tried with limited success to replace the face-to-face sharing of knowledge with technology.  The limited time and lack of contact did not encourage a huge takeup with its impact on unsolved problems.  In my view tools like Yammer and Jive can supplement some face-to-face contact but they can’t completely replace the absence of it.

The inability to decide how to schedule their work brought a sense of disengagement and lack of empowerment that affected their job satisfaction if it did increase productivity.  A slow burning issue that needs to be resolved.

To again answer Jane’s point, the field-based engineers were connected with the digital workplace but it is not technology changes which are the biggest challenge but the human changes that need most attention.

Valuing information tip 3: how to manage collaborative content

In this series of posts ‘Showing the value of your information’ I help you with tips and advice.  In my last post I covered  how to make sure your accredited content is up to date so people using it can rely on its value.  I now want to cover collaborative content in this post.

collaborative content

Collaborative content can be owned by everyone, an individual or community.  It can be an opinion expressed in a discussion forum or blog post.  It offers a personal view which may be right or wrong and may change frequently.  Other people can support and build on that view or challenge and change it.

Collaborative content is less stringently managed because it needs lower levels of trust.  Many of your publishing standards are optional for collaborative content e.g. no review date or security classification normally needed. However what you do need to see is the:

  • Name of contributor to a discussion thread
  • Name of blog owner
  • Name of person making a comment on blog post
  • Date (and time) when comments were made on discussion thread
  • Feedback link to raise issues with discussion forum owner e.g. report abuse

how to show its value

This is not so easy to manage!  Normally comments made in discussion threads or to blog posts on the internet are managed by the amount of continuing interest shown by the large number of people updating it.  The content remains on the internet but if fewer people use it, it won’t appear in the top search results or be prominent in discussion forums, unless you dig deep enough to find it.

When a comment in a discussion thread on your intranet is made that type of behaviour can’t be replicated.  Even the largest intranets only have a fraction of the number of users compared with the internet.  A different approach is needed which creates the dilemma I mentioned earlier.

You can remove discussion groups and blog posts if there has been no activity with them after a period of time.  An advance warning of what is planned if no one adds to the discussions can prompt it re-energising.  But if it doesn’t do this what should you do?

If the content can no longer be found then people don’t get distracted by out of date information when trying to share their views or solve a problem raised by someone else.  However it may be that nugget of wisdom is buried within a discussion thread and lost forever because it can’t be found.

A strong governance framework can help you to decide what content to keep, remove, or delete and who is responsible for making those decisions.

Showing the value of your information

I want to help you to show to people using your information how valuable it is.  Information should be something that can be used to help you with your work and be useful to you.

What is it you can do for people to realise your content is of value, it is useful, reliable, and authoritative?  What pitfalls should you avoid so people avoid your information!

It always surprises me when I see other intranets and digital workplaces how poor the management of their information is shown to people who need to use it.  Most of this is down to poor governance but there are other factors that come into play and show people the content is not valued.

There are also good examples of best practice shown with other intranets and digital workplaces which should be shared and adopted more widely.

As people use an increasing variety of ways to find and use information e.g. laptop, tables, smartphone, and the type of information grows e.g  company policy, news article, blog post or discussion thread comment they still need answers to some basic questions:

  1. Why should I use this information?
  2. How can I rely on it for my work?
  3. Who can help me further?
  4. Can it help others?
  5. Will it change in future?

In future posts I will give you tips on what to do/not to do to help you to show how valuable your information is to people who want to use it.  A lot of these will be very simple and obvious steps you should take.

Please leave me a comment with any good examples or gripes you have over problems you experience with information.  I am not the font of all knowledge on this subject and would love to help you to help others. :)

 

Is SharePoint ‘good’ or ‘bad’?

Many people have asked me if I think SharePoint is ‘good’ or ‘bad’?  It’s a great question to ask but it is harder to give the right answer based on my experiences with SharePoint creating strategies, leading project teams, implementing  governance frameworks or just using the many features.

I have seen with each SharePoint version – 2003 to 2013 – how some new features help but other features can hinder how an organisation needs to use it….but one thing is clear, Microsoft don’t package up ‘good’ or ‘bad’ versions of SharePoint.

I believe it is how an organisation implements SharePoint that helps you feel if it is good or bad.

Here are five factors that can help you decide if SharePoint is ‘good’ or ‘bad’:

Strategy

It is important you have a strategy for your intranet or digital workplace that SharePoint can be shown will help to achieve. A strategy helps set the direction you are moving in.  It helps identify key priorities you need to achieve to help your organisation.  Timescales also help to manage expectations and show what is practical from what is aspirational.

You should not just have a SharePoint strategy.  That can lead to you delivering technology solutions that don’t meet the aims of your organisation or cover wider aspects of cultural change.  Your strategy must not be based on SharePoint: it should be wider and align with your organisation’s overall strategy and related areas e.g. IT, Comms, HR, etc. and measure the benefits.

Governance

You need to have a governance framework that underpins your strategy in the long and short term.  This means having clear roles and responsibilities, linking these together into a hierarchy with publishing standards, training and processes for new content editors.

Without a governance framework people could be unclear on the purpose of each SharePoint tool e.g. MySite, TeamSite, and how is the best and most appropriate way to use them.  Without a governance framework there can be chaos and a digital mess that can be very difficult to untangle and gain any benefit from for a long time.

Planning

Have a clear plan for why you need to use SharePoint, what you need to achieve, how you plan to achieve it, and when you need to complete each phase by.  This helps you to see what is the best approach and prioritise the way you introduce SharePoint to people in your organisation.

If you are planning to replace many existing online tools e.g content and document management systems and/or collaborative tools it is critical that you consider the impact that actions taken in an earlier phase could have knock-on effects during a later phase (which maybe 1-2 years ahead) e.g. permissions, SharePoint Designer.

Without any plan the consequences for your organisation and people’s online experience could be disastrous.  SharePoint is a very powerful tool and needs to be managed carefully!

education

You need to have a strong communication and training approach to anyone who will be touched by SharePoint whether that is your CEO, content editor or casual user or contributor.

People publishing and using SharePoint information need to appreciate that it is not all the same in its value (something I will be writing about in the future) e.g. a policy is unlikely to change frequently and be inaccurate but an opinion expressed in a discussion group may be inaccurate, incomplete, change next day.

People need to understand the differences in the information they use and behave accordingly in their judgement and actions based on how much value they place on it.

SharePoint is more than a change of technology, it can change business policies, processes and how people behave when they have a problem or want to share some helpful information.

business need

I have heard how IT have approached the business saying “we have this free tool option on top of X product that we’ve bought which we’re going to use for Y purpose”.  It’s a natural reaction to test out something for free but many organisations have found it doesn’t work out the way it is planned.

Firstly, you need to make sure you have a business problem that SharePoint is a good (note I didn’t say the best) technology solution to solve.  Sometimes I have seen the introduction of SharePoint create problems that didn’t exist before.

Make sure you involve people who will be affected by any changes you plan to make as early as possible who can also test these to see if they do help as you expect SharePoint to and feedback any issues to be acted upon before it is launched.

Your organisation needs to be clear on what the problems and their root causes are before considering whether technology, and if so, which solution e.g. SharePoint can best help resolve the problem.

summary

I hope this can help you to appreciate there are factors that influence why people feel SharePoint is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ apart from the technology itself.  It is more likely to be how you have approached and implemented SharePoint rather than the tools and features people can use that affects your view when you think about it more deeply.

Please leave a comment with your views and contact me if I can help in any way.

Intranet Pioneer: more mobile and collaborative

Welcome to the new Intranet Pioneer site.  I hope it helps you even more than before.  As well as my regular blog posts remaining centre stage I have added two areas that I can help you with.

Collaboration

A good collaboration strategy to set the right direction with a solid governance framework to sustain you on your journey are key ingredients to a successful outcome.  Using my knowledge gained from first-hand experience I can also help you choose the right tools to help you improve customer service, problem solving and idea creation.

Mobile

Using my first-hand experience and knowledge gained from helping clients implement mobile solutions I can walk you safely through the minefield of security, bring your own device, and creating apps and content that are right for each mobile device.  A good strategy to set the right direction with a solid governance framework to sustain you on your journey are key ingredients to a successful outcome.

Whether you need help with strategic advice, developing a governance framework, project planning or practical implementation, or detailed guidance and support, please contact me to find out how I can support you.

4 ways and 3 benefits using a wiki to develop policies

An organisation’s purpose involves how to manage how their people behave by encouraging, sometimes even mandating, how work tasks need to be carried out and by whom.  In my last post I asked ‘Why not use a wiki to develop policies?’.  How would using a wiki to develop work in practice?  Here are four ways to consider:

  1. You need to have the right culture which will encourage people to contribute and feel comfortable challenging what exists and being constructively critical.
  2. You need ground rules, or terms and conditions, or guidelines which set out clearly what the expected level of behaviour is for anyone using the wiki.
  3. Make sure the wiki is easy to create and edit as well as to read.  Anyone who has used Wikipedia will know it is a very different experience if you want to create/edit an article compared with reading it!
  4. I recommend the person responsible for the policy adds a draft – something which makes sense but its structure and content is loose enough to encourage people to edit – and asks anyone interested to contribute.  It is much easier to comment upon what exists than to start with a blank screen.

It is best to start with a policy that affects most or all people working in the organisation.  Choosing a Human Resources policy best fits that aim.  A policy on employee’s terms and conditions; holiday – how much and when it is taken; flexible working hours – shift patterns; and grading and pay rates.  All of these are policies people will have a view on what they believe is appropriate and will help build up a policy that is accepted by most other people.

Why should your organisation take such a risk?

My answer is “Why not?”  I believe there is very little to be risked if you pick your first policy to be one that has widespread interest and is not seen as being contentious.

One way to encourage stronger engagement with people within your organisation is to ask for their views and listen and act upon them.  Giving people the opportunity to shape a policy which affects them means there is a stronger chance of buy-in to the final version and the impact it has.

When organisations treat their people as adults with a chance to express a view you will generally find it is taken seriously and the outcome is very good.  This applies to blogging, micro blogging, feedback, and discussions that are moderated by the members of the group.

Here are three benefits to consider:

  1. It is probable that a better thought through policy will be developed that takes account of many more concerns and points than an expert or small project team could expect to include.
  2. It is likely to be completed in less time with less effort.  And if it doesn’t work an organisation should be honest and explain why e.g. too few comments, too negative, and pledge to learn from the experience.
  3. Less time, effort, and costs will be spent policing the policy in future if everyone has had the opportunity to influence its development.

So, go on, why not use a wiki to develop a policy in your organisation?

Why not use a wiki to develop policies?

Ever since organisations have existed there has been a need to manage how their people behave by encouraging, sometimes even mandating, how work tasks need to be carried out and by whom.

There can be various reasons for policies: business, regulatory, and legal are the most common.  The way that policies are created, updated, and developed has changed very little in my experience working in or with organisations.  There will normally be an owner, champion, or stakeholder who will have overall responsibility for creating and managing the policy throughout its life cycle.

When a policy is created or needs to be reviewed it will normally be the owner who will start some form of a consultation exercise.  This may simply be an email to a few people across the organisation who are most affected by or can influence the policy asking if there are any changes they need to be made existing policies or what needs to be included to new policies.

It may involve a more robust approach being taken:

  • maybe a focus group
  • a request to a wider audience who have an interest in the area of the policy
  • or a project team who work through the detail and check back with their business function or stakeholder for guidance on the progress being made.

The variety of approaches used by organisations when creating new policies or reviewing and updating existing policies hasn’t changed much in recent years.

But the ways that organisations can now engage their people to create or update policies are changing.  There are new approaches being used which help encourage people to be more involved in what their organisation’s purpose, aims, values, and culture – amongst many others – should be.

Adapting social media tools used successfully on the internet include:

  • people using blogs to give their views and opinions
  • feedback any questions to news articles
  • share information through discussion groups about a wide range of work related activities.

I believe a corporate wiki that any person in the organisation can use is a great way to create a new policy or to update an existing policy.  It gives the chance for any person with an interest in the policy – maybe they are affected by it and want to improve it – to give their views.

Have you tried this in your organisation?

Reduced staff turnover savings in a digital workplace

This is the third in my series of posts showing examples of the savings organisations have made by shifting work to a digital workplace.  It draws on my previous posts on how you need to plan your strategy, governance, and management of content, tools, and services for a digital workplace.  This is essential to transform your intranet into a digital workplace.  The previous posts covered productivity savings and reduced absenteeism.

I will be using examples from the Digital Workplace Group‘s report ‘What is the financial value of investing in digital working?‘ that show what organisations taking the right approach can achieve.  This example covers how reduced staff turnover can improve engagement save costs impacting on your organisation’s financial bottom line.

How to reduce staff turnover

I posted on ‘How an engaged newbie can become a top performer‘ which showed that:

  • Performance management where you are measured on outcomes rather than time spent at work
  • Having the right collaboration tools in place with a good governance framework in place is needed
  • Having the right tools to connect from a hub, home or while on the move keeps you in touch with everyone

What organisations can achieve

  • Recent studies have found clear links that show new ways of working have a positive impact on staff turnover.
  • The value of reduced turnover from people telework for half the week is estimated at an annual $3,350 per teleworker.
  • If a quarter of a business’ workforce leaves each year, and the average pay is $35,000, it could easily cost a 1,000-person organisation $4m – $10m a year to replace employees.
  • Employees with flexible working arrangements are more likely to be satisfied, productive and committed – and stay with their employer in the long term.
  • The digital workplace is a key component in reducing absenteeism through flexible work options.

Examples

  1. More than 91% of Cisco’s 2,000 survey respondents say being able to telework issomewhat, or very, important to their overall satisfaction.
  2. In a 2009 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, 80% of HRprofessionals felt that flexible work arrangements have a positive impact on employee retention. Some 75% felt it helps them attract employees. And 86% felt it improved employee commitment.
  3. In Accenture’s 2012 Women’s Research – The Path Forward, 64% of respondents said that they stay in a job longer if offered flexible working.
  4. Canada’s Top 100 employers competition has found that employees who are given the option to telecommute report greater loyalty.
  5. 82% of Fortune Magazine’s 100 best companies to work for in 2011 offer telecommuting opportunities to workers.

If I was working in Yahoo! or Google I would want to consider how this evidence stacks up with their policies on homeworking.  Wouldn’t you?

My next post in this series will be on property savings.

Yahoo homeworkers: an endangered species?

I have read with interest the comments made upon the Yahoo! message about homeworking by HR head Jackie Reses.  It is the 2nd paragraph that intrigues me most:

“To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.”

This tends to fly in the face of the overwhelming evidence I have found from clients I have worked with, expert views I have read, and my own first-hand experience when I was homeworking at BT.

My recent post ‘Great examples of Digital Workplace productivity savings‘ showed clear benefits gained by individuals, other employees, and their organisations from homeworking.  In the comments there is more detail.

It reminds of the story about King Canute,  seated on his throne with the waves lapping around his feet. “Go back, sea!” he commanded time and again, but the tide continued as expected.

I wonder if in 2014 the policy will still be the same and homeworking will be a thing of the past at Yahoo!?