One of the most common challenges I see with organizations that deploy collaborative platforms and technologies is the employee adoption rate. In other words, many employees don’t use the tools or there is a spike in adoption which quickly falls a month or so after deployment. Occasionally I see some managers try to mandate the use of new tools but most of the time adoption grows organically. I don’t know of any companies that have 100% of their employees joyfully using their collaboration platform. Evolving the way we work takes time. There are many reasons for why employee adoption rates might not be where you want them to be. Here are a few of the most important things I’ve seen organizations do quite successfully to help improve employee adoption in the short and long-term.
Use and encouragement from managers
This is the notion of leading by example, not just from the executive team but also from the mid-level management team. I’ve seen some creative ideas around this. For example one large enterprise encouraged managers to reply to employee emails simply with a link to their profile page so that the employees could message them or contact them via the collaboration platform. It’s also crucial for managers and executives to leverage the collaboration platform to provide more real-time feedback to employees, even if it means just “liking” a comment. As an interesting experiment try pretending that there is no email when it comes to communication with employees so everything needs to be directed to a collaboration platform. It takes discipline.
Ongoing education and training, both formal and casual
The successful companies provide ongoing education and training around collaboration tools and approaches. This includes everything from reverse mentoring programs to lunch and learns to weekly open webinars or discussions to having community managers provide in person training to employees. Embedding collaboration into the onboarding process is also very effective as it helps get new employees to hit the ground running. The key here is that employees need to feel the organization as a whole has embraced an evolved way of working, this needs to a virtually tangible feeling, it has to be “in the air.”
Listening to employee feedback
One of the biggest mistakes organizations make is NOT listening to the employee feedback that they receive. If there are new policies or changes that your company is going to implement, perhaps reach out to employees for their preferences. For example, new insurance programs. Employees will also be quite vocal about features and approaches. It’s important that employees who provide feedback or submit ideas feel heard, otherwise they will disengage. This doesn’t mean that you need to cater to every single request, you can create a voting system where the most popular ideas are experimented with, but at least acknowledge the feedback.
Proper marketing and internal communication
I can’t tell you how many times I have spoken with managers at large enterprises who tell me about their great collaboration initiatives but when I speak with non-managerial employees they admit that they “never heard of anything,” this was the case with one of the largest casino companies on the Vegas strip! You can’t just deploy a tool and hope that people find out about it. Leverage your marketing and communication teams to help make this a big splash and don’t be scare to make this fun. One of my all-time favorite examples of internal marketing for enterprise collaboration comes from Yum! Brands.
Adapting to change
If your organization thinks that deploying some new tools and getting employees to use them is all that it takes, then you are going to be quite surprised. One of the most powerful things about enterprise collaboration platforms is their ability to make your company more agile and adaptable. This means that things are going to change and you need to be ok with that. What kind of change are we talking about? Everything has the potential to change ranging from the type of clothing your employees wear to work every day (moving from suits to a more casual style) to your corporate policies to your reporting structure to new roles and titles to how employees are compensated. I’m not saying all of things will change but they can. They key here isn’t to fight back against change but to become more nimble and agile. Don’t be scared to change and know that you are going to have to in order to become successful.