The Intranet and beyond…

As I will soon be hosting an event with the same title, I thought it might be interesting to give everyone a little taster of what I hope to cover with (a lot of) help from my colleague Mark Smith and some very interesting guest speakers.

By now, everyone has pretty much accepted that Intranets are important and a great way to help bring people closer to people and closer to information. Most businesses have some sort of Intranet and some of us are discussing the importance of ‘socialising’  Intranets and making them more collaborative.

But to understand where Intranets are headed, we have to understand the underlying trends and directions that are influencing our working lives.

Our lives have changed
Consider how the way we live our personal lives has changed over the past two decades: we socialise and make friends online (Facebook), everyone knows where we are (Foursquare), we are available any time (mobile), we buy anything anywhere (ecommerce), we only watch what we want to see (TV on-demand), we share our interest and knowledge (Twitter), we have total mobility (iPads, Smartphones) and we expect all of this at breakneck speed (4G and broadband).

I could go on and on about how our personal lives have been unrecognisably changed by technology…but that is only because I am old enough to remember what our lives were like 20 years ago. Most of the 20-something youngster joining the workforce today don’t know any different.

Our workplace needs to catch up
And yet, if we look at the way we work, very little has changed over the last two decades. In fact, if anything, the speed of organisations’ advancement has slowed down.

What does our office look like today? Pretty much the same as it did in the 1990’s. Back then we had open offices, coffee corners, networks and document drives. Some of us had PCs and others had laptops (ok, a bit bulkier and more expensive). We had email and mobile phones. Sure there have been some changes, but the sad truth is that back then our workplace offered us better infrastructures, connectivity and equipment , whilst today we now have better equipment and connectivity at home.

Fundamental change
It is not just about technology but about the way we structure our organisations. As people are becoming smarter, there is less need for traditional business hierarchies. As people start to collaborate, we need to adjust the way we approach targets and job remits. As people begin to share, authority will shift from those with fancy job titles to those with knowledge.

Essentially, the workspace should no longer be a place you go to but a thing you do. The office environment should become an extension of our digital workplace. People will not work 9-to-5 but whenever they are connected. We need to recognise achievements instead of just offering attractive compensation. Mobility (not mobile), collaboration and sharing need to become the focus, and we need to put in place solutions that will allow us to do all this effectively (hint: that is not by email!).

All of this will not be achieved immediately, and we will certainly not have all the answers at the event, but I do hope we will demonstrate ways in which you can start working towards this organisational revolution, and how to ensure your approach is flexible and future-proof enough to meet the challenges of the second decade of the 21st century.

The free breakfast seminar will be hosted at the Hospital Club, Covent Garden from 8.30am-10.30am on 10th October 2012. To register please visit: http://linkd.in/PtE38h (limited availability).

See you there!

How to avoid social collaboration failure: focus on people

I am aware that the title of this post makes a pretty big commitment to the reader, and I don’t blame you for thinking I am about to reveal the holy grail of social collaboration or Enterprise 2.0. I am sorry to disappoint you.

Unfortunately there is no definitive roadmap for success or perfect case study we can all replicate. The very nature of Enterprise 2.0 is that the solution needs to be adapted to the one thing that makes every company different: its people.

Typical,”, I hear you say, “another wishy-washy blog post that only adds to the conundrums we already face!”. Hopefully, not!

The reality is that although the solution is almost certainly unique, the approach to uncovering the solution is relatively standard. It just needs to be focused on the people. So here are a couple of key steps that should form part of your passage into the world of social collaboration, and help ensure a successful outcome:

1)  Don’t let the technology define you, you define the technology – “we want to implement platform x because our CEO went to a conference where it was presented, and he loves it” does not make a good business case! Before you select the right platform, make sure you do your homework (see #2, #3 and #4 below). Certainly do not start by selecting the platform. Take a step back from technology and resist the temptation to jump on a particular bandwagon. Most responsible vendors actually advocate this approach themselves, as failure is not in their interest either.

2) Understand the users’ requirements and needs – this is not about getting the users buy-in but about making sure that the solution actually meets the needs of the people who will be expected to use it. Sounds like a no-brainer,  right? Believe me, so many organisations still see this step as a waste of time or simply treat it as a box ticking exercise. Gain an understanding of what is lacking from the current system(s),  find out how the users are currently working (tools, devices, locations), find out what the users require to work more efficiently and effectively, and what would make their day more productive (and enjoyable!).

3) Ensure the drivers are in place – if your business doesn’t not have a collaborative culture, there is no technical solution or platform that will magically create a social collaborative environment. You need to make sure the business is ready, and that the relevant drivers are in place. These drivers are personal to the organisation and will include essential factors such as culture, leadership and technology.

4) Build a strong foundation (business case) – define the business objectives and the relevant KPIs to measure success. You need to be able to measure your solution, not just to prove you are on the right track, but more importantly to know if you are on the wrong one. The benefits of E2.0 are often intangible (i.e. more engaged employees), making them harder to measure but not impossible. Also focus on the wider business metrics. Define the end-goal or outcome  (e.g. innovation, growth, profitability, customer retention), which are measurable.

5) Pilot – the saying that ‘you only have one chance to make a first impression’ is also true within the organisation. This makes pilots so important.  They allow you to launch in a controlled environment, steer the project, make observations and adjustments, and perfect your approach before you roll-out to the wider audience.

6) Planning – “a goal without a plan is just a wish” (Antoine de Saint-Exupery). A medium and long term plan is essential. It gives everyone confidence that it is not just a whim. You need to include in your plan governance, community management, communication strategies (for senior stakeholders) and adoptions strategies (for users) if you are to succeed beyond the initial pilot or launch.

6) Identify champions – I have mentioned this various times in previous posts, but it is often under-rated or ignored completely. The whole concept behind E2.0 is that the users own the platform, provide the content and drive adoption. To make this happen you need the ‘innovators’ and ‘early adopters’ (Rogers’ bell curve) in place. So make sure you have identify, motivated and brought on-board the key influencers, gatekeepers and leaders.

7) Clear communication – if your organisation is anything like 99.9% of the other organisations out there, your foray into launching ‘a new solution’ will not be the first the employees will have experienced. By now they probably have a multitude of tools, platforms, apps, and software systems that were, at the time, equally ground breaking as your initiative. Make people understand why you are introducing this new system, why it will be beneficial to them and set aside enough time and budget to train them and provide support.

8) There is no ‘one size fits all’ – as mentioned in my introduction, E2.0 is world where ‘one size does not fit all’. It is perfectly possible that even within your organisation you might need to consider different solutions or approaches for different departments or business units. I am certainly not suggesting implementing a myriad of platforms within one organisation. That would almost certainly end in disaster, but make sure that you introduce your new solution only to those users who will benefit, rather than forcing it on everybody.

Conclusion:

When speaking to organisations, I am glad that the conversation is no longer about ‘why’ they need to implement an E2.0 strategy. They get it now. They realise that the workforce is changing, that technology is speeding up conversations, and that social networks have altered the way we communicate and collaborate forever. The question now is no longer about ‘why?’ but ‘how?’.

Unfortunately, it is now in the ‘How?’ phase where organisations are losing their faith and where the money is squandered. In 9 out of 10 cases it is because the initiative did not have the users (the people) at the centre. Focus on the people and their needs, and you will be on your way to success. If you don’t have the resource for this ‘discovery’ exercise, get outside help. It will save you lots of money, pain and resistance in the long run.

Lonely at the top: how a CEO drives employee engagement

Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s Continental Airlines was ranked bottom of nearly every category used to measure airline performance. The company went through 10 CEOs in a decade, had to ask for bankruptcy protection twice and, at it’s lowest point, made losses of over $600m per year.

When Gordon Bethune took over as CEO in 1994, the situation looked hopeless. But he quickly realised that the origin of the problem was (mainly) down to one major failing: a complete and fundamental lack of employee engagement. In fact, employees were mistreated and mistrusted. The employees themselves were embarrassed to work at Continental. There was no pride and certainly no pleasure in going to work.

This lack of pride and enjoyment inevitably led to slow turnarounds at airports, lack of cleanliness of the planes, delays and most importantly of all total customer dissatisfaction. People didn’t fly Continental for their pleasure. The result: a hugely unprofitable airline.

Bethune, implemented the basics of employee engagement. He instilled pride, explained that the cleanliness of the planes wasn’t just important for the customer, but for the staff themselves. They had to work in the planes. He started giving the staff bonuses every month the business made a profit (sending a separate cheque at the end of the month to make sure they knew it!). And he got stuck in. He could often be found loading luggage with ground staff or getting feedback directly from cabin crew.

The result? The year Bethune took over the company made $250m profit. It was soon at the top of all the rankings and the stock price rose from $2 per share to $50 per share, it was voted ‘best place to work’ for 6 consecutive years and in his last year (2004), Fortune magazine voted Continental Airlines No. 1 Most Admired Global Airline (which it has won many times since then).

So, what can we learn from Bethune’s activities? How can we translate these into a digital comms language? Here are some ideas on how you as a CEO can use your digital channels to cultivate employee engagement, instil pride and get your team behind you:

CEO Participation – the biggest lesson we can surely take from this success story is the importance for the CEO to ‘get stuck in’. It is not just about getting senior management and/or CEO ‘buy-in’ for the Intranet (or social collaboration platform). It is all about actual participation. You need to be using the same systems that your staff are using. If you use it, the rest of the organisation will follow suit (and you will gain a better understanding of any limitations and/or benefits).

CEO blog – a great way of getting the team behind you is by communicating to them. And one of the most effective ways (time/cost) of doing that is through a blog. Although slightly more time consuming than participation, CEO blogs are hugely powerful instruments that enable you to address potentially sensitive issues, cultivate enthusiasm for new projects, and communicate the management’s vision and the company’s performance.

CEO Q&A – another very effective idea, and very easy to implement for the more social platforms, is the creation of a version of ‘prime minister question time’ or internal CEO Q&A session. Run as regularly as it suits the business, this will allow staff from all levels of the organisation to ask questions and for you to address them. Yes, this means you will sometimes face difficult issues, but the reality is they are better addressed than left to fester.

Video & webcasting – it doesn’t replace the importance of face-to-face presentations, but in organisations that are geographically dispersed or simply too large to get everyone in one room, video and webcasting is the perfect way for employees to get a closer to the CEO. Webcasting, in particular, is a great way to draw people to the Intranet at the same time, with a common sense of purpose and allow you to address the whole organisation as one. Rich content is also becoming more and more important to Intranets, so consider a quarterly corporate update video, and a video for new starters welcoming them on-board (simple but extremely effective).

KPIs – the lack of importance given to communicating company performance internally always amazes me. Companies are quite willing to spend fortunes on end of year reports and IR sections (which are clearly also important), but don’t seem to understand the importance of communicating this information internally. A company performance section should be a standard for your Intranet if you want to gain real employee engagement. Simple: to cultivate pride, tell them how you are doing when you are doing well. If the company is doing badly, discussing performance figures can help rally the troops.

Conclusion:

Essentially, all the above are digital examples of how you can achieve two things: ‘getting stuck in’ and open communication. Open communication builds trust and pride. Getting stuck in shows awareness, interest and understanding.

These are the pillars on which employee engagement is built.