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Manager : 3 Ways to Ensure People Actually Use Your New ESN

Forward-thinking B2C companies are getting—and staying—ahead of their competition by embracing social media. They are keeping their audience up-to-date on new products & features, gathering customer feedback, creating two-way communication streams with their biggest fans, and recognise the value of user feedback as a marketing vehicle.

The most forward-looking companies are actually embracing social both inside and out. They are deploying Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs) to gain many of these new social benefits from their own internal functions, groups, and individual contributors. Their ESNs allow them to better listen to, communicate with, and foster collaboration amongst their own employees… and the benefits derived from these internal social transformations led business to spend, in 2016 alone, over two billion USD on these internal social platforms.

Yet, as many managers are now learning, along with their potential benefits, these platforms come with a hard lesson.

Collaboration Never Just Happens

Organisations quickly learned they could not simply create a Twitter account and then expect social magic to occur. They have learned it takes dedicated, consistent action to derive benefit from external social channels.

Similarly, organisations are now realising they cannot simply deploy an ESN and wake up to a highly collaborative organisation. The managers placed in charge of these platforms must take a few dedicated, persistent actions to ensure widespread adoption of, and engagement with, their ESN. These primary actions managers must take include, but are not limited to:

  1. Think Past the Technology, and Onto the People Using It
  2. Develop a Comprehensive Strategy Around your ESN
  3. Actually Use the ESN Yourself

Let’s explore each of these actions in a little more depth.

1. Think Past the Technology, and Onto the People Using It

Organisations can easily get enamoured with their new ESN technology. But these platforms are not toys to play with. They serve a dedicated purpose—to better connect people within the organisation. And the organisational emphasis regarding these platforms should always focus off the shiny new tech and onto the people using them.

As Gartner analyst Carol Rozwell noted, ESN adoption is not like ERP or CRM adoption. It is not about pushing a hot new technology into their people’s hands. It is about encouraging organic opt-in. As her report explains, “leaders of social business initiatives need to shift their emphasis away from deciding which technology to implement.” Instead of focusing on technology selection or technical performance markers like functionality lists and uptime, they should focus on identifying and communicating the real benefit to individual contributors and groups, and to continuously understand and seek to refine why people are, or are not, using the technology.

2. Develop a Comprehensive Strategy Around Your ESN

Deloitte agrees. In their paper, “Like it or not, here I am: Social media and the workplace”, the firm states that “Strategy, not technology” drives the adoption of new internal digital tools that foster greater communication and collaboration, such as ESNs. Managers must develop a greater strategy for their ESN if they would like their people to use it.

Part of this strategy must speak to organisational culture. If an organisation is not already open to hearing their people’s ideas, then ESN technology will not fix that. Any ESN strategy must include within it a real push to transform into a more open, communicative, and collaborative organisation, where employees are allowed to speak their minds and share their thoughts without concern for repercussions. Making a new technology available, alone, cannot create this deeper cultural change.

Part of this strategy must also weave ESN use into business processes. It is not enough to simply give employees a new platform to communicate and collaborate on, and expect them to immediately place it into their day-to-day work. Employees are busy and, when in doubt, will stick with whatever communication and collaboration tools they know get their work done in time—even if working with new tools will eventually lead to faster, and more effective outcomes. It’s up to managers to identify when and where initial ESN use must occur—which communications and collaborations must occur on the ESN—and to not accept these communication nor collaborations through any other channel. Employees must be given a practical plan for using these technologies, or they will always revert to their old behaviours.

3. Actually Use the ESN Yourself

It takes a lot of work to develop an ESN strategy. It takes substantial discipline to enforce it. And it takes a significant amount of time to see the results of this effort and discipline take hold through the organisation. But there is one thing managers can do from day one that produces an immediate impact regarding whether or not their employees actually adopt the new ESN— managers can actually use the new ESN themselves.

This sounds obvious on paper, but in practice it often fails to occur. In the Harvard Business Review piece titled “Why No One Uses the Corporate Social Network”, the author outlined a common experience. She spoke with a firm that had adopted enterprise social tools that, after an initial spike in usage, saw little to no adoption. Investigating why this might have happened, she asked the firm’s managers “How many of you have been on the platform in the past week?” Only one manager had— the platform’s admin.
Her takeaway was simple, but powerful, “…because the top executives didn’t see collaboration and engagement as a good use of their time, employees quickly learned that they shouldn’t either.”

When in doubt, if a manager wishes to ensure their people actually use their ESN, they should first ask, “Am I actually using it?” If their answer is “no”, then their next action is obvious.

Now, Go Get Your People to Actually Use Your ESN

Think about your people, not the technology. Build a strategy that tells them how to use the platform, and that they are safe to do so. And, finally, use the platform yourself. Three simple actions that can dramatically improve usage of your ESN, and transform your organisation into a more social place to work.

However, there is one more simple action you can take to ensure a successful ESN deployment—find the right partner who has done it before, to walk you through each step.

Craig Staufenberg

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