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    New Years Resolution: Achieve Social Digital Workspace Greatness

    resolutions-catThe beginning of a new year is usually a time for reflection, as well as a time to think about creating positive change in ourselves and our professional careers. With a high sense of optimism we set our goals, determined we will meet them successfully. This is good – because we are enhancing ourselves – understanding that we can be better, we can do better and more importantly that we look to be challenged and to grow by learning to overcome obstacles and fears. It may be hard work, but in the end it’s extremely rewarding.

    Some of my 2014 goals are to lay-off chocolate (OK, that may be an unattainable goal, good thing I have a few), to work better with my team, provide more value in what I do and to learn  from knowledge experts both inside and outside of my organization on topics that are of interest to me, so that I can both be challenged and enriched in many different areas of my life.

    One thing my company understands is mobility and I mean that in the most decentralized manner. Many of us work remotely but we all have easy access to each other if it’s by phone, email or online  meetings, we are always connected. However, maybe the most important place we connect is in our digital work-space.

    The reason our digital work-space is the most preferred place for me to connect is that I am able to find personalized information and content that is directed to my team space. I can communicate in real-time with co-workers that I need to communicate with. I can find those outside of my team space that may have valuable information to share and not only can I locate the information easily, I can have it in different forms. This allows me to get my work done quicker and more accurately, which in turn helps the team to reach our goals more efficiently.

    So how can your organization achieve digital work-space greatness? Well, for starters you need to consider the following:

    • What information employees are going to access
    • How are they going to access information
    • Where they need to find content
    • Who they need to communicate with
    • What they are going to do with the information once they locate it

    Key Components of a Great Social Digital Workspace

    Be sure to think mobile Today’s employees are working and communicating using a multitude of digital devices. They should be able to use the corporate intranet across any one of their devices no matter if it’s a Smartphone, tablet or laptop. You need to enable your employees to have access to information; contacts, project status changes and the ability make updates from anywhere, at any time from any device.

    Offer social features Employees spend time in social channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. and by offering a social intranet you’re giving employees with tools they are already comfortable with and like to use. A collaborative work-space can enrich your employees’ experience. Co-workers can develop areas of interest, foster innovation and exchange knowledge. Plus, social tools allow for teams to follow and share team members without bombarding their email -less noise, who doesn’t like that!

    It’s about ME: So personalize it — don’t contribute to information overload.  Give employees the right information, at the time they need, it in the space they work in. Building profiles allows the platform to better understand what is relevant to the employee and personalizes their work-space so that the employee decides what areas and information are important for them to get their work done.

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    I hope you  take some time to reflect on how your digital work-space is working for you and your employees, and what you can do in 2014 to achieve social digital work-space greatness.

    Live long and have a prosperous New Year!

    Could Your Intranet Win an Ugly Sweater Contest?

    With the holidays in full swing I have been invited to a few of those ugly holiday sweater parties and I was on the quest to find one that will land me first prize. I even shelled out a few extra dollars for some holiday pants too, thinking if I have an over-the top, crazy, but complete ensemble I would surely smoke all of my competition. Wish me luck.

    I then started to think about how so many companies have an ugly intranet and if they did was it ugly enough to win an ugly intranet contest? Trust me I used to work at a company where it could turn into a week long quest to find any useful information. The intranet was so cumbersome and annoying that no one wanted to use it, EVER!

    I bet you are wondering what made it so ugly, here’s the nitty gritty:

    • The home page was a complete jumble of this and that, no structure – no rhyme or reason
    • It was a dumping ground of information overload, where you would have to dig to find exactly who or what you needed
    • There was no sense of content ownership either, there was content posted that was so outdated that it talked about releases that happened years prior
    • It wasn’t connected to other systems that I needed to use such as a CRM or learning tools
    • When I wanted to post something I had to submit it in an unsearchable document library that asked me to fill out all this metadata and key word mubo-jumbo that didn’t even make it easy to find it once it was posted
    • If it was that bad on a PC, I didn’t dare try to use it on my mobile device – why create angst for myself
    • Sadly I could not work or share information in groups with members of my teams – and all correspondence was done by email after email

    If the above bullets about how terrible my experience was sounds like your current intranet experience,  congratulations you just won the ugly intranet contest.  Let me tell you what you won. Don’t worry, it’s not a Chia Pet. Its  a gift from me to you that will help make your intranet sparkle this holiday season.

    What do you want this holiday season? I bet it’s a social intranet that:

    • Is accessible from anywhere – no matter what digital device you are using
    • Allows you to join and create groups that you can work and share information effortlessly
    • Personalizes your experience so that connections and communications are relevant
    • Your able to work in a space where you can connect to the tools you use every day to do your job
    • Has  resources available in one place that is easy to locate, share, update and download
    • Fosters innovation and share new ideas with employees
    • Can measure how employees use the social intranet and how their activity can lead to improved ROI

    Bottom line – no one wants a gift that they have to stand in line to return, better yet one they wouldn’t even want to re-gift. Why bother using an outdated, undesirable, non-performing intranet when you should be using a social intranet that nurtures connections to employees, directs workers to resources they need, creates a collaborative space into a super powerful communication hub, fosters learning across the entire organization, and strengthens both internal and external relationships.

    By implementing the right social intranet that they will enjoy using, you will give your employees a gift that keeps on giving!

    Happy Holidays!

    Share by Default: How to Use Email Effectively with Your Collaboration Platform

    According to a McKinsey report, the average knowledge worker spends 28% of the work week on reading and responding to emails. That’s crazy! Don’t get me wrong, email has its purpose; it’s flexible, it can be part of your workflow, and it’s not going away. However, email shouldn’t be the all purpose communication tool of the office.

    Your collaboration platform should be the central knowledge repository of editable web pages, files, conversations, and essentially anything that could be useful for you, your team, or colleagues you don’t even know yet. Email can help you keep track of which tasks and projects within the knowledge repository need your attention and allow you to alert others if they can help answer questions or need to review a document.rain of mail img

    You still need email for these notifications as well as for communications with those who may be outside of your organization’s collaboration platform (e.g., customers, consultants, etc.). However, if you take a look through your inbox, you’ll probably find never ending threads, many of which you’re unnecessarily included in. When you think of all the useful knowledge trapped inside everyone’s inbox, that is essentially unsearchable by 99.9% of the rest of the organization, you realize why it takes so long to figure out who is the expert on a topic or what the answers are to your complex questions. The bulk of corporate knowledge is invisible and undiscoverable to those who need it.

    I worked for a manufacturing company that made flavorings and all employees had weekly taste tests. It was estimated that it took about 50,000 emails a year just to coordinate people’s schedules. We implemented Socialtext, set up a single editable web page where employees could sign up for time slots each week, and with that one small change, we essentially eliminated 50,000 emails a year. And making the schedule more transparent actually encouraged people to sign up more often when they saw when their friends were signing up.

    Essentially any process that involves multiple employees editing and revising information can be done faster and more easily with social software. You don’t have to keep track of multiple copies of documents or versions or figure out how to pull multiple edits into one document; a good social platform does that for you via revision history. If these are repetitive processes (e.g., organizing monthly events, weekly newsletters, etc.), a social platform enables participation from anyone and can make collaboration more efficient.

    It takes an intentional individual, team, and organizational effort to migrate your attention away from your inbox, and begin doing most of your work within your collaboration platform. You can work all day sending and responding to emails, and that work will be visible to those you’ve communicated with, but will be invisible to 98% of everyone else. Instead, if you do your work transparently within your social platform, your work is visible to and discoverable by almost everyone. That makes finding useful knowledge easier.

    Work transparently, not invisibly. Most communication and knowledge is useful to others. Share by default; use your social platform.

    Make Informal Learning a Formal Part of Your Organization

    Research shows that approximately 80% of learning happens in an informal environment, like conversations with coworkers. Informal learning is more personal and based on natural interactions, but that doesn’t mean you can’t provide support to encourage this type of learning.

    Those impromptu conversations by the water cooler or over lunch in the cafeteria are great, but what about organizations with global offices? And even in relatively small companies, many employees don’t communicate regularly with people outside of their department. When organizations facilitate informal learning, they make it easy for employees to learn from the subject matter experts (SMEs), and not just the most knowledgeable person an employee knows. These SMEs want to share their knowledge and employees want to acquire the best information they can to successfully complete their projects, but they need the support of the organization to make it happen.Businessman drinking water from water cooler

    It’s not that learning should be a free-for-all where employees only learn what they want. The point is to consider that workers are already learning effectively by talking to coworkers and through individual research, so why not make that process easier with a solution that is geared toward informal learning?

    Social software, especially when combined with video technology and a structured learning management system, can support those natural, informal learning efforts. Instead of having those conversations around the water cooler, you can ask questions, get answers, and have discussions in an activities stream. This not only allows for the conversation to happen across the organization, but it is then documented and is searchable for future reference by you or your colleagues.

    You can share a presentation you’re building and learn from the feedback of your organization’s experts. Engage those SMEs by collaborating on a document together within the social software and keep those informal learning efforts as a part of your company’s knowledge repository. When you document these discussions, you’re turning them into learning assets that current and future employees can use to answer similar questions and build off of to encourage more informative conversations.

    Structured learning should maintain its place in the organization; as a formal training tool that guides employees through information the company finds crucial. However, this can’t account for everything employees will need to know. By supporting both formal and informal learning, organizations can better engage their employees and improve performance across the company.

    Integrating Social into Existing Business Processes

    Even if employees can overcome their fear of change, it’s unlikely that they’ll adopt new technology if it doesn’t fit into their normal work flow. If you’re introducing a social solution into your organization, you not only want to make sure it provides a great user experience to encourage and maintain adoption, but also make sure it integrates with your existing technology.Flow Chart

    Employees don’t want to add another standalone application into the mix. So if they have to use social collaboration software that isn’t integrated with the HR, ERP, or CRM applications they are familiar with, they’re not going to want to use it. Having these applications integrated simply makes it easier for employees to get work done. Think about the benefits of having events from Salesforce flow into a single activity stream, and then being able to have real-time conversations around that information. This brings knowledge from existing applications into one central location, making knowledge sharing and informal learning easy and beneficial.

    However, if your business processes have remained the same for years, you need to make sure your processes have caught up to the technology. Social has the potential to make a real impact on your business, but only if your leadership team thinks of a social solution as an integral part of the work flow, and not as an additional application that employees can use.

    Adding in new technology shouldn’t add more work or stress to your employees’ days. Before you begin implementation, think about how the new solution will help employees work more efficiently, how easily it will integrate with existing applications, and how it will enhance your business processes. When you fit the solution into your business processes, you make it that much easier for your employees to adopt the technology and for your organization to achieve real business value from the software.

    Ready, Set, Motivate: How to Engage Your Employees

    According to research by the Hay Group, engaged employees are up to 43% more productive than disengaged employees.  A Towers Watson study showed that highly engaged organizations improved 19.2% in operating income while low engagement organizations saw a 32.7% decrease. These numbers are significant but they aren’t useful if your organization doesn’t understand how to motivate and engage your employees.
    MotivatingEmployees

    While different employees will have individual motivators, there are some factors that will engage the majority of workers. Employees have an inherent desire to be connected with their organization. They want to do worthwhile work and feel valuable to the business. Workers often feel this way during the first six months of employment, which is referred to as the honeymoon period. In fact, research by Gallup shows that employees are at their peak engagement levels during this initial six months. Organizations should use this time wisely to get to know new employees and help them connect with their new coworkers and the company’s mission and values. A simple way to do this is with a social solution. Managers can get to know their employees and new hires can start learning about the organization and meet coworkers from day one. By consistently using social software, these connections between coworkers and between employees and their managers can continue to grow along with engagement.

    Employees also crave rewards and recognition for their hard work. While financial incentives are nice, recognition from direct managers and from the leadership team are equivalent if not greater motivators, according to a McKinsey survey. With social, it’s easy for managers to recognize their employees and it also enables peer recognition. Share the story of how an employee supported your efforts or closed a major deal and let everyone acknowledge the success.

    Motivation is not one size fits all. Think about your organization’s culture and the type of motivators that your employees will respond to, given that culture. If you’re trying to create an open, transparent organization, use social to learn about your employees, build relationships, and give recognition for achievements to increase motivation and engagement in your company.

    How to Avoid the Information Overload Headache

    When employees go through training, especially when starting at a new role in a new company, they often suffer from a feeling of brain freeze, not unlike the sensation of eating a big bite of ice cream too quickly. Instead of consuming their frozen treats too fast, too much information is being thrown at them with not enough time to take it in. When this overload happens, employees lose sight of what they actually need to retain to succeed in their roles. How do you get employees successfully trained, without leaving them feeling overwhelmed?

    While it may seem efficient to cram employees into a classroom and try and teach them everything they need to know over a multi-day training session, it isn’t. It’s fast, but not effective. Employees may retain bits and pieces of information, but they’re more likely to be bored, frustrated, or just overwhelmed.Frustrated Businessman Sitting At Desk In Office Using Laptop

    Training sessions can be useful but they shouldn’t be the only resource. Allow employees to study ahead of time and review what they learn in the classroom by creating a resource repository that they can access anytime, anywhere.

    Classroom learning is great, because it functions as a forum for peer-peer discussions as well as one for conversations between the instructor and learners. In order to prevent information overload and help employees retain and understand the knowledge they’ve acquired, help them continue these conversations outside the classroom (or virtual classroom). A social solution can be this forum. Let employees ask questions and get answers specifically related to knowledge in the resource repository you set up. This creates a culture of learning within your organization, in which employees are learning how to be more effective and are continuously engaged during their regular work day.

    Don’t let your employees get overwhelmed with new information. With social, you can support and enhance their training by connecting them to the right knowledge and right people.

    Creating an Open, Transparent Organization through Social

    It’s not easy for executives to connect with employees, especially in larger organizations. It’s difficult to be in touch with employees’ thoughts, wants, and needs and employees may not share this information because they feel constrained by organizational hierarchies.  Employees want to be involved in company decisions but may not feel comfortable expressing their opinions. When major company decisions and changes are relayed by out of the blue emails, this broadens the divide between the leadership team and other employees.Social Media Key

    Not only can social break down the walls between departments, but a social solution can help break down the hierarchies too. Turning one-way communication into meaningful discussions between executives and employees isn’t a quick change. These conversations should occur on a regular basis so when a major business decision or change arises, there is already a strong foundation of honesty and transparency across the organization. It can be hard to build those relationships, especially in bigger companies and ones spread across the globe.

    Social software allows you to build relationships and transparency easily and naturally. Instead of just asking questions to your close colleagues, send out a signal and let other employees share their knowledge. You can also share what you’re working on, allow employees to do the same, and even offer feedback to one another. You not only get to learn more about your employees, but allow them to connect with you and show what they know, which lets them recognize how valuable they are to the organization.

    Over time, these interactions won’t be something you have to remind yourself to do; they’ll become a part of how you connect to your workforce and get work done.

    About This Blog

    Weblog on gaining business results from social software.

    On this blog, Socialtext staffers and customers explore how companies can gain the most business value from their use of enterprise social software, including microblogging, social networking, filtered activity streams, widget-based dashboards, blogs and wikis.

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