Making the Most of Collaborative Digital Platforms in the Workplace
As technology evolves, it’s driving the transformation of the traditional workplace dynamic and collaboration methods toward a more digital, interconnected, mobile experience. Organizations are increasingly swapping out paper-based processes and in-person conversations for online collaboration and virtual meetings. A 2016 Gallup survey indicated that 43% of employees spend at least some time working remotely, a 4% increase from 2012.
There are a variety of short and long-term advantages of utilizing one or more collaborative, cloud-based platforms in the workplace:
However, the use of social digital tools in the workplace is not without its risks. If you’re considering implementing one of these collaborative systems (or seeking to capitalize on your current one), don’t miss this list of tips for avoiding pitfalls and reaping maximum benefits for your organization:
1.) No software implementation should occur in a vacuum.
When making the initial decision to roll out a new digital system, take a step back and consider what effects this implementation may have on your existing systems. Will it result in the duplication of efforts? Does it present an opportunity to retire an outdated system altogether?
Consider the Big Picture: At a high level, you should aim to reduce the number of disparate systems to minimize the risk of inefficiency, user confusion, and conflicting messaging. If you have the opportunity to set up cross-system integrations, this will streamline processes and minimize many of these risks.
Designate System Purposes: Be clear about which platforms are to be used for which distinct purposes. For example, if your Learning Management System offers an integrated virtual meeting tool, but you want to restrict its usage to official training only, direct your employees to the correct web conferencing tool they should use for their ad hoc individual meetings.
Centralize and Communicate: In general, when making any configuration decisions for one system, be sure to look at all systems comprehensively and consider the downstream impact. The various system owners should be in full communication; ideally, your governance structure will provide a mechanism to ensure consistent oversight across all digital systems within your workplace.
2.) Create a personalized, flexible and straightforward experience for your users.
Provide Easy Access: Today, employees (especially within the younger emerging workforce) fully expect to be able to access digital platforms on the go, so system access via a mobile device is crucial to employee satisfaction. You may also consider setting up single sign-on (SSO) between your systems to facilitate the most seamless user experience possible.
Less is More: When curating your user experience, you should generally follow this mantra, aiming for fewer clicks, fewer menu options, and fewer email notifications. If users feel overwhelmed, you’ll lose their buy-in right away. So while your new platform may support dozens of attractive new features, it’s best to start with the basics and gradually roll out additional features over time.
Brand the Experience: Regardless of which system you’re implementing, it likely offers a certain degree of personalization and branding. We encourage you to take advantage of these options to promote your brand and increase personal investment by creating an overarching, unified look and feel to the experience.
Get Personal: Within that high-level, unified look and feel, allow a certain amount of individual personalization (i.e., home page layout, reporting creation, etc.). You may want to include employee pictures or even let employees upload their own. This is a particularly useful way to make employees working remotely or in separate locations feel more connected.
Make it Fun: Small system initiatives such as incorporating photos from company events or hosting an internal company contest can boost employee satisfaction.
3.) Establish security structures and governance procedures from Day One.
Invest in Security: It’s worth investing significant time and resources in the configuration and testing of security measures so that your data is safe and your users’ privacy is protected.
Institute Policies and Guidelines: Create and publish clearly documented governance and guidelines to match your organization’s policies. If your system is used to house documentation, establish a folder structure with clear/specific conventions around upload, naming, versioning, and ownership.
Designate a Virtual Clean Up Crew: Within any digital platform in which users are contributing their own content and free-form discussions, there are risks of inappropriate, incorrect, or outdated contributions. To account for this, you’ll want to designate system administrators as “moderators” to monitor content and discussions, removing them if necessary.
Establish Support Process Flow: Technical issues and user error are inevitable in any digital system. Account for these scenarios by designating resources to respond to technical issues and deciding upon a realistic Service Level Agreement (SLA).
4.) Find creative ways to get employees to get into the system.
Market Your New System: Carefully plan and prepare for the change management ahead of go-live by providing your employees with training sessions and well-organized instructional materials. The goal is to assuage any concerns and frame the new system as a positive and exciting development that will make everyone’s lives easier.
Public Discussion is the New Email: This is a tricky but critical one: it can be hard for people to shake the habit of using direct emails to request and exchange information. You’ll need to strongly and consistently encourage moving these conversations and documentation-sharing from email to the open system so that everyone can benefit.
Use Teasers and Incentive Programs: One way to get users into the system is by housing important information and announcements there. If you consistently put out high-level announcements and direct employees to the site for the details they need, they will eventually make a habit of going straight there for company news and information. Additionally, many collaboration systems offer rating or reward programs for high contributors, which is a simple but often effective tool to encourage participation.
5.) Capitalize on data and feedback to improve.
Ask for Feedback: Internal forums provide a great opportunity for employees to provide feedback, whether it’s on the topic of the system itself, the organization as a whole, or anything else. Built-in ‘upvote’ features –to which today’s social media savvy workforce is accustomed– provide a gauge of which comments are the most strongly supported. Note that you should only encourage feedback if you’re ready to respond and/or act; requesting it only to ignore it is often worse than not addressing it at all.
Use Your Data: Most digital systems today provide analytic reports on system usage, trends, discussion topics, and more. Take advantage of this new source of insight by analyzing what’s working well, where the knowledge gaps lie, who the top influencers are, etc., and adjusting accordingly.