An Ultimate Guide to driving Workplace adoption from 50% to 100%

You are at 50% Workplace from Facebook adoption or more, great work! You have created a place where many people find relevant content and connection, but how do you get the others to join? Keep reading to learn how to avoid the most common mistakes when trying to drive adoption for Workplace from Facebook post-launch, and how to grow adoption from 50% to 100%.

In this article, we look at the strategic application of two theories that are proven to increase adoption.

I hope this article assists you in your mission to improve your Workplace adoption rates, reveals the mindsets that activate engagement, and provides a clear plan that you can implement with your team. 

If you are serious about getting to 100% adoption and liked this article, you should sign up for our free email course. The e-mails will provide you with practical and tactical things to do and be a great motivation and resource on your journey to 100% Workplace from Facebook adoption.


IT’S NOT EASY, BUT IT IS CAREER DEFINING

Reaching 100% adoption on Workplace in your current company is an exceptional achievement. It demonstrates not only that you can get sh*t done but that you genuinely care about the workplace community and recognize the efficiencies, productivity, and cultural benefits that engagement offers.

You’re the breed of employee that any company would love to have, especially in these times when corporate cultures and tech adoption are pretty high up on the list of problems that most companies struggle with. 

If you’re reluctant to put in the work over the next 6-12 months, this guide is not for you. However, if persistence is in your nature I can promise great results and turn your satisfactory 50% adoption to an excellent 100%.

 

WHERE DO YOU START?

First up, let’s look at our objectives and figure out where things have gone wrong. Further down, there’s a practical list of basic actions you can take to get the adoption ball rolling. 

Jumping right in, there are two things you need to achieve:

  1. Adoption - people returning regularly 
  2. Engagement - people posting and interacting

In order to encourage adoption and reach the engagement for the non-power users you need, consider the following first:

  • Create content that is relevant and interesting: People discover and consume content created by other users on Workplace. As more people adopt Workplace, the sum of all content scales, leading to greater value for the different cohorts of users. 
  • Connection: Networks allow users to discover and/or connect with other users. As more users join the network, there is greater value for every individual user. 
  • Influencers: These are the CEO, the management team, employees that other employees like, and follow. Think of these people as the “celebrities” that have followers within the organization. If these people become adopters and engage in Workplace, the platform gains integrity and dependability and becomes the place to be. 
  • Forget the home runs: Rather than try to hit a home run, think of the process of reaching 100% adoption as a step-by-step process. This way you’ll benefit from continuous small wins along the way. 
  • Be patient and consistent: Moving from 50% to 100% adoption on Workplace doesn’t happen overnight. Once you’ve reached 50% adoption, you’ll find more effort is required to make incremental gains such as from 60-86%. 


The classic bell curve can be applied to Workplace adoption. It's easier to attract the “Innovators”, the “Early adopters” and the “Early majority” compared to the “Late majority” and the “Laggards”.

The brutal truth is that the last 16% - (the Laggards) - is actually just as hard as the 60%-86% journey (late majority). So remember this when communicating internally and setting the goals of adoption. This journey needs strategic thinking and commitment. 

WHY THE OBVIOUS CHOICE IS NOT ALWAYS THE RIGHT CHOICE WHEN DRIVING ADOPTION:

To make the theories simpler to understand, we have created this fictional case:

Let’s say your company has about 10,000 employees. 6,000 (or 60%) use Workplace on a daily basis. The remaining 4,000 (or 40%) are checking in irregularly, or not at all. Your objective is to increase the adoption to 100%. You have two groups of employees that you can focus on:

Group A: Of the 40%, 200 middle managers have downloaded the Workplace and WorkChat apps on their phones. These people are checking in once a week. 

Group B: Also as part of the 40%, 2000 frontline workers are in the category of “heard about Workplace”. They may be checking in from time to time, perhaps not at all with some having uploaded a profile picture. 

In the next section of this article, I’ll address the pain points of each user type and the theories that can be applied in order to inch your way to 100% adoption.

Called the network effect and Adjacent User Theory, these concepts can be applied to the adoption of goods and services, such as Workplace. Furthermore, they also offer the psychology that explains how politics work, how movements start, and why Kim Kardashian and her family can make millions by simply being influencers.

 

THEORY ON HOW TO DRIVE ADOPTION FOR WORKPLACE FROM FACEBOOK

The network effect and its impact on adoption

The network effect isn’t a new term. Also called a demand-side economy of scale, it refers to the bandwagon effect resulting from people joining or adopting a product or service, thereby enhancing the value of the network through a positive feedback loop. 

The network’s value increases according to the number of others using it. 

Network effects become significant after a certain subscription percentage has been achieved. This is called a critical mass. Social media is highly dependent on network effects, but the most famous examples of network effects are the telephone, the internet, and marketplaces such as eBay and Craigslist.

The below diagrams illustrate three different dynamics of the network effect - Sarnoff’s Law, Metcalfe’s Law and Reed’s Law. Together they show the increased network value in relation to the network - 

  1. Firstly, in direct proportion to the network size - Sarnoff’s Law
  2. Secondly, to the square of the number of users Metcalfe’s Law
  3. Thirdly, in proportion to the network size which also forms clusters that in turn scale faster in value due to influence and interconnectedness.

 

How is this relevant to speed or rate of adoption?

With an adoption rate of 50% or more, there is more than “critical mass” as seen in Metcalfe's Law. Let’s take WorkChat as an example. If no-one uses WorkChat there’s no value in trying to call or text people. However, if everyone uses it, everyone receives value. Based on Metcalfe’s Law, with 50% adoption of Workplace, the channel delivers enough value to be used regularly, and it will spread. 

Reed’s Law shows that the network grows proportionally but forms in clusters that scale faster based on the value of others. Let’s apply Reed’s Law to WorkPlace. If senior management and key people (the influencers) in the organization adopt and engage regularly in Workplace, employees will do the same. Given the platform will facilitate connection, interaction and engagement with those that offer real value to their professional lives and experience in the workplace generally, employees are more likely to be enticed. 

Adjacent Users - what are they and how to win them over.

The next step is to ensure that the “Adjacent Users” join. To start any movement, influencers are needed in order to create buzz to attract the individuals we refer to as adjacent people. These people are aware of your product or service and have maybe even tried it but they are not engaged enough to become a user. This is likely because the product/service’s positioning presents them with what they’d consider being reasonable barriers to adoption. 

So what role can influencers play in all of this? The more powerful the influencer in an organization, the stronger the attraction for the Adjacent Users. By focusing on influencers to adopt and use, the network effects will have a far greater impact.

Since you are in charge of ensuring Workplace adoption, it’s important to remember that these are the critical people to engage - they, the influencers, are the magnets.

Here’s a simple example of the importance of influencers. If the CEO uses WorkChat to send a message to the people with whom he/she engages, the likelihood of the C-level to start using WorkChat, instead of their current platform, will increase. Note, the power transferral does not work from the bottom up. That is, a CEO is far less likely to cease using their preferred channel or mode of communication and adopt WorkChat simply because a middle-tier manager has done so. 

Adjacent User theory is commonly discussed in the context of companies like Facebook, Instagram and Slack. These social giants have mindfully applied this thinking to their growth strategies to tap into exponential growth for their community-based products.

 

Two great sources to learn more about this theory, are:
'Growth Outside the Core' - Harvard Business Review
'The Adjacent User Theory' - Guest Post by Bangaly Kaba 

 

The role of Power Users 

I’m figuring you’re likely to be a Power User given you use Workplace. You probably also interact with other Power Users using Workplace.

The Power User can be an influencer, but not always. Power Users are great at assessing what works and what doesn’t. They’re the ones that are clear about what’s effective in Workplace for them, and what’s not. As a result of the attention, and their stature in the organization, improvements are made.

And that’s how things roll. Those who experience the pain-points and who then have the confidence to not only express the problem but do something about it are called the Power Users for this very reason. The caveat is that over time this leads to creating a community through the power of the Power Users - (it sounds like a tongue-twister for your next WorkChat call!)

While securing traction from Power Users to drive engagement in the early days is critical to building a community for the Power Users, it’s also crucially important to drive adoption of Workplace to the wider work community. To do this you need to change your approach. The only way to increase adoption is to focus on the users that don’t have the level of engagement, knowledge, needs, or the same interests as you and your Power User cohort. Identifying the pain-points experienced is critical for your next phase of Workplace adoption. You need to take off your own Power-user hat, and look at the world through the lens of the irregular and non-users. 

It’s worth remembering that the likelihood of losing the Power Users once they’re engaged with Workplace is slim as they’re already in the habit of checking Workplace daily. Improving the experience for these stakeholders will return fewer rewards than turning a non-user into a daily user. Here’s the catch. All new users are not created equal, so this should be done in steps, with a special focus on influencers who are categorized as Adjacent Users and those that are moving outwards.

The Adjacent Users are aware of Workplace and have tried using it, but their experience hasn’t been habit-forming. Why? They don’t believe the platform will benefit them, or there are too many barriers to regular use.

Every organization is different and the reasons for not using it can be many and varied. It helps to speak to and empathize with the people not using Workplace to understand their situation before any actions are taken. It could be useful to conduct a survey or questionnaire to gather insights as well as talking to the different groups of people who are not using the platform regularly. 

Put yourself in your colleagues’ shoes and ask yourself what it would take to start using Workplace? It could be an idea to schedule a series of lunches with key people and/or workgroups to discuss what it does, what it offers, how it can improve workplace connections, and where its value lies for them. Presenting Workplace through the ‘Did you know’ lens can prove useful for many. Be sure to build rapport with your stakeholders before you start investigating, and stay open and curious.

 

SETTING THE STRATEGY

As soon as you know the problems for the non-power users you can start solving them. Adjacent User theory illustrates employee groups as a series of circles. Each of these is defined by the user type in your company and has users in orbit around them. 

Steps to follow:

  1. Identify who your users are. Ie. those that sit on the outer radius surrounding the successful user. 
  2. Identify the influencers amongst them.
  3. Figure out the barrier(s) preventing your users from crossing the threshold and moving closer to the Power User. 
  4. Break down these barriers one by one, gradually increasing and driving adoption.

Examples of your Workplace users and their behavior:

  1. Workplace Power User that posts regularly to groups.
  2. The daily active user that likes often and posts occasionally.
  3. Weekly check-in user - Adjacent Users.
  4. Checks in from time to time; have a profile picture. 
  5. Signed up once.
  6. Has heard about Workplace but never checked in.
  7. Never heard about Workplace.

 

Here’s the strategy put in practice. Use this to problem-solve your own situation:

Remember the examples of Group A and Group B we talked about earlier?
Group A: Out of 4,000 employees - 200 middle managers have downloaded the Workplace and WorkChat apps on their phones. These people are checking in once a week.

Group B:  Out of the same 4,000 employees, 2000 frontline workers are in the category of “heard about Workplace”. They may be checking in from time to time, perhaps not at all with some having uploaded a profile picture.

  • Your research reveals staff is using Whatsapp to communicate on a daily basis explaining why Workplace is rarely checked. 
  • The issue is that these are the Adjacent Users and influencers that would increase the network effects down to the people that are managers.
  • Front line employees advise they were told to download the app, but never did citing 3-6 different reasons. 
  • A number of Non-Adjacent and non-influencers also downloaded the app but did not find it relevant, fun, etc.

Users you should focus on are the 200 managers, not the 2000 front line workers:

If you get 200 managers (influencers) to successfully use WorkChat to communicate to their teams instead of Whatsapp,  you will automatically get the 2000 (adjacent users) frontline employees to also use Workplace regularly. 

Tips and insights in this case (more of this in the Free e-mail course): 

  1. The barriers to managers not adopting Workplace is that they do not have a problem you solve with Workplace. They use Whatsapp to communicate with their local teams and do not see the point of spending energy to adopt something new.
  2. Talk to IT and discuss the problem of shadow IT in the company (security risk, GDRP etc), making a subscription to Workplace redundant, let alone a waste of the budget. Request IT to create a no shadow IT policy to be formally communicated and enforced. 
  3. The above policy should be combined with communicating of benefits of WorkChat and that WorkChat is the new communication channel to stop employees using Whatsapp.
  4. Watch the power of influence grow adoption numbers on WorkChat amongst managers and their local teams.

Summary:

Moving towards 100% adoption requires smart thinking and having an astute understanding of the different types of employees in your organization. Spending time to assess the impact of network effects and the Adjacent User theory is a useful and scientifically valuable approach that if done methodically is guaranteed to deliver results.

Be realistic. Do not try to hit a home run every time, but focus on the large groups that are not adjacent. 

I hope you have found value in this strategic adoption approach and are now better placed to understand the psychological rationale that drives adoption and its relationship to business success. Once you have laid out the strategy, it is time to implement the plan.

If you are serious about getting to 100% adoption you should sign up for our free email course, it will provide you with practical and tactical things to do and be a great motivation and resource on your journey to 100% Workplace from Facebook adoption.


 


Peacetime CEO, Wartime CEO, is now the time for Empathic CEO?

Employees pay attention to how the CEO communicates and supports them in this crisis. It speaks volumes to their core ethics! Any company story for the next decade is going to include how they handled this crisis.

If you haven’t had a chance to watch Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson deliver a powerful message to staff during this challenging crisis yet, it’s highly recommended you take the time now. It’s a masterful display of authentic leadership during an unprecedented event for the hospitality industry. The video message is included below and you should keep reading for our breakdown. Learn how you can incorporate strong leadership communication into your own organization during a crisis.


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The Power of Face-to-Face
(even when we can’t meet face-to-face)

Video can’t replace the intimacy of face-to-face meetings, or the more traditional company town hall format, but it’s still a powerful alternative. Many companies are handling CEO-communications in the form of generic company-wide emails or blog posts. While this message might be easier to disseminate, it can’t replace the connections employees feel while looking into the eyes of their leader.

This video production is polished, but it doesn’t need to be

There’s high production value in this specific example, with the CEO dressed in suit and tie - which you don’t really need either. With the majority of employees working from home these days, it’s perfectly acceptable for the CEO to deliver such a video message right from their own living room. Lose the tie and even let the house cat stroll around in the background. It’s better to be authentic and let the employees see that their CEO is at home and with them in solidarity.

Don’t sugarcoat the reality of the business today

The Marriott CEO quickly gets to the reality of their business today. Revenue is down 90% in markets like China, and it’s down 75% globally. He reveals in terms of impact to the business that COVID-19 is worse for their industry than both 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis *combined*. There is no sugar coating going on here. We have seen other CEOs communicate less directly, implying that things are not so bad. This can become a communication challenge later if tough decisions are required, such as a staff reduction. You want your employees to get a realistic picture of the health of the business so that the question “I thought they said everything was OK?” does not occur. Those tough situations and decisions need to be communicated.

Nailing the action points

We get a very clear and almost bullet-point breakdown about what Marriott is doing to navigate the crisis as a business:

  • Controlling business costs such as non-essential travel
  • Pausing all hiring
  • All new hotel development initiatives are stopped
  • Turned off all brand marketing and advertising
  • Temporary leaves are being put in place and those affected are informed directly

With an organization as large as Marriott it’s challenging to speak to the entire staff and not get bogged down in the nuances of every department or geography. However, Mr. Sorenson does incredibly well to succinctly share what universal actions that are taking place that the entire organization should know about.

On top of these key actions, he also reveals that he is forgoing his own salary for the remainder of the year while his executive staff is taking a 50% salary reduction. In such times, we’re all having to make sacrifices so it’s commendable to see the CEO and executives doing the same.

Closing with hope and emotion

As Mr. Sorenson finishes his message, he highlights some of the hopeful signals they are seeing. He sets clear expectations and cautions as these are still early signs, but he's still giving his staff some much-needed optimism for the future. It’s fair to say the hospitality industry faces the most uncertainty right now due to this crisis. However, as you listen to this CEO message and even as a consumer of their services you can’t help but see some light at the end of the tunnel.

Finally, and perhaps the most important part of this communication is the emotion we see from the CEO. You can hear it in his voice, and you can see it in his eyes as they water up ever so slightly. This is not something we typically see from Fortune 500 CEOs and I think we can all agree it’s incredibly refreshing to see. If a CEO of a company as large as Marriott can show such emotion than you can as well in your own organization, big or small.


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Bringing your team back to work after furlough? Get our free furlough recall letter template.


6 insights you need to know about chatbots in Workplace from Facebook

By: Amin Fard


Since the start of Workplace from Facebook in 2017 Prepp has made it easy to create chatbots that delight employees. Based on over 100 chatbots implemented and 4 million messages sent to over 200.000 employees, we have learned what works and what doesn’t when it comes to chatbots for Workplace from Facebook!

 

Insight 1: Frequently asked questions chatbot:

The holy grail of chatbots! Save time for management and employees by reducing time spent on answering the same questions to employees over and over again! Just ask the chatbot and it will give the answer.

Sorry for being a party pooper, but it is not that easy. First of all, employees do not know the chatbots exist!! "What was the chatbot called? Where do I find it?" If they do find it and start to ask questions - the chatbot rarely knows the answer. Do not build a conversational chatbot unless you have a very specific use case in mind. Make sure that the employees find the chatbot when they need it, and most importantly; you need to invest time writing in all the answers you want the chatbot to reply with. And constantly add more content as you go.

 

Insight 2: Chatbots that integrate with other software:

Sounds smart, and it is. We expect chatbots to reduce the problem of having so many apps and software in your company so employees do not need to work in several systems all the time. Need a task in Workday to be filled in? Just type it into the Workday chatbot in Workplace. Even better, the chatbot asks the employee in WorkChat proactively and the employee answers to the chatbot. The chatbot fills out a reply in Workday without logging into Workday.

But, the world is not ready for it yet based on our experience. Very few software companies are built "API first". The software solutions still need a year or two to build stronger API`s so interfaces between solutions can get stronger.

 

Insight 3: We can create our own chatbots

Maybe you are an IT person yourself reading this, so please stop reading if you have a big ego.

I have not seen nonsoftware companies building chatbots in-house with success unless it has a very specific purpose or is business-critical. I have talked with 20+ companies that have tried and failed. Please challenge me on this, but internal IT people rarely have the capability to build a software solution that is user-friendly or updated on a regular basis to keep track of the latest developments.

 

Insight 4: Chatbots instead of paper forms

It is actually an amazing use case if your employees are spending a lot of time on forms.
There are companies in the insurance sector that have gone from paper-based forms to employees taking pictures and sending it to chatbots where AI auto-fills the form and sends it digitally - thousands of hours are saved.

 

Insight 5: Broadcast chatbots:

Let’s face it, getting a large group of employees on the same page when it comes to important information is a pain. Especially the front line workers that meet with the customers and represent the brand on a daily basis. New products, marketing, sales pitch - alignment on communication is key for success.

Email open rates or low. Emails are boring and often not relevant. E-mails are a long read for today's generation. Workplace is great, but not all posts in Workplace from Facebook are read by employees when they scroll down their newsfeed or if they do not check-in very often. Messages in chat are read because it is less time consuming and you actually get a message that you can read at any time. But remember, for broadcast chatbots to work, you need chat adoption to be at a certain level.

 

Insight 6: Onboarding chatbots:

25% of all company turnover happens first 12 months? For hourly employees, it is 50% in the first 120 days. According to Society for Human Resource Management(SHRM), onboarding is key for employee retention. If you think about the cost of hiring a new employee - there is a huge potential for improving retention and employee engagement. Chatbots can automate and bring the onboarding checklists to life, making the transition into the company easier.

Research tells us that managers are the key role, but they do not have time. With onboarding chatbots, you can make life easier for new hires and save time for HR and managers. For example, having the chatbot ask the new hire to introduce themself in Workplace from Facebook to kickstart the socialization process. What we learned is that chatbots are great for nudging and coaching managers into becoming better at onboarding. But do not forget, you need to have a proper pre-boarding phase as well. What to do when new hires do not have access to Workplace?

 

Interested in learning more?

Book a 15-minute call with me here: https://app.hubspot.com/meetings/amin to learn how you can get started with chatbots :-)


Why Micro-Learning Will Improve Your Employees Performance


By: A.J. O’Connell

Your Employees Want Training But Have No Time For It. Micro-Learning Is the Answer. 

Tell your employees that they have to find the time in their workday to take a course on your organization's learning management system (LMS), and you're likely to hear groans.

It's not that they don't want to be taught — most workers do. A recent study from Deloitte suggests that younger employees don't feel they got the skills they need from college — and they expect their employers to provide it.

It's simply that most employees don't have time for traditional workplace learning.

According to recent research, employees have just 1 percent of their work week for learning — for someone who works a typical 35-hour work week, that's about half an hour of training a week. If your training is any longer than that, then you're asking them to either ignore their work responsibilities or complete their learning during their own time. 

Neither of those is reasonable demands to make on your employees. 

Enter micro-learning. 

What is micro-learning? 

Micro-learning is exactly what it sounds like — small amounts of intensely focused learning. 

Rather than log into a company's learning management system (LMS) for a full-sized course, learners are served smaller chunks of learning — either on mobile devices or on their desktop. They take very little time — often less than 10 minutes — and are designed so that the learner can accomplish some important task after the lesson is over. They can be delivered in several ways, from an LMS to a video, to a chatbot. 

This approach is useful because it complements the way humans actually learn. Think of a traditional training session. There's usually a lecture and some questions to prove that learners have ingested the information. While most learners do remember the lecture long enough to pass a quiz shortly after, the human brain isn't designed to take in a half-hour lecture and remember it forever. Micro-learning boosts retention by teaching one relevant piece of information at a time. 

Before you start carving up your existing lessons into chunks of five minutes or less, it's important to note that micro-learning is more than a traditional course or a pre-existing module, cut into small pieces — the purpose of micro-learning is to teach the learner how to perform a specific task or achieve a specific objective. These chunks of learning must be intentionally designed so that they offer exactly the right amount of information necessary to help the learner perform that task successfully while tying into the overall arc of a company's learning and development strategy.

Micro-learning in the workplace

Because these tiny lessons can be delivered to learners on their phones, it's a particularly effective way to train employees who aren't chained to a desk

This sort of learning has been used well with retail employees; rather than pull workers off the floor for training modules, retailers use mobile apps to train workers quickly. For example, home decor retailer At Home has used gamified micro-learning served in 3-5 minute chunks to successfully improve knowledge of safety topics, while sports retailer Gresvik AS, has used mobile micro-learning to teach workers about upcoming sales campaigns. 

Those results are causing micro-learning to gain traction; according to ATD, 92 percent of organizations using micro-learning plan to increase their use of it while more than 67 percent of organizations not using it plan to start.

Because the learning is served up with one objective and is tied to a task that's likely to be completed during or soon after the training takes place, it’s an excellent way to get new skills and new information, like new regulations, recently-updated policies, and compliance information — into learners' hands quickly.

Take the example of Lyse AS, a Norway-based power company, which recently adopted Workplace by Facebook.

Because of the nature of its industry, Lyse's employees must be upon compliance, policies and other information, but its customer service branch, Lyse Dialog, handles more than a million customer interactions annually — the team is too busy to stop for periodic training, and information sent through other channels, like email and Workplace by Facebook, is at risk of being lost in a deluge of other messages. 

Lyse addressed the problem by using Prepp's chatbot Anna to cut through the noise of other posts and help get workers up to speed. It worked — more employees read the message from Anna than read the regular Workplace post.

Chatbots like Anna tend to deliver results because unlike regular Workplace posts, Anna engages the learners by asking for an answer. And, if a learner doesn't respond to the chatbot, there's a record of that, and the supervisor can use the chatbot to follow up.

Chatbots meet people where they are

As we mentioned earlier, there are a lot of ways to provide micro-learning to employees. You can send a video, use your LMS to deliver tiny courses, or ask a retail employee to download an app.

But there's a problem with all of those items — they add at least one extra step for your busy employees. If your employees only have about 30 minutes for training a week, you don't want them blowing their daily training time on downloading apps or managing multiple sign-ins. The hassle of having to move from one platform to another will cost your employees time and attention — it takes workers about 23 minutes to get back to work after an interruption takes them off-task, according to research on interruption.

That's an unrelated interruption, however. An interruption related to whatever a worker is already doing, however — like a quick burst of relevant micro-learning — is good for productivity because the learner's mind is still on their work.

That's why a chatbot is so valuable. It can meet your employees where they already spend time, like on Workplace by Facebook, where they're already logged in, or by texting them. Without having to log into a completely different system, your learners are being presented with micro-learning they can complete quickly, that relates to their work, and which will improve their performance as soon as they complete it. 

No one's being asked to complete training on their own time. No work piles up while employees run off to a conference room for training. And management knows who is actually completing modules.


Have Trouble Connecting With Your Mobile Workers?

By: A.J. O’Connell

Have trouble connecting with your mobile workers? You might have a thing or two you can learn from the original remote workforce. 


When you think of getting internal communication to remote workers, what sort of workers do you think of? We’re willing to bet you think about telecommuters; full-time, white-collar workers, who work some or all of the time from home, usually on a computer.

If that’s who you pictured, it makes sense. Remote work is on the upswing. According to Globalworkplaceanalytics.com, the number of employees who work remotely has grown by 115 percent since 2005, nearly 10 times the rate of the rest of the workforce.

Those workers represent a communication challenge for companies. As with any employees, they need to be updated on important company information, but because they’re not all physically in one place, a manager can’t just walk over to them and follow up with them.

How can organizations make sure their remote team members are in the loop and aligned with their co-workers? They can learn a lot from industries that have always employed a remote, mobile workforce.

Employees in the service, tourism, food, retail, and transportation industries are members of the original remote, mobile workforce. These workers don’t sit at desks, have constant access to a computer, or work in one location. Their jobs require them to be on a factory floor, in one of several retail locations, or even in the sky.

The active nature of these workers’ jobs doesn’t mean, however, that they don’t need to be getting (and reading) internal communication.

 

Keeping employees updated at 30,000 feet

Businesses like airlines have always faced a special challenge when it comes to managing remote, mobile workforces: many of their employees are mobile by definition, and often not near a computer and unable to use a smartphone, especially while they’re working. Those employees do, however, need to read and understand critical internal communication to keep themselves and the company’s customers safe and comfortable.

The air industry has been solving the problem of communicating with remote workers in innovative ways for decades. One of the old ways of making sure everyone read a memo was a “read book,” a three-ring binder with memos and announcements in it. Staff had to initial each page to show management that they’d read it. That was back in the 1980s and ‘90s.

Now, however, there are several tools at the disposal of the Internal Communication Manager: SMS, compliance software, and of course, email is used at various airlines to push content out to the workforce and to make every employee in the company feel like part of a cohesive group.

Apps are the latest version of the read book. Many airlines use apps to control the schedules of cabin crews or to report safety issues. While cabin crews are obviously not checking their smartphones while they’re flying, they must check in before their flight so that scheduling knows if they’re flying on a given day (if they don’t check in, the scheduling staff starts looks for them), and then they can read the announcements.

Some of those apps are also used as a virtual bulletin board, a portal where crews can read announcements, notices,  memos, and other important internal communications, like videos, images, or even podcasts from management. Like the read book, those apps track and measure who has read what announcements.

 

Mobile tech for a mobile workforce

Measuring the read rates on internal communications is important in every industry, but particularly crucial for industries that employ a large mobile workforce; employees in the field might not come into an office for months, and may not read emails from the company at all. (Even if they are reading company emails, how would management know?)

That’s why apps and collaborative workspaces have become so important for companies with remote workforces; these platforms can deliver messages to employees where they are: on their phones. And they can show managers and internal communication directors who have read what.

Retailers, for example, have used apps to keep app store employees updated. Gresvik AS, a company which owns and operates a chain of sporting goods retailers in Norway, uses a mobile app to update its retail workforce to update them on weekly campaigns. (That app asks employees to confirm when they’ve read and understood a sales campaign). Rather than just updating store managers and hoping the managers will keep all of their employees updated, this app reaches everyone who works for the chain.

The service industry also uses mobile technology to communicate with employees in the field. Nelbud 360 Services Group in the U.S. is a fire prevention company whose employees are always on the road, traveling to clients’ locations to clean and maintain ducts. Because their employees sometimes don’t come into a field office for weeks at a time, the company provides its employees with smartphones pre-loaded with all the apps they need to communicate with the company, including campaign information, internal communications, and human resources.

 

A virtual breakroom for mobile employees

Sometimes when it comes to internal communications, a virtual message board isn’t enough. Companies with remote workforces also need a virtual breakroom; a platform that allows workers from across a company to communicate with one another in real-time.

Several companies (including airlines) have been using collaborative platforms like Workplace by Facebook to manage their internal communications. Workplace connects staff with senior management and employees in different departments or locations. Everyone gets a voice. And, like the airline read books of the ‘80s, Workplace offers a portfolio of information for every employee to read, and it also shows the manager who’s read what announcement.

There is a drawback, however, Workplace is a network, not a physical book, and because everyone can post in it, it can be noisy and inappropriate for important announcements that everyone must read.

Fortunately, there are tools like chat and chatbots that interface with Workplace. Chat is a natural way to deliver important communications directly to remote employees. Many employees (especially younger workers, who grew up with chat programs) communicate via chat in their daily lives. It makes sense to deliver important work-related information to them that way as well, rather than using email or SMS, or some other interface that takes them out of a collaborative platform like Workplace.

Chat also elevates internal communications over the noise of Workplace because important notices are delivered directly to an inbox, rather than in the platform’s newsfeed.

Think of it as a noisy airplane cabin; there may be a lot of chatter, people might be watching videos, reading books, or talking to their neighbors, but once the captain’s voice comes over the loudspeaker with an important announcement, everyone is forced to pay attention.

Remote workers are untethered by desks and computers, but they shouldn’t be untethered by internal communications. If anything, companies with a large remote workforce must have a better internal comms platform than companies with traditional workforces.

 

To be successful those companies must reach their workforce where they are, no matter where they are, even if they are in the sky.


The 10 Biggest Obstacles to Good Internal Communications At Work

By: A.J. O’Connell

Getting everyone on the same page can sometimes feel like a herculean task. Here are the 10 biggest obstacles to good internal communications at work, faced by managers who just need to get their message through to staff, and some reasons why internal comms can be so challenging.

Internal communications should be so easy: you have important information to share with your department, you send it out, they read it, and you’re done, right? But it’s never that simple; employees ignore emails, collaborative work platforms are filled with social noise, and you never know who reads what.

 

  • Your employees are victims of information overload.

Your job, as a manager, is to make sure people are reading the information that makes them better at their jobs; but are you loading them up with more information than they can handle? Your team gets a lot of emails every day. How much? This year, according to the Radicati Group, workers are sending and receiving 124 emails a day. That’s much more than twice the amount of email that most workers can comfortably manage; too much email stresses your team out.

 

  • Some team members just aren’t reading your email at all.

Does it feel like, no matter what you do, some people aren’t even looking at the messages you send? Some people aren’t. A study by APPrise shows that 30 percent of employers freely admit to ignoring emails from the boss. That might seem shocking, but consider the fact that your team only has a limited amount of time to spend on work email. Your employees have to prioritize the messages they’re going to read and respond to. Chances are, they’re looking at the most urgent messages first; emails about the projects they’re working on, or from clients. When they see a long boring message from IT, telling them about new system update, or a message from a manager about compliance training, they likely scroll past, thinking “I’ll deal with that later.” Unfortunately, later may never come.

 

  • Your employees would rather eat a jar of spiders than open an email.

Let’s face it — for most of your employees, email is not the preferred method of communication. Electronic mail hasn’t changed much since the ‘90s when it became the business world’s communication method of choice. The world itself, however, has changed. Outside of work, we communicate via text, over social media, and through instant messaging apps, which are far more engaging than your standard email. Your employees — especially millennials, who grew up with AIM and Facebook — may only really use email for work, and they might not be thrilled about doing that. According to Gallup, Americans younger than 50 prefer to text over any other kind of communication. It may be time to change up the way you’re communicating to get a better response rate.

 

  • Your collaborative work platform (or intranet) is noisy.

Collaborative platforms like Workplace by Facebook are great because they give everyone in the company a way to communicate with each other. Everyone gets a voice. There’s just one problem with that: a lot of voices talking at once means a lot of noise. If you have to get an important internal announcement through to employees on that platform, you may find yourself competing with social posts, memes, and gifs. And those are just the employees who are actually using the collaborative platform. You may have employees who haven’t logged in for days, weeks, or maybe ever. To reach everyone, you need a megaphone of some sort: something that lets you shout over the noise and get the attention of even the people who haven’t adopted the platform.

 

  • Not everyone on your team is on the same page.

As a manager, it’s your job to make sure everyone on your team is aligned. It’s not an easy task; some employees are up to date on everything. They read every memo, every update, every email, and they respond to internal communications with an “Okay” or “Got it.” Then there’s everyone else: employees who might be reading updates, or might not. That’s a problem, because in some cases if only one team member misses an important piece of information, the entire company might suffer. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) enforcement date is a good example of this. If companies aren’t in compliance with the new GDPR security and reporting protocols, they could face a huge fine. That means that if even one employee in one department of a corporation misses an important piece of information and makes a mistake, the whole company will be punished. It’s important to know who is seeing what message.

 

  • You don’t know who is getting what message.

Who is reading the messages you send out? If managers don’t measure the open, read, and click-through rates on internal communication, they will have no way of knowing what messages are read, or by whom. It’s possible — even probable — that several unengaged employees in your company haven’t read a single message from the boss, and those employees, whoever they are, are a liability.. You can’t know who they are, however, unless you measure read rates. That’s part of your job — you need to make sure that employees read and understand important information, and you can’t do that if you don’t have the tools to measure open, read, and click-through rates. Not knowing who needs a follow-up leads to the next problem...

 

  • You’re constantly nagging your whole team about reading messages.

No one likes to be a nag, but when you don’t know who is reading your messages, you don’t have any way of knowing who needs a follow-up message and who is already up to speed — at least not until it’s too late and someone on the team who hasn’t read an important internal communication makes a mistake that affects the whole company. Some managers may choose to address this by reminding the entire team to read their messages, and no one enjoys that. And how effective is nagging, really? You get angry because no one is reading your email, truly unengaged employees will become more resistant to reading your messages, and everyone wastes time on the reminders.

 

The IT department needs everyone off the system by a certain time. HR needs everyone to file a new tax form. A new policy has just been put in place, and everyone needs to read it. These are the sorts of urgent messages you need your team to read and remember, but not that many people read them, and almost no one remembers them. Often these sorts of important updates are delivered in long, boring emails and your staff either don’t have the time or the mental bandwidth to read and internalize them. As a manager, you may be wasting your own time writing long messages not many people read, and the messages may not be engaging enough to get employees through to the end of each message.

 

  • Employees are mad about being left out of the loop

Almost every manager has been there; an important email has gone out, you spent hours writing it, and no one reads it. Then, when a change goes into effect and people are unprepared for it, they’re upset they did not know. It’s a tricky paradox; employees may not always read messages but they really don’t like it when they don’t know what’s going on. CEB (now Gartner) found that poor internal communication makes employees angry to the point of acting out.  “Why didn’t you tell us,” they may ask. That can be — justifiably — frustrating for the manager who may have put a lot of time into crafting a long, detailed email that staffers did not read. Before you lose your temper or give up on trying to communicate with your staff, you may want to consider an approach to internal comms that causes less frustration for everyone.

 

  • Managers are bored by the messages they’re sending too.

You probably don’t like taking the time to write a long boring email any more than your staff enjoys reading it, you hate when it’s ignored, and you especially don’t love sending emails begging your team to read a previous email. Like your staff, you’re already juggling a lot of email messages that aren’t related to internal communications. Like your staff, you probably also don’t use email outside of work the way you use messenger apps or text.

 

So what do you do about it?

Except for perhaps the most disengaged employees, no one really wants to miss an important announcement at work. Employees are simply overloaded — with information, with work, and with email. It may be time to change the way you send messages at work. This will look different for everyone; shorter emails, for example, or a new communication platform that echoes the way we communicate when we’re not working.

No one should have to dread sending — or receiving — an announcement at work. Not management, not staff. Internal communications should be easy.


Who Needs Compliance Software? You Do.

By: A.J. O’Connell

What is compliance software, what does compliance software do, what does compliance software mean, who needs compliance software? You Do.

When you think “compliance software,” what do you think of? We’re willing to bet that you think of big banks, investing millions in software meant to keep them from running afoul of byzantine financial laws and regulations.

But while financial institutions do rely on compliance management technology to minimize risk, they’re not the only organizations who use compliance software. All companies need it, and not just for financial or legal reasons. Running a business means lots of rules, both external and internal. Employees need to know what the policies are, when they change, and how they’re expected to act in various situations. When employees don’t, the company or its customers may be at risk.

Software Advice, a Gartner-owned company, surveyed an anonymous sampling of employees across various industry about compliance. The survey found that 51 percent of employees admit to knowingly violating policy; 21 percent say they violate regulations daily and weekly.

The top violations aren’t financial (or at least no one admitted to financial infractions). The top three areas in which employees violated policy were:

    • online security
    • acceptable use of company resources
    • workplace behavior

 

This may sound terrible — and it does mean the employees are exposing their employers to risk — but when the employees who committed infractions were asked why they violated regulations their answers made their behavior more understandable.

Thirty-eight percent of the offending employees said there were simply too many compliance regulations, 16 percent said the regulations were too complex, and 14 percent said that compliance with those regulations is too time-consuming.

Simply put, compliance with every new regulation and policy is just too much for overwhelmed employees or managers to handle. Regulations change quickly, and often, even company owners don’t know when something has changed.

That’s where compliance management software comes in.

You need to look no further than the European Union’s looming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) deadline in May, which has dominated most conversations about compliance in the past year.

Any company that does business with E.U. citizens must change the way it stores consumer data, reports data breaches, and handles consent and data subject rights. Any mistakes by employees will mean the company isn’t in compliance and will be fined. This doesn’t apply to just banks or large corporations. The GDPR affects all companies, of all sizes, in all sectors, who do business in Europe or with people who live there.

GDPR is just one of the many reasons all companies — not just the big ones — need to look into compliance software. Software can help companies keep track of all the rules, regulations, policies, and laws they need to obey. It can automate certain tasks so that already overloaded human employees don’t need to worry about them. It can help a company easily train its employees, and it can catch human error so that a small mistake doesn’t cause a huge problem.

But first: what does compliance mean for your business?

Compliance can seem like a big, intimidating subject to businesses that have never considered it before, but it doesn’t need to be. At its core, compliance is just about doing the right thing (or at least, the smart): obeying the law, industry regulation, or sticking to best practices. It’s about managing risks that could do damage to a company, its customers, or its employees. Software is simply a tool to make that job easier.
So, what is compliance? And what does it mean for you, and the company you work for?

Compliance falls under the umbrella of Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC), a concept defined in 2010 by Nicolas Racz, Edgar Weippl and Andreas Seufert as “an integrated, holistic approach to corporate governance, risk and compliance ensuring that an organization acts in accordance with its self-imposed rules, its risk appetite and external regulations through the alignment of strategy, processes, technology, and people, thereby leveraging synergies and driving performance.’

In other words, GRC simply refers to whatever combination of measures a company is taking to make sure it’s sticking to the rules: it's own, its industry’s, and the law itself. Those measures can be anything: communication from leadership, processes, or compliance management software.

Compliance is not just for the financial sector

Banks trade in risk, so a lot of the literature about GRC mentions financial institutions, but compliance goes far beyond the world of banking and finance — there’s a lot of risks involved in running any business.
Those risks can come in the form of tax regulations, IT security, the law, industry regulations or conduct code violations. Anything that poses a possible problem for a business is a risk. Not being aware of what those risks are, can be a huge problem for any company.

For example, in 2016 the United States’ Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) cited and penalized several companies for violating international sanctions. Less than half of those companies were banks, and several of those companies simply didn’t have compliance programs in place to keep them from violating trade laws. That lack of a compliance program didn’t mean OFAC went easier on them — it was considered “reckless disregard” and weighed against them when OFAC was handing out punishments.

The problem for companies is that there is an overwhelming amount of rules, regulations, and policies to comply with, governing everything from finance to cybersecurity to sexual harassment in the workplace to whether suppliers are obeying the law.

If company owners are having a hard time keeping up with new regulations, laws, and policies, it’s even worse for employees, who don’t have the same sort of stake in making sure their company is in compliance.

What can compliance software do for a company?

Compliance management software can take many forms.

In some cases, compliance technology manages risks by automating functions that would be time-consuming or tedious for employees to do manually. Sometimes it’s simply software that keeps relevant information in one place for reporting purposes. Often it takes the form of software-guided compliance training, walking employees through a new regulation or policy so that they’re aware of changes.

Software plays an increasingly important role in most organizations’ overall GRC strategy. From 2011 to 2017, major companies increased their spending on compliance technology by 36 percent, according to a study by Globalscape. For financial institutions, spending on regulatory technology is projected to grow to $80 billion by 2020 — 90 percent of that spending will be on compliance software and similar tools.

GRC software is very popular with employees, on whom the burden of compliance often falls. According to the Software Advice survey, 73 percent of the respondents preferred compliance software to emails and other compliance management measures.

The reason for its popularity is simple: software takes the burden of manual compliance management out of employees’ hands. It’s also more efficient than paper-based processes; employees aren’t wasting their time on it. In other words, compliance software manages and remembers regulations so humans don’t have to.

Software-guided compliance training is also a form of compliance software. This sort of technology has had a positive effect on employees, according to Software Advice. Almost half the employees at companies that provided no compliance training said they had no understanding or an imperfect understanding of company policies.

Companies with annual or semi-annual software-based training, however, reduced that number significantly. Employees who were trained showed less confusion, with more than 65 percent of employees reporting that they were very clear on their employers’ policies.

Compliance is not just about the law

Compliance management software is best known for keeping businesses on the right side of regulatory laws — and we’ve discussed some intimidating examples of that above — but sometimes compliance is about internal regulations as well.

Every business in every industry can save money, reduce risk and increase revenue by using compliance software to align the workforce with critical information about their internal policies. Using compliance management software can reduce waste at work when employees are updated on best practices or a new procedure. Using software to keep employees updated on new rules and regulations can keep them from unwittingly breaking one (and some software can let managers know who hasn’t read their updates.)

Businesses have rules and regulations for a reason: they help the company function efficiently, legally, ethically, and profitably.

When everyone in a company is following those rules, the company is functioning as it should be, and that means it’s not breaking any laws, taking any unnecessary risks, or losing of its profit to preventable infractions or violations. Compliance software is a tool that allows companies to get to this state.


Just-In-Time training is the future

Instant Learning: Why Just-In-Time Training is the Future

By: A.J. O’Connell

Just-In-Time Training, sometimes called Just-in-Time learning, is exactly what it sounds like: knowledge right when an employee needs it. Instant learning is all around us in our personal lives and that is why we believe that Just-In-Time training is the future of learning at work.

An office worker is having trouble navigating the software her department has just installed, so she looks up the information online. A newly-hired retail worker can’t remember how he’s supposed to fold a shirt for a store display. He asks a co-worker for help. A remote worker, new to direct selling, checks a mobile app once a day and completes a task on a checklist that helps her remember the details of her employers’ holiday sales campaign.

What do all of these workers have in common? They’re all practicing Just-In-Time Training (JITT) — looking up the information they need to do their jobs well, just when they need that information.

What is Just-In-Time Training?

Just-In-Time Training, sometimes called Just-in-Time learning, is exactly what it sounds like: knowledge right when an employee needs it.

Instant learning is all around us in our personal lives; we use “Google” as a verb, ask Alexa and Siri to find information when we need it and crowdsource answers on social media. The idea of Just-In-Time learning isn’t new, however.

Just-In-Time (JIT) originated as a manufacturing concept at Toyota in the 1970s. In order to reduce inventory to just what was needed, the ordering process was streamlined; parts for cars weren’t ordered until customers had placed orders. This system reduced waste and clutter in warehouses and on the factory floor. Eventually, this process was also applied to corporate learning. After all, asking an employee to sit through 30 minutes of e-learning to learn one relevant piece of information is just as wasteful as a warehouse of surplus parts.

Just-In-Time Training happens at almost every company. It’s often employee-directed and informal, something workers do when they identify a gap in their own knowledge. And it’s something organizations should expect — employees, who are used to having the world’s collective knowledge at their fingertips in the form of the internet — don’t have time to wait around for scheduled training. Why should they, when they can just look up the answer?

“When employees are stuck, they need the answer quickly. It doesn’t help them to sign up for a class that will happen three weeks from now and sit through a four-hour session to get the answer they need this minute,” said Britt Andreatta, a consultant, and speaker quoted in LinkedIn’s 2017 L&D report.

Just-In-Time training is the future

Although it’s often learner-driven, Just-in-Time Training can and should be incorporated into a company’s training strategy; employees want it. According to research from CEB, 57 percent of workers expect learning to be more “just in time,” than it was a few years ago. This brand of microlearning is very familiar to millennials, who grew up using the internet as an encyclopedia (remember those?). Despite possible objections from Gen Xers and Boomers, who are used to multi-day training and e-learning, learning information just before using it can be a very effective way to learn.

In the 1980s, educator Malcolm Knowles, who studied the principles of adult education, outlined the characteristics of successful adult learning: it should be self-directed, be based on previous experience and mistakes, be relevant, and be problem-centered, rather than content-centered.

Just-In-Time training ticks every box on Knowles’ list. Learners realize they need more information to complete a task successfully, seek out that information on their own, and solve their own problems at work. Applying that skill soon after they learn it reinforces the information. This sort of active learning has been shown by studies to improve people’s ability to learn — when learners use information, they create a meaningful connection with it and it stays with them longer.

The benefits of continuous learning

Organizations can  — and should — take advantage of this willingness to learn on the part of their employees. For one thing, Just-In-Time learning raises engagement among employees, something that’s desperately needed in the workforce right now. Gallup’s latest State of the American Workforce report found that two-thirds of employees are disengaged at work. They don’t like their jobs and are either doing the bare minimum at work or actively looking for new jobs.

Just-In-Time training is the future

Workers who look up information and train themselves, however, are engaged. They’re taking it upon themselves to find the learning they need and become better at their jobs quickly. They’re eager to learn. Because the learning is relevant to them, they’re not bored by it, and they’re in control of what they’re learning, and when they’re learning it.

This shift of control from the organization to the learner has a downside, however. Moving from a training culture — one in which organization controls when, where, and what employees learn — to a culture of continuous learning can be jarring for some organizations. After all, if learning becomes about what the learner wants and needs, that can seem like a loss of power for those in charge of Learning & Development (L&D). It’s a fair concern; CEB found that only 37 percent of employees expected their employers to actively manage their learning. Most of those employees were getting training on their own; 79 percent of that learning came from external sources.

Despite the learner-centric focus of Just-In-Time Training and continuous learning, however, the learners shouldn’t be running the L&D show. For one thing, learners don’t always choose the best sources of learning. CEB found that every day, employees were wasting 11 percent of their time on unproductive learning. That wasted time was costing employers millions in lost productivity.

Directing employees’ independent learning

Learners — though independent — still need the guidance of and support of L&D when it comes to learning. But with Just-In-Time learning, companies need to serve that learning to employees differently than they have traditionally done. Rather than decide who learns what when, companies must break down their existing training into small, digestible chunks that address one skill or task each, and they must make those bits of learning available to employees exactly when they’re needed. They have to anticipate the needs of employees and make relevant learning available for workers to find. Different companies do this differently: organizations can provide checklists, a searchable library of content, a social platform that allows workers to collaborate with colleagues, or a chatbot that delivers information directly to an employee when she needs it.

American Medical Systems (AMS) is an example of a company that uses Just-In-Time Learning in its training program. According to an interview in Training magazine, AMS is a company that makes and sells medical devices, found its sales reps weren’t retaining information about new products after training. The company used a gamified mobile app to boost retention. Every few days the reps played a game on their phones, responding to different scenarios that reinforced their product knowledge. It was engaging, helped with recall by providing sales scenarios as reps were out in the field, and helped to train a mobile workforce. It also had an unexpected side benefit: the company got feedback from the reps through the training app. Thanks to the app, AMS caught was able to quickly catch common misconceptions among reps about sales campaigns, and correct them.

Just-In-Time training is the future

Mobile and remote workforces often pose a special challenge for companies when it comes to development. Remote workers are not on site for in-person training, and they may not even be considered traditional employees; they may be contract workers, for example.

One company that uses Just-In-Time training with a mobile workforce in a very focused way is pawTree, a direct sales pet product company with an entirely remote salesforce. According to a case study, pawTree used Just-In-Time training to boost its engagement with sales training by breaking its learning material up into small bits of information, each aligned with a task that could be completed quickly. Rather than firehose new employees with onboarding information, pawTree made sure the employees were learning skills as they performed a task, applying skills as they learned them. The sales reps — who aren’t full-time employees, but who sell pawTree goods as a side gig — were extremely engaged in this training, with 90 percent of reps completing all the tasks in the course.

Gresvik AS, a company which owns and operates a chain of sporting goods retailers in Norway, has also successfully used Just-In-Time Training to boost sales. Because the stores rely on weekly sales campaigns to attract customers, employees in stores needed to be kept abreast of what those campaigns were and how to prep the store. Gresvig introduced a mobile app for its retail workforce to update them on weekly sales, replacement products, weather-based store displays, and also to see which employees are up-to-date — employees use the app to confirm when they’re campaign ready. According to information released in 2016, sales of recommended products rose by 154 percent at one chain, Intersport, after the app was introduced.

Trust employees to know what they don’t know

According to Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report, the half-life of a typically learned skill is five years. Employees — who can expect a 60- or 70-year career— need to skill up quickly, and they need to be able to fill the gaps in their knowledge as soon as they notice them. Companies need that too, but they also need to be able to strike a balance between allowing employees autonomy to learn on demand while directing those employees to relevant resources.

While organizations who remain chained to the idea of a central corporate university will be left behind, organizations that give their employees the freedom to learn as they need it will be more agile and sustainable as workers seek out — or are served — the knowledge they need at exactly the right time.


The Costs of an Employee Who is Not In the Loop

The Costs of an Employee Who is Not In the Loop

By: A.J. O’Connell

Got a star employee? That’s a problem. Stars are a symptom of a problem — misalignment on your team. The costs of an employee who is not in the loop can be high, so how can you get everyone in alignment?

Almost every manager can relate: you’ve got a team of employees. A few of them are stars: they do their jobs well, their goals are aligned with the department’s, and they are on top of internal communications. They read every memo and email, and they don’t need to be nagged about new policies, mandatory training, or meetings. They make their bosses’ jobs easy and management loves them for it: who wouldn’t love a reliable employee who is in the loop?  

There’s just one problem with super-star employees: they’re a symptom of misalignment within your team.

If you’ve got such noticeably engaged team members, that means that some — probably most — of your team aren’t engaged. Those team members miss internal communications. They don’t read every memo. They have to be reminded of new policies and procedures. There is a third group of employees as well, one manager may dread following up with because these team members are actively disengaged — or to put it plainly, they hate their jobs, are a bad influence on their colleagues and may even deliberately ignore internal communications.

The Costs of an Employee Who is Not In the Loop

 

If that’s the case on your team, you have a problem. If not all team members read updates and internal communications, your team is misaligned. And if your team isn’t on the same page, that could be costing you and your company both time and money.

The cost of a team that’s not in sync

According to Gallup’s latest State of the American Workplace report, two-thirds of the U.S. workforce aren’t engaged at work; 16 percent are actively disengaged and 51 percent are just hanging in there. Even more telling: 6 out of 10 employees know what their managers expect of them every day at work. That’s a sign of serious misalignment in the workplace.

A lack of engagement and the misalignment it causes takes a toll on a team, as well as on the entire organization. According to Salesforce, 97 percent of corporate leaders believe a lack of alignment on teams affects the project those teams are working on. A lot of that has to do with disengaged employees – Gallup estimates that employees who dislike their jobs cost the U.S. between $483 billion and $605 billion each year.

According to Gallup and The Stephen J.R. Smith School of Business at Queen’s University, organizations with low engagement suffered 18 percent lower productivity and 16 percent lower profitability. Such organizations also had more accidents, more errors and produced more defects.

Accidents and errors are signs that employees might not be paying attention to internal communication and don’t know what is expected of them on the job. In fact, it’s been shown that a lack of effective communication contributes to a disengaged workforce. Salesforce's study found that 86 percent of executives, employees, and educators believe ineffective communication is a contributing factor to failures in the workplace.

There’s also the matter of lost time In a 2014 study, Siemens found that a business with just 100 employees spends an average of 17 hours a week clarifying communication. That number is almost certain to be higher for large corporations, some of which may have teams larger than 100 people.

Employees hate being left out of the loop

What makes an employee hate a job? A lack of communication is a big contributing factor — when an employee takes a job with a company, they want to be part of a team. This is especially true of millennials, LINK who often look for work at companies with mission statements that match their personal beliefs, and who would, according to The Intelligence Group, sacrifice a large salary to work at a job they love.

But, no matter how much they love their jobs when they’re hired, when employees feel left out of the loop, they may become resentful. According to research by CEB (now Gartner) poor internal communication breeds discontent; in one study misconduct at work rose 42 percent when companies didn’t tell their employees about important organizational changes. Another study, by the University of Ottawa, showed that it was more psychologically damaging to employees to be ignored than to be harassed. Employees who feel like they’re invisible tended to look for other jobs.

Leaving an employee out of the loop doesn’t often happen deliberately; at least not at first.  People are accidentally left off mass emails, employees are out sick on the day of an important update, managers forget to check in, employees may miss an email or two — all of those little things snowball, and add up to a team with uneven knowledge and employees who feel alienated and aren’t motivated to find the knowledge they missed.

It can become a self-perpetuating cycle: engaged team members will seek out updates they missed, managers may find reasons not to follow up with hostile, angry employees.

A team with an information gap like this can’t perform well, but there are ways managers can close the gap.

Getting everyone in alignment

Aligning a team with a knowledge gap may seem like an impossible task for team leaders. Managers may think they’re already doing all they can to inform and educate every member of their team. It may seem even more difficult for leaders at large organizations to get every team member up to speed; an organization with 100,000 employees has many more uninformed, disengaged employees to contend with, for one thing. (If 16 percent of workers are disengaged, that company has to reach out to 16,000 employees who hate their jobs.) Large corporations are also less agile than smaller companies. They’re often slow to change, and it can be hard for them to change their communication strategies.

Team leaders might not be able to enact sweeping company-wide change, but they do have the power to start the process of getting everyone on the same page. Here are a few simple things leaders can do to address the knowledge gap between team members.

Measure results: Managers may think they know who is reading internal communications — the most engaged employees, right? Here’s the thing, though: managers don’t know who is reading those messages until they actually know. To find out for sure, managers should use a communication tool that lets them see and measure their team’s open and read rates for email and other forms of communication.  

The Costs of an Employee Who is Not In the Loop

If their company is already using enterprise social networks like Workplace by Facebook, Slack or Yammer, they can use analytics in the tool to check to see who has seen important updates, however managers might want to use a more robust tool — one that requires employees to confirm they’ve read a message, for example. After all, you can’t manage what you don’t measure.

Follow up: Once a manager knows who has seen a message and who hasn’t they know who specifically needs to be followed up with. If an employee hasn’t seen a message, or has seen it and not opened it, it’s time for a follow-up message. In fact, it may be time for a personal chat.

The Costs of an Employee Who is Not In the Loop

Check-in: Nobody wants to hate their job, and no one likes to be left out of important work communications. Studies from a variety of sources suggest employees want their bosses to talk to them. Gallup suggests leaders raise engagement on their teams by adopting a coaching approach. Rather than telling employees what to do, managers check in with employees, make sure they know what’s expected of them, and ask if those employees have everything they need to do their jobs well.

The Costs of an Employee Who is Not In the Loop

Those managers also ask employees about their long-term career goals, and how the organization can support those goals. When a manager sits down to talk to an employee, that worker feels the company cares about them.

Talk to the least engaged team members first: A manager who wants to adopt a coaching approach to management may be drawn to speak to the team’s superstar employees first. After all, they’re engaged, they’re informed,  they’re pleasant to work with. Talking to them about their career goals may seem like it directly benefits the team because those employees are less likely to be looking for a job outside the company. However, talking to the team’s best employees first does nothing to close the knowledge gap between team members. A manager who is measuring read rates on internal communications has a roadmap when it comes to coaching employees: the team members who aren’t responding to updates, who aren’t opening messages, or even seeing them needs to be talked to first. Even if you suspect they’re looking for a new job on company time. Managers need to sit down with those employees, bring them up to speed, make sure they know what they’re supposed to do at work, and find out what they need to work well. And even if they’re looking for a new job, managers need to talk to those employees about their career goals as well.

For a team to work like a well-oiled machine, everyone needs to have access to relevant information. If managers can keep everyone in the loop, there won’t be any more star employees, because every team member will be a star.


Chat is the future of communication at work

Chat: Future of Communication At Work

By A.J. O’Connell

Chat is the future of communication at work, however, we can’t get to that future when our habits at work are mired in the past.

The disconnect between the way we communicate when we’re at work and the way we communicate in the rest of our lives is real. At work, our internal communications look a lot like they did 10, 15, even 20 years ago — everyone was bcc’d on a mass email. In our private lives, however, we’re constantly messaging. We use social media more than we did then, and we use apps to talk to one another; WhatsApp, SMS, Slack and Facebook Messenger.

Our world outside of work has sped up but in work? We’re still doing things the old way, and that’s a problem: employees used to messaging won’t find mass emails engaging. And, as the workforce gets younger, fewer and fewer employees will be reading those mass emails.

If you want to avoid alienating your staff, it’s time for internal communications to evolve.

Our business practices, when it comes to internal communications, are old. Some go back more than a century. How many people in today’s workforce know what CC on an email stands for? What about BCC? Those two abbreviations, which stand for carbon copy and blind carbon copy respectively, come from the days when business letters were typed on typewriters using carbon paper to create copies.
Chat is the future of communication at work
Those two abbreviations served the exact same functions then as they do now — people who were cc’d got a copy of the letter, while those who were bcc’d got a copy but were unable to see a list of the other recipients.

Carbon paper was invented in the 1800s. Isn’t it time we updated the way we communicate at work?

The email problem

Email, literally short for electronic mail, is the modern version of the letter. Workers probably pay as much attention to it as they do to the paper junk mail that’s actually in their physical mailboxes at home. In fact, they may pay more attention to the junk mail because there’s so much less of it.  

Your employees are buried under an avalanche of email. They get and send an average of 120 emails daily in 2017 and that number is only projected to rise — to 124 emails a day in 2018 and 129 emails a day in 2019.

Chat is the future of communication at work That amount of email is overwhelming; a recent study from Adobe found people spend 3.3 hours a day checking their work email. The study found they’re checking work email every few hours, no matter where they are: the gym, vacation, even formal ceremonies.

While they might be reading their email from bed or the treadmill, and responding to urgent work messages — client requests, or emails about projects that need their attention right now — they are probably not spending a lot of time on company announcements and other boring internal communications. In fact, although 77 percent of employees do open their internal email, only about 34 percent are reading those internal messages, according to a  survey by PoliteMail.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that email is going to die out immediately. Everyone uses email right now because they have to. But there is a shift happening. According to the Adobe study, older workers — those aged 35 and up — are more likely to use email than their younger colleagues.

Millennials don’t communicate like other generations

Millennials have a love affair with messaging unmatched by any other generation. They grew up with chat — many of them remember AOL Instant Messenger fondly — and they continue to use chat in their daily lives to talk to one another. According to Gallup, texting is the preferred form of communication among Americans younger than 50. When they come to work, however, they’re forced to email like the dinosaurs.

That disconnect should be a point of interest for any manager concerned about employees who aren’t reading or absorbing internal communications; the oldest millennials will be 37 in 2018. By 2025, Millennials will comprise 75 percent of the global workforce, according to a report by Ernst & Young. Employees who remember what life — and work — was like before messaging will be in the minority.
If managers want to engage these younger employees and ensure they’re reading announcements, they’ll have to change the way they reach out to them. Millennials chat and text outside of work, using apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat, but when they come to work, they have to email like their older colleagues.

Chat is the way of the future

Millennials are, generationally, the biggest chatters, but they’re not the only people who like messaging. A Facebook report showed that 65 percent of Generation Xers and 63 percent of Baby Boomers prefer to message rather than call or email.

More people are using messaging apps than ever to connect with each other, and that usage is on the rise; more than three-quarters of the world’s smartphone users are using mobile messaging apps in 2017, according to a report by eMarketer. That’s a lot of messaging and it’s projected to increase; by 2021, eMarketer projects that more than 32 percent of the world’s population will be using a chat app.

Chat is the future of communication at work

Facebook, the owner of both of the most popular chat platforms, Messenger and WhatsApp, concurs. According to its report, more than 1 billion people use Messenger every month, and 56 percent of those users expect their messaging will increase in the next two years. WhatsApp reports 1 billion daily users.

These users truly enjoy messaging as well; 76 percent said mobile messaging has improved their lives. One in two users says it’s improved their relationships with others, according to Facebook. And, of course, chat is a lot more fun than an email. Anyone who’s ever responded to good news with a Kermit flail GIF knows that.

There’s no reason work communication shouldn’t be fun

Messages from the boss don’t have to be boring. In fact, they shouldn’t be. You want your employees to find work messages engaging — because the vast majority of workers aren’t engaged at work.

Only 33 percent of employees are engaged at work, according to Gallup. Those employees love their jobs, feel they’ve got open lines of communication with their managers, and understand their place in their organizations. The other two thirds either hate their jobs or are just coasting along, waiting for a better opportunity to present itself.

The sad part of this is that employees want to be engaged. They want jobs at organizations that share their values, and management to keep them in the loop. But that’s not the reality for most employees; according to Gallup, just 13 percent of workers believe the leadership of their organization communicates effectively with the rest of the organization. Gallup suggests that managers adopt a coaching model to fix the engagement problem, having frequent conversations with employees to check in, provide feedback, and offer guidance.

Employees aren't reading your emails This is true of both employees who work in the office and the growing remote workforce; remote employees, says Gallup, are missing out on conversations with their managers.

This is where chat can help; rather than touching base with emails that might get ignored, a manager can simply chat with their team. It’s personal, and you know that your employee is reading and engaging with it because the app tells you when they’ve seen a message.

Getting everyone on the same page with chat

Chat is great for one-on-one communications with team members, but what about company announcements? Long, dull company internal emails — the kind packed with important information and sent to everyone —  are often the bane of employees’ inboxes. No one wants to read them, and individual chats aren’t feasible; the leadership of a large corporation can’t message every employee individually to make sure they’ve read new policy information.  Nor should the content of a mass email simply be transferred to a messenger app and sent to everyone — a long group message is even more unwieldy than a mass email.

There is a way internal announcements can be sent to everyone through chat: chatbots.  

Chatbots, which mimic human conversations, is an ideal way to communicate with employees about internal issues using messenger. For example, if everyone in the company needs to update a form for HR, the chatbot can deliver a copy of that form, and remind the people who don’t respond to get that form signed and handed in on time.

Companies are seeing the benefits of using chatbots. Gartner predicts that by 2021, half of the businesses will spend more on chatbot creation than on the development of traditional apps. There’s a good reason for that; a Hubspot experiment found the open rate of Facebook Messenger broadcasts were 242 percents better than emails containing the same content. Facebook’s study found that individuals enjoy messaging their favorite brands.

That enthusiasm can be absolutely be channeled into internal communications; employees would welcome friendly reminders to turn in a time card, or quick check-ins, asking if they’re ready for the launch of a new sales campaign. And best of all for managers, chatbots can tell them who has read each message, who has responded, and who needs a reminder.

Chat — and chatbots — are the future of communication at work. By simply talking to your employees the way they want to be talked to, you can engage your workforce and increase your company’s productivity.  That’s worth a Kermit flail.