Digital transition projects have traditionally been implemented by IT departments, which applied the change management processes of large IT firms. Likewise, organisational and management consultants, who are more process-focused, have produced a large number of change management kits, which are undoubtedly useful and well-designed, but do not solve the main problem: how to gain employee buy-in to a new culture.
Unlike an integrated software package where use is mandatory, involvement in corporate social networks is typically more reliant on goodwill and voluntary participation.
Boosting employee engagement
Getting employees to engage means the internal communications work will take place in two stages. It will initially involve producing a genuine change communications campaign (on the condition, obviously, that management has decided on genuine change; otherwise it risks a promise that will not be kept). This will trigger employees’ curiosity and make them want to embark on the “digital adventure.” It will be hard to get employees on board without this emotional connection.
Since a communications campaign is not enough to manage change, a network of change officers should also be set up. This will create support and more extensive employee buy-in to these new practices and the resulting culture.
Ultimately, a culture change is a change of mindset. Digital enterprise is not limited to using a corporate social network “properly” or aligning a few business processes. We are talking about a change of stance and leadership for the management team, i.e., agreeing to give before receiving, sharing, copying, offering opinions, making suggestions and so on.
This implies freedom of expression and discussion, which leads to inclusive management and taking collective decisions by the entire team. Managers must not be perceived solely as part of a power and hierarchy-based relationship. They will play a role more akin to that of team leader or facilitator.
They will need to know how to coordinate without centralising, and lead with no hierarchy. If the management process is inclusive, presumably there is also significant day-to-day delegation.
The time a manager saves by delegating will enable them to develop their teams, review and give meaning to their actions and differentiate between priorities in order of rank (important and/or urgent). This process embraces fundamental concepts including:
- Respect instead of domination
- Trust instead of discipline
- Transparency instead of opaqueness
- The collective rather than the individual
- Promotion rather than appropriation
Although the communications department is not the only one that should promote this change of mindset and go beyond an informative role, it is the primary backer of this kind of transitional project. They have already been faced with re-balancing the relationship between the company and its customers via social media. The same change will be necessary for internal issues.
Action steps toward change
Your managers are the conduit to employees. You must rely on them to move the digital collaboration culture forward. Begin by making them aware of the issue and changing management guidelines so they have a reason to change their way of doing things.
Managers need incentives, like everyone else. There must be a desire to change and organise micro-events such as “lunch and learn” or “innovation breakfast” events to raise everyone’s awareness of new challenges and make them want to go further by awakening their curiosity.
Trust is the basis for collaborative working
As noted, top management must embody a collaborative culture vision and share the digital technologies project with all employees. This will enable everyone to understand what they are contributing to. Thanks to the discussions the process may generate, everyone can contribute to resolving problems and innovating at their own levels.
This kind of initiative-taking is only possible when people trust the organisation and the right to err. This view must be shared so the project is collective and people get involved. This gives everyone a clear understanding of the challenges to come and prepares them to accept requirements for change. In fact, although decisions come from management, their application is the result of employees’ work.
Everyone must understand what is expected of them in order to commit. As Peter Drucker used to say, “Ninety percent of what we call management consists in making employees’ work more complicated. In a new management world, I see employees managing their workload, and asking a coach for support when they need it.” To achieve that ideal, employees
- Be part of something that motivates them (vision)
- Make sense of their commitment (project)
- Develop a feeling of belonging (community)
- Know their work is recognised (impact)
As you can see, the essence of a digital collaboration culture is apparent in these four points. Sharing a vision is important, while being able to contribute to the resulting strategy turns out to be even more effective. This not only gives employees a better understanding of the strategy, it makes them feel they are stakeholders in its implementation. This dual approach is both top-down and bottom-up, and characteristic of a new operating method.
Action steps toward change
As in the case of the governance process, you must find the organisational structure that suits you and embodies the cornerstones of a digital collaboration culture:
- A networked organisational structure that best fits (community, holacracy, revolving leadership, etc.) and includes a leadership process to be more independent, innovative and responsive
- A networked organisational structure that goes beyond the company’s borders to include all external partners who are sources of added value
- A networked organisational structure that is open and customer focused. Ultimately, if this structure is driven by “enhanced customer relationships,” it will spawn other methods of interacting with employees to reduce intermediate layers and increase contact points.
This article is a part of MSLGROUP’s Optimising Digital Collaboration from the Inside Out, for more information contact Anthony Poncier T +33 14482 4648 M +33 62334 0881 or Sébastian Faure T +33 14482 4565.