The Crux of the Transition
Research shows that around 80% of employees are not committed to their companies and many do little more than show up. Many factors influence this situation, including management styles, leadership, company reputation, working conditions, opportunities to get involved, interesting work, recognition and personal development programs. Digital collaboration can help with most of these, provided you don’t just install a tool, but use the tool as a driver of cultural change.
It is important to understand how a digital collaboration engagement will lead to a win for the company, its employees and its customers. The goal is a better process flow to make life easier and the work more rewarding for all stakeholders.
This is especially necessary since, as part of an approach based on the symmetry of attention principle, the quality of a company’s relations with its customers is equal to that of the company’s relations with its employees. This internal-external mirror can be used in the context of an e-ambassadors program involving employees, as we will see later.
From Information to Participation
Circulating information within a company has always been fundamental and heavily controlled by the internal communications department. Today, this top-down control is partly obsolete. Remember, 50% of useful information comes from conversations around the coffee machine. Although this mode of communication is obvious and natural for employees, especially younger generations, the company and communications department don’t see it the same way. Corporate networks tend to be used as top-down intranets rather than channels for conversation and employee interaction.
The end of top-down communications
Breaking with the top-down approach to communication means reversing the flow of information in a traditional intranet, which is top-down by nature. You want dialogue, not a monologue. This may involve losing control of the message, possibly calling the timetable into question and creating the need to answer questions before you’re ready. Historically, the communications department was in full control of the announcement timetable and production processes for a potential event. Once a collaborative approach is introduced, conversations emerge in various communities that affect timing and actions required. Information flows across divisions and among employees while the communications department becomes a mere spectator. This doesn’t mean they do nothing. Their jobs shift to curating, optimizing and sharing information for the benefit of employees, stakeholders and the company.
There’s no need to panic
Despite its bottom-up nature, collaborative communications are not intended to be a forum for employees to say anything they want. Discussions can be guided, thanks to theme-focused communities. The lack of anonymity leads to self-censorship rather than people going overboard with their comments.
It will probably be harder to manage a lack of content than to moderate comments, but you must realise discussions can become emotional. These situations requires management to step back and allow people to speak up. You must trust your teams. This is the first step toward cultural change.
Action steps toward change
Companies must address the issue of moderating comments in the event an employee “overreacts.” Many still lack the trust that forms the basis of collaborative working. You can’t expect people to engage if the message at the outset is, “We don’t trust you.” Meanwhile, this absence of trust is mutual. Many employees wonder what will happen to them if they voice their opinions on the corporate network. This refusal to let go on both sides stems from the fact that collaborative working goes against current management methods, which are more “command and control” than participatory. It is up to you to make your management style more inclusive and send out the right signals.
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.