By Darryl Duke | October 17, 2016
Learn how to reduce information toxicity and remove three cultural barriers for engaging non-technical teams across the enterprise with smart branded intranets, collaboration hubs, employee portals, and enterprise social networks. Pragmatic advice plus compelling examples from Fortune 500 and fast-growing companies will guide you in transforming Confluence to accelerate employee on-boarding, retain company knowledge, and engage your entire organization.
You'll learn how to:
- Manage corporate intranet deployment
- Speed on-boarding & boost engagement
- Tame information toxicity
(This talk was originally given at Atlassian Summit in San Jose on October 12, 2016)
Every organization needs to move faster, be more agile, work less, and get more done, and adopting a culture of collaboration is an important step in that direction. While deploying an enterprise collaboration tool such as Atlassian Confluence is a start, employee engagement is not automatic. We all know that behavioral change takes effort.
In this article, we'll look at ten strategies you can adopt to create and nurture a culture of collaboration.
It's no coincidence that Trust is the number one strategy. Putting trust in your employees automatically creates a culture of openness and shared responsibility. Allow everyone to contribute in as broad of a context as possible. Encourage participants to include positive feedback along with constructive criticism. Recruit team members from around the organization to lead by example: seeding conversations, posting feedback, and liking content. Include a platform for crowd-sourced questions and answers (such as Confluence Questions) to let subject matter experts decentralize the flow of information.
Just as important as trust, organizations need to learn how to be more transparent. Ambiguity and secrecy kill collaborative behaviors. Make a habit of informing all employees of decisions, successes and failures. Go beyond announcing decisions after they are made by explaining the reasoning behind them, and by opening a dialogue. Whatever knowledge you accrue or project you manage, share it with everyone.
Leadership behavior naturally sets the tone for other employees. Embracing trust and transparency is a key first step. Then welcome and publicly acknowledge feedback, and remember that great leaders take credit for both good and bad. Recast negative feedback as an opportunity to engage the community in creating solutions.
This might seem trivial, but setting a light tone at work helps contributors open up, especially those new to your company or team. Humor connects people and collaboration puts emphasis on people. Managers who can make a meeting room laugh will be more approachable and will learn more about what makes their people tick.
5. Rewarding The Right Behavior
People don't like change and will naturally try to do things the old way. Find small ways to reward anyone who shares knowledge, asks questions, or connects with colleagues across borders or departments in meaningful ways. Rewards can be anything from a virtual collaborator medal to a small gift, or simply a public shout-out. These will encourage other employees to follow their lead.
Technology will always just be a means to put strategy into practice. But picking the right collaborative tools (such as Atlassian Confluence or HipChat) can help your team become more collaborative. With the right tools, it won't matter where people are, or in which time zone. You will always be able to connect, discuss ideas, and make collaborative decisions.
Your organization has a distinctive personality and culture. Does your collaboration platform reflect that, or does it look and feel like a foreign body? If your culture celebrates successes or personal events such as birthdays, make sure that's part of the online conversation. Think of ways to connect people and show that your people come before the product or the corporation. Collaboration is all about people, so add the human touch wherever possible.
8. Invite And Master Conflict
Collaboration doesn't automatically mean consensus. There is always room for disagreement or conflict. Encourage respectful and constructive dialog to get the most from everyone and create the best possible outcomes. Criticizing ideas is easy but blocks progress, so ask that negative feedback be given with ideas for possible solutions to keep things moving.
If you collaborate for the sake of collaboration, you're doing it wrong. Efforts should be aligned with your overall business objectives and values. Are people earning bonus points for simply liking and posting trivial comments on blog posts, or posting funny cat pictures? Challenge teams to find new ways to produce results or connect people. Decentralize this activity, and then socialize those ideas that have an impact.
Chances are your people feel too busy to learn new tools that promise a better way of working. So find ways to make using them inevitable. Instead of sending emails with information, email links to content in your collaboration platform. Change the way your team works to make one weekly activity possible only by logging in, and be sure that task is easier on the new system than the old way. Then engender a culture of moving conversations into the tool, regardless of where they start.
Changing behavior isn't easy, but taking small steps, enlisting your people, and adding a dose of creativity will go a long way to make your teams work better, faster, and smarter.
There are two stats to know if you're in a fast-growing company and hiring quickly:
Taken together, it means most workers are operating below their potential. How do you get your team engaged quickly — especially if there are a lot of new Millennials? While many smaller organizations (less than 30 people) get by using email, Google docs, and a file share system, larger companies and those generating a lot of content quickly find that employees waste a lot of time trying to find the right people and the right information to get their jobs done.
A well-designed corporate intranet can help workers be more productive and increase efficiency across teams and the company. Many of the corporate intranets we develop for Fortune 500 organizations and fast-growing companies succeed by following these three non-technical must-dos:
1. Brand your corporate intranet, not just your company tees.
I've been working in high tech for decades and am still surprised at how many companies spend more time and resources designing T-shirts than designing and managing their corporate intranets. Yes, T-shirts can commemorate and celebrate team success. But whether it's email, project management, or making plans and documents, employees spend an inordinate amount of time online each day. With a branded corporate intranet, employees know they're working as a team member whether they're in the office or elsewhere.
Companies with a strong brand identity give their employees a sense of purpose as soon as they walk into the office. An online corporate resource – an employee portal or corporate intranet – that mirrors a company's 'look and feel' makes employees feel more confident in what they're doing. It can quickly give them access to people and work in an online team setting. Does your corporate intranet look like your products? Your offices? Your website or marketing materials? Or is it a generic or unfamiliar new app or set of apps? If your company's internal online experience doesn't match your organization, employees will hesitate to use it. But, if it's an extension of your company's 'look and feel', employees will internalize your brand, and consequently feel more engaged. For companies with multiple locations or remote workers, the benefits are magnified — a strongly branded corporate intranet can provide a common area to connect and get work done no matter the time zone or office setting.
2. Create an 'on fleek' dashboard — with company news, task notifications, and Twitter feeds
Corporate change requires effort and learning. For employees, it can cause confusion, frustration, and stall progress. An engaging corporate intranet or enterprise social intranet can easily communicate a company's ongoing and exciting changes. And if it's 'on fleek' or 'fresh,' it'll get the attention of Millennials. Many successful big brand organizations deploy an intranet with a shared company news homepage or universal place for employees to find out what’s happening whenever they log in. Employees who are inundated with email must go to multiple sources, tools, and platforms to keep track of required tasks. With a well-designed corporate intranet, notifications and reminders for an employee's daily tasks can be featured alongside corporate news.
If it's important for employees to quickly see what's trending for the company, consider incorporating a live social media feed like Twitter or a Pinterest-like display board. The less time employees spend context switching and getting in and out of different applications, the more productive and engaged they'll be.
3. Keeping it clean
People have a natural tendency to avoid tasks that are hard. They're busy and rarely have spare time to dive in to learn new and complex tools. Design your corporate intranet to defer complexity — a peel-the-onion strategy. For example, a special Onboarding or New Hires section can increase new employee productivity quickly. With your corporate intranet, allow users to consume content first – with web-surfing simplicity – and then experiment with tool features to allow for incremental learning of the platform. Make it perform like a great website. Present readily-available navigation buttons or features like menus, headers, and links to orient users. Give managers easy design and create capabilities to publish and distribute information to their teams and other departments in a dynamic, compelling way. Provide permissions-based views of content so the right people can see and comment at the right time. Clearly all the suggestions above are not simple checkboxes on a features list. They deserve strategic thinking and appropriate technologies. But it's all do-able and the payoff can be huge.
A branded corporate intranet that is easy to use and provides access to corporate news, personalized information, tools, and tasks will empower employees to stay informed and exceed at their jobs. It enables everyone to connect, share, and collaborate — without navigating multiple, disconnected systems. And employees spend their time in a branded environment that reinforces your company culture. (Corporate branded T-shirts optional.)
Who knew that enterprise-wide collaboration can actually cause employee DIS engagement? A Harvard Business Review study found that when organizations introduce new means for transparency and team collaboration, more often than not, there's resistance. Enterprise content management and collaboration—sharing information easily and broadly—often creates a staggering need to document, sort, search, absorb, and digest data from countless sources. Consequently, employees disengage—especially younger workers. It's too much of a good thing and according to Harvard, the syndrome is called "information toxicity."
What's good for the team is not necessarily good for the individual employee. For example, when you ask employees to post ongoing updates on a project, it can slow down their work. And it becomes hard to stay current on all that's happening. If the team is distributed or working virtually, it gets even more complicated.
So how are leading-edge companies reducing information toxicity and increasing employee engagement?
Here are four keys for building a corporate intranet or employee portal that will bring teams together in the easiest, most productive and most non-toxic way:
- Mirror your organization's 'look and feel' to project company culture. Brand it like your company or customize it to fit your team so folks feel at home and your corporate intranet feels like it's part of the company (and not a foreign body).
- Design your corporate intranet as a suite of communication and collaboration tools - include social tools, wikis for company policies, and task management. Wrap tools around a strong information architecture that acts as the foundation for how your team organizes company information and sets up internal communications.
- Put the end user first when you create your corporate intranet. Feature a simple interface, make it highly configurable by the team, and adaptable to business needs. A modern corporate intranet brings together social tools, applications, and workflow technology all together in one communication platform.
- Finally make it easy to find what you need. An enormous amount of time is wasted looking for the right document or data. That's when frustration, disengagement and ultimately information 'toxicity' sets in. Start with a great search technology that uses a customized hierarchy of labels so users can quickly drill down to find relevant results. Take a page from popular consumer shopping sites and feature faceted search capabilities.
Here at Brikit, we dive into the design process thoroughly, interviewing our clients and following up with extensive questions. We’ve heard that Frank Lloyd Wright would camp out on the grounds of any new architecture project, before ever beginning to design, in order to get a true sense of what the landscape called for. We do something similar, although virtually. We “camp out in your woods” (as best we can, sometimes from continents away), in order to get a sense of the culture and “lay of the land” of your organization, in order to fully absorb the needs of your project.
As mentioned, part of this process involves a set of follow-up questions we provide through a client portal, which we set up on a themed Confluence instance. Within this framework of questions, we ask each client for three or four descriptive words that come to mind when imagining the ultimate collaborative site. Over the years, we’ve heard a variety of responses to this question (professional, informative, inviting, engaging, clean, authoritative, and reliable lead the pack). In the many design brief sessions, however, we have yet to hear a client ask for down-market, unclear, confusing, cluttered, or crowded. The differentiator here? Design. And, more often than not? Whitespace.
We are passionate believers in whitespace here at Brikit. So deeply do we embrace it, in fact, it’s part of our first value: Make Life Beautiful—“We trust the whitespace.”
Mark Boulton, in an oldie-but-goodie A List Apart article lays out the fundamentals: "Whitespace, or ‘negative space' is the space between elements in a composition… it is often used to create a balanced, harmonious layout. One that just ‘feels’ right.” He goes on to illustrate how the use of whitespace is critical in brand positioning:
“Designers use whitespace to create a feeling of sophistication and elegance for upscale brands. Coupled with a sensitive use of typography and photography, generous whitespace is seen all over luxury markets.” In contrast, he asserts that designing for direct-mail often requires the exact opposite: “They need to appear down-market to work. Less whitespace=cheap; more whitespace=luxury.”
Think brand positioning has nothing to do with your collaborative platform? Think again. [ Tweet this. ] When we ask clients to tell us how they want their company’s intranet perceived, we are really asking them how they want their company culture (the ‘brand’) positioned in the company. Why is this important? Are you selling something to your employees? Absolutely. As we say here at Brikit, Confluence is awesome, but not if you’re the only one using it. Collaboration requires collaborators. Most of our clients know this intuitively: an inviting, engaging platform has a far higher opportunity for successful user adoption. Trust us on this one: don’t go direct-mail “cheap” on your theming needs. Trust the whitespace.
By Darryl Duke | July 24, 2014
This webinar addresses cultural factors that can inhibit broad user adoption of Atlassian Confluence. The session presents five strategies you can use to counteract them, with a brief look at how tools such as Theme Press can help.