Creating a collaborative organization requires leadership, training and a little creative marketing.
One of the most common challenges organizations face when they deploy collaborative platforms and technologies involves employee adoption: Many employees don't use the tools, or adoption quickly falls a month or so after deployment.
Some managers try to mandate the use of new tools, but generally, adoption grows organically. I don't know of any companies where 100% of employees joyfully use their collaboration platform. Evolving the way we work takes time.
There are many reasons your employees might not be fully embracing collaboration tools. Here are a few of the most effective ways I've seen organizations handle the adoption challenge in both the short- and long-term.
Management Should Use and Encourage
Lead by example -- not just the executive team, but mid-level management as well. There are creative ways to do this. For example, one large enterprise encouraged managers to reply to employee emails with only a link to their profile page so employees would contact them via the collaboration platform.
It's also crucial that managers and executives leverage the collaboration platform to provide more real-time feedback to employees, even if it simply means "liking" a comment. Here's an interesting experiment: Pretend there's no email -- everything must be directed to a collaboration platform. It takes discipline.
Provide Ongoing Training
The most successful companies provide ongoing education and training for their tools. This includes everything from reverse mentoring programs to lunch-and-learns, regular open webinars and discussions, and in-person training sessions by community managers.
Embedding collaboration into the employee onboarding process is also very effective, as it helps new employees hit the ground running. The key is for employees to feel that the organization as a whole has embraced an evolved way of working. This needs to a virtually tangible feeling; it should be "in the air."
Listen to Employee Feedback
One of the biggest mistakes many organizations make is not listening to their employees' feedback. If your company is planning to implement new policies or changes, reach out to employees for their preferences -- just as you would, for example, if you were considering new insurance programs. Employees will be quite opinionated.
It's important that employees who offer their thoughts feel heard; otherwise they will disengage. This doesn't mean that you need to cater to every request -- you might create a voting system where the most popular ideas are explored, for example. But at least acknowledge all feedback.
Use Appropriate Internal Communication
I can't tell you how many times managers at large enterprises have told me about their great collaboration initiatives -- but when I spoke with non-managerial employees, they "never heard of anything." This happened even with one of the largest casino companies on the Vegas strip!
You can't simply deploy a tool and hope people will find -- and use -- it. Leverage your marketing and communication teams to make a big splash, and make it fun. In one of my favorite examples, Yum! Brands pasted decals on bathroom mirrors and elevator doors.
Accept and Adapt to Change
One of the most powerful effects of an enterprise collaboration platform is its ability to make your company more agile and adaptable. That means things are inevitably going to change -- whether we're talking about corporate dress codes, reporting structures, or compensation and benefits -- and you need to be okay with that.
They key is to become more nimble. Don't be afraid of change -- you must be willing to accept and adapt to become successful.