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5 Mistakes to Avoid When Implementing Collaboration Tools

Remember the old cliché that hindsight is always 20/20? Being able to look back and correct the mistakes we’ve made is something that everyone wishes they could do. When it comes to instituting a significant cultural change (like rolling out a collaboration tool), being able to go back and correct our mistakes could be the difference between project success and failure. Just like Marty McFly, today were going to take a step back in time to learn from the mistakes of others. We will take a look at 5 popular mistakes that are made when implementing an internal collaboration program.

Great Scott!

Before we move head first and look at what should be avoided, I want to take a minute and point out the state of collaboration tools today. According to a recent Gagen MacDonald survey analyzing employee engagement:

  • 58% of employees would prefer to work at a company that uses some type of internal social media tool.
  • 86% would refer others for employment at their company if they felt the organization is doing a good job with their internal social media tools.
  • 61% feel it is easier to collaborate by using these tools.
  • 60% are likely to feel that their company is innovative.

So it’s plain to see that employees value having some type of internal collaboration tool. But those benefits aren’t without a lot of blood, sweat and tears. Obviously these tools bring a lot of benefits to an organization. However, these are only reached if they are adopted. So how do you make sure that these tools are indeed adopted and used?

Avoid these 5 Mistakes

Let’s improve our own hindsight and learn from the mistakes of others. In a recent piece from Ragan’s HR Communication, Assistant Vice President of Contemporary Work Practices at the Hartford, Lisa Bonner, outlines 5 key mistakes to avoid.

1. Lack of Executive Sponsorship
Do as I say, not as I do. Remember how annoyed you were when you parents used to tell you that? The same principle applies in the office. When rolling out changes, it’s always important to have senior leaders do more than just pay lip service. They have to not only talk the talk, but walk the walk. Even if you manage overwhelming support at the bottom level, it can still be difficult to reach that point of critical mass if there’s no senior leadership support. To overcome this problem, Bonner suggests launching a reverse mentor program. In this program, “tech savvy, younger career professionals [are partnered] with senior executives.” This helps senior leaders “quickly establish the value of these tools AND garner multiple executive champions.”

2. Absence of Change Management
What Bonner refers to as the “biggest impediment to adopting social media” is a “systemic resistance to sharing information and change.” This is primarily because becoming social requires a significant cultural change. It’s important to think this through before going out and executing such a large shift. Try to think through the effects of implementing such a strategy may have on the existing corporate culture. This will better prepare you for what may lie ahead. If you do not, it will “result in frustration and numerous false starts.”

3. Gaps in policies
When rolling out new tools, be sure to check your electronic communication, social media or other related policies to ensure that the rules and guidelines on use are clearly defined. Some suggested guiding principles are “Be professional, use common sense, and be respectful of others.”

4. Lack of business objectives
Before instituting new tools and a new strategy, outline your business objectives. By having some objectives laid out, you can justify what you are doing, track your progress, and deliver some quick visible wins to senior management. It clarifies the big picture of what you are doing, why you are doing it and how well is it going.

5. Directing vs. Listening
Collaboration is a two way street. Part of the appeal of instituting collaboration tools is that they foster a two way conversation between employees. It’s easy to forget that. Part of your job is to become an active listener in addition to a community contributor. Listen to the suggestions of others, try out the good ideas, and invite those to be part of your team. Fostering a two way conversation amongst employees will not only engage employees, but also inspire them.

The shift to social business isn’t just a technology shift; it’s also a cultural one. While the tools may be sexy, they will require significant effort to build engagement and maintain momentum. It’s a marathon not a sprint. Bonner offers one last piece of advice: “be BOLD when it comes to implementing an employee collaboration tool” if you succeed the results will be stunning.

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