For the last 20 years, IT has offered new methods of collaboration and communication. Though the results have not been stellar, investment in collaboration remains high.

Today we see knowledge workers provisioning their own tools. The truth is that with the proliferation of workplace collaboration tools like instant messaging, internal social networks, document collaboration, video conferencing and web conferencing, workers have a lot of choice as well as control over the collaboration tools that they use to get their work done. If they do not see the value that the tool provides in making a real difference in their work, today’s knowledge workers aren’t going to embrace it. So how do we change this phenomenon?

In late 2013 Forrester asked information workers if they were active users of collaboration and communication tools at work. Less than 25 percent identified themselves as fully embracing this technology at work. 

Active collaboration among employees

This data makes us question whether potential users really understand how to use the collaboration and communication technologies effectively. 

When a new technology emerges, there's always some users who immediately embrace it and creatively explore ways the technology can be used to work more effectively. But a large percentage see technology as something else they have to learn. They need many opportunities to have guided informal instruction from super users who work to understand the luddites’ work situations, demonstrate some of the technologies, and give hands-on experiences so learners can begin to see some work possibilities. The tools with the highest implementation are IM, internal collaboration and document collaboration.

Change Management

Getting non-users to use collaborative technology is a change management issue too. Help people through the “change lifecycle” process that includes the following four phases:

Learning Opportunities

  • Holding on — No one is paid to collaborate or be social, and most users will concentrate on doing their job using the tools they have always used
  • Resisting — Change requires time and effort, and experimenting pulls workers away from their "real jobs." The resulting behavior is simply refusing to use the new tools
  • Exploring — With prescriptive guidance on when and how to use the tools, employees will begin to experiment  and use the tools in work situations
  • Committing — When a new way of working really adds value, becomes familiar, and gains critical mass with coworkers, users will fully commit

Growing Use Cases Around Strategic HR

HR is not a business unit that has a reputation for using collaboration tools. However, these communication and collaboration tools are becoming a part of the strategic HR processes of talent acquisition, talent management and learning. 

Talent acquisition: The way companies and candidates carry out the job search today has changed thanks to the Internet and social media. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, websites and industry-specific forums are ways companies communicate around open jobs. Existing employees communicate openings to their social networks. Recruiters source using Big Data to determine the specific job boards or websites that are most successful for certain kinds of job openings. Corporate Facebook sites encourage candidates to ask questions about jobs and even give resume and interview assistance.

Talent management: Meeting individual and team goals are an important part of employee evaluation but think of the myriad of other activities an employee carries out during the year. Collaboration with others or going that extra mile to make sure a customer is satisfied or a project is completed often gets forgotten because there is not a mechanism for collecting these collaborative events. An internal network provides the opportunity for employees to thank others. These recognition events roll up into the performance review file enabling managers to have a more holistic picture of the employee.

Learning management: Employees typically have learning activities assigned from the learning content catalog. These have become more interactive with simulations, video and simple games used to engage the learner. Forums using online chat or internal social networks are often wrapped around some of these longer modules allowing learners to interact between sessions about the content or ask questions or work online in teams to share information and suggest solution to a specific issue or problem posed by the instructor. Learners also search employee profiles when they have a challenge or a problem and need to discuss it with a person who has expertise in this area. 

Keys to Success

To succeed at growing the use of collaboration and communication tools, select those technologies that have some clear use cases in your business environment. Give many opportunities to “play” with the applications, see their many uses and talk with colleagues about potential use cases. Informally, develop a best practices discussion group through a social networking site. This network becomes a valuable resource for employees to ask questions and get feedback as they put collaboration tools into practice in their jobs.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by  The Natural Step Canada 

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