Getting Your Executives to the Social Table

Executives at my client organizations are often timid when it comes to using social technology inside the organization. One recently explained that he believes collaboration must be done face-to-face, in person. He’s missing the fact that most of his employees neither sit in front of computers nor are acquainted with all the internal experts.

I recently posted for ALI about how to change your language when you talk about social, and the following two examples offer some real-world perspective.

Bring the Data

Sometimes, you have to have data to further the case. For example, one of our clients recently conducted a study to determine how long it takes their employees to find a policy. They conducted the test with employees across the organization and many different policies. It took, on average, 5:48 to find a policy. The team has already learned that social technology – coupled with usability improvements – could help reduce the time to find a policy.

Nielsen Norman Group once reported that it takes just 56 seconds to find a policy on the best intranet, versus 6 minutes and 4 seconds on the worst. Taking the client’s average number of policy searches per day – based on search data – and their average loaded salary, we crunched the numbers. Credit must go to Shannon Ryan at nonlinear creations for a really cool tool to make this easier.

The client could realize a productivity savings of $5.5 million. How much of that improvement could be realized by enabling employees to easily see a list of the top ten most popular policies? 10%? 20%? That could be a $1.1M opportunity; that’s results an executive can wrap his or her head around.

Keep it Simple

Nearly ten years ago I was working with a client on benefits open enrollment. The company was making significant changes that required a lot of employee education. Plus, enrollment was being done 100% online for the first time. Employees – many working in manufacturing environments – needed simple guidance and instruction.

I believed short video podcasts would be the ticket, but I also knew the client was conservative and cautious; they would never use anything they thought smacked of “social media.” So, we called them “short videos.” It didn’t take much to convince them. The podcasts were very successful and helped to smooth the entire enrollment. Afterwards, I told the client the company could lay claim to being an early adopter of social technology.

If you keep the focus on the business prize, the executives will come along with less trepidation. Data paves the way. With a little luck, you’ll create some great success stories that make the next new thing even easier to add. It’s all in how you talk about it.

If you are interested in learning more about intranets, their governance and social technology use inside organizations, I’ll be teaching at this upcoming event:

Using Card Sort Results: Demographic Differences

Cross tabulating card sort data is a pain, but online tools such as Optimal Sort have made it a lot easier. Plus, understanding demographic differences can point to really important design decisions for your intranet. I’ve talked before about what to do with card sort findings on grouping patterns and category labeling, so now let’s focus on differences in demographic groups.

First, gather only those demographics you’ll actually design for, such as level (e.g., manager, executive, individual contributor) and location. Sometimes a client will ask about age, but companies don’t usually provide a different interface based upon age/generation, making this a less useful demographic. Tenure is another one you likely won’t design for, so leave it out.

Second, consider whether or not you want participants to self-report demographics. It’s much easier with today’s online card sorting tools to allow them to simply respond to demographic questions with no validation. If validation is important to you, here is one way to get it done:

  • Require a company email address to participate in the test
  • Cross tabulate findings against a target list that includes demographic markers using email address; this marries results with an individual participant’s demographics
  • Now sort and filter by the demographics

Here are some examples of what we often find when cross tabulating card sort results with demographics:

  • Managers often group management-related items together rather than associating them with their topical categories. For example, they’ll group together Competencies, Vacation Approval and Travel Requests because these are all manager functions. A front-line employee may put Competencies in a career category, Vacation Approval under benefits and Travel Requests in a travel center. This finding points to the need for a space dedicated to the needs of managers.
  • Participants often group policy that specifically relates to their location in a location category. For example, they might put the Singapore office parking policy in a Singapore group rather than with all policies. This finding points to the need to surface content on more than one page or based upon user relevance.
  • Front-line participants often group items they don’t recognize into one large bucket; sometimes they’ll even label it I Don’t Know. Often the labels on those items are the problem – labels that are too complex, vague, or technical. One example is the term Talent Acquisition, which HR people may understand but regular employees do not. Given the opportunity to label it themselves, regular employees may use labels such as Career, Hiring, Jobs, etc.

While Nielsen Norman Group recently advocated against audience-based navigation – and I don’t disagree with them – understanding the differences in how different user groups sort and label your intranet content can help you make better design decisions. So do the data crunch so you know what demographic nuances are breaking your user experience.

Don’t forget to pay attention to other findings in your card sort results. For more information on that, check out these two posts:

  1. Using Card Sort Results: Grouping Patterns (on the ALI Blog)
  2. Using Card Sort Results: Category Labeling

If you are interested in learning more about intranets, their governance and social technology use inside organizations, I’ll be teaching at two upcoming events:

If you’ve got a great story to tell, I encourage you to submit a presentation proposal for IABC’s 2016 World Conference. The deadline is this Wednesday, September 30, so submit today!

Why you should submit a presentation for IABC’s World Conference

I’ve long been amazed at the talent within the membership of IABC. It’s the main reason I continue to be involved; the people. I’ve learned a lot over the years from IABC people and gained everything from great jobs to important friendships.

One way I give back is through regular speaking for IABC and other organizations such as Advanced Learning Institute. I love to teach; there is nothing quite like having a conversation with enthusiastic students in a workshop. It’s a real passion and I’m lucky I get regular chances to indulge. Every time I teach at a conference I’m impressed by the caliber of the other speakers.

I encourage anyone with experiences, expertise, or stories to share to submit a presentation proposal for IABC’s 2016 World Conference in New Orleans, June 5-8. This will be the 10-year anniversary of the last IABC World Conference in that iconic city. That’s right, the last time we were there was on the heels of Katrina. Things are pretty different now as New Orleans establishes itself as a leader in innovation.

Following a system of improved governance standards set by the IABC International Executive Board and implemented by past chair, Preston Lewis, the 2015 World Conference heralded a democratic process of submission and evaluation which resulted in high marks for conference content at this year’s event. As the 2016 chair of the Program Advisory Committee, I’ve brought together a team of 30 communicators from 15 different time zones, and we’ll use the same process to attempt to repeat those high scores in 2016.

I hope you can hop on our train as we work to bring the very highest caliber of content to IABC’s premier development event. The deadline is Wednesday, September 30. So, submit your presentation proposal today!