Why your next change program needs a support and feedback community – (2 of 2)
Following on from last weeks posts where we explored ‘How do we support and cater to the needs of all the individuals? How do we support various parts of the organisation?’
In our two-part series, this week we explore eleven keys factors that can play an important part.
You have launched your new document management system or your new service delivery process. But you’re finding that the level of adoption is not what you were aiming for.
You’ve done everything right by taking a people-centric approach in this project. You have leadership not only sponsoring but participating in the change. You have interviewed and piloted with samples of staff to make sure the change is relevant. And you have champions assisting in communication, training and advocating the change.
The thing is if your boss asked you right now about what people think of the change. What they are finding hard. Benefits they are realising. You really don’t know, other than the email exchanges you’ve been involved in, and a few stories you have heard.
You suddenly realise that you are not in touch with the recipients of your change. You can’t confidentially respond to, “how are things going?” with the program.
A better feedback loop right now would be handy! Word of mouth and email aren’t helping you submit reports that answer your boss’s questions.
There’s a missing piece in the people-centric approach of your program launch. And that’s a support & feedback online community. Where both you, and the members of the community itself, support each other in responding and adapting to the new technology or process.
Let’s have a look at how the distributed model of ‘support and feedback communities’ help process, product, and initiative owners of change programs provide maximum benefits to their stakeholders. (part 2 of our blog) Click To Tweet
The Eleven reasons
An inclusive design nurtures engagement, which nurtures a sense of ownership of the change
Online communities enable people to be involved in the change; to express their insights, concerns, and experiences that relate to the program. The more the change is co-created to align with ‘real’ improvements to work practices, the more employees feel a sense of belonging and are invested in its success. The aim is an informed and inclusive program, that ultimately creates the desired change to unlock both organisational and personal value. And this is not possible without mindful consulting with the people who the change will be affecting.
As it turns out people appreciate being consulted when it involves changes to their daily practices of getting work done! An online community enables this inclusiveness indefinitely, we could say the ‘perpetual beta’ approach to change programs.
It’s hard to feel invested in the change when you’re not in the loop
The effectiveness of your change may be compromised if people feel they are uninformed and lack the knowledge to onboard. The more this continues, the more they may lose interest or care in the program. Frequent communications about progress are a way to keep people on board. Sometimes it may be that fifth update that finally moves someone from acknowledging the change to adopting it.
When working with customers on their change programs we recommend hosting an online Yammer group. A place to keep stakeholders updated on the progress of the pilot/launch, and to engage in dialogue. It’s no different if the program you’re launching is a new IT support desk software, a new video conferencing system, or a change log to document templates that stakeholders need to know about.
In all these cases, people need to know what’s going and be able to participate to be engaged with the program. It’s hard to get onboard if you are not aware. Both frequent and two-way-communication is important full stop. Especially in its ability to share clarifications and reveal findings to help ensure the change is as relevant as possible for stakeholders. Similarly, new starters to the organisation or program can inform themselves by scanning through the history of conversations.
A place to support employees may end up a place where they support themselves
Employees of your program can have a central place to ask questions and learn about the product/service. Enquires or concerns may be about functionality, process steps, logistical queries, or what the change means to their role and work activities. An online communal space may be the difference between a few versus the potential of the whole organisation answering a question or swarming around a problem.
I’m assuming we have all experienced this when asking a question on Google. You usually end up on a forum with an answer provided by a user just like you. For example, if you are having issues with iTunes, the members of the Apple support site will answer your question faster than an official Apple employee. It’s quite common that someone has experienced your issue and the answer is already documented. If not, just ask and an answer will come quick.
The change team or the product team is only made up of so many people and cannot experience every context there is to know about a product or process, but collectively the users can. And this collective knowledge makes an excellent support base. It’s a win-win really!!
Did I just get my lunch break back?
As for the group owner, they may get more free time in their day due to the community supporting itself. Such as the community answering each other’s questions, and the same question not being asked again and again as people can search existing content before asking. And if a question is asked that has already been answered, a simple reply with a link to the answer beats writing that same email reply again and again. An FAQ page soon follows.
A past use case I was involved in was with a building and facilities manager of an office requiring a simple and modern way to communicate about an office move. They were sick and tired of repeating the same answer to email requests – what day is the truck coming, are these chairs coming with us, what day does my department move, etc… As you can imagine, you don’t know a lot of these answers upfront, things begin to make more sense as the reality of the move is experienced. An online space not only allowed the community to do some of the work for the project manager, relieving some of their overload and frustration. But also freed up their time to tick things off their list, or perhaps even eat their lunch away from their desk.
Lack of visibility and autonomy may be blocking your customer/employee experience
As customers, we are super impressed when our calls for help are followed by speedy replies. We think, ‘Wow, that was quick!’ When we say this, it’s an indicator that we feel satisfied and regarded. Providing an online community enhances this employee experience even further. Now issues can be shared online and seen by all as they happen, resulting in quicker acknowledgements and resolutions.
A support worker may see an issue posted to the online community by an employee, and sort out the problem before their manager has a chance to sip their morning coffee. And if they don’t have the expertise to sort out the problem themselves, they can reach out directly to the network for help. They can discover a person with the right skill to assist in solving their customers’ problem. Their manager is no longer the gatekeeper to the Rolodex of who’s good at what. And they shouldn’t be, as this is a potential point of failure or drag in the network.
The point is, they no longer need to wait until Tuesday’s status meeting to sort out the issue. Instead, a connected network enables a customer-centric approach, which solves things quicker.
And as mentioned previously, the biggest gift to a program owner is when a community member has already solved the issue, even before the support worker sipped ‘their’ morning coffee!
This has a positive two-fold effect. The support worker feels more engaged by having the autonomy to access connections to source answers. The customer/employee has their problem solved in a much quicker turn-around time. And if this were a three-fold effect; the support worker’s manager can spend their time and expertise on coaching rather than being the gatekeeper of connections.
Online communities are picking up the ball where traditional structures fail
A Document Management team I consulted had a project running where they were upgrading their document templates. During this time many employees reported what turned out to be a common issue they were having with recent template changes. Rather than use email, they posted about these issues using the new online community. Within the day, many functional specialists around the globe shared what they did to resolve the problem. By the next day, the issue was completely solved before it could even become an item on an issue list.
In the past, the specialists would receive emails from their users but were not connected enough to share these issues with other specialists. What they usually did was share their findings to their individual leads. Then when the leads got together for their weekly meeting they would discover the pattern. They would then issue a communication back down to the specialists to share a solution, who would then finally inform their customers/employees.
If you want to know about failures in your program as they happen so you can be more responsive, then use the power of communities. They are much nimbler than the traditional hierarchy structure in dealing with such situations.
A community space can be the difference between an issue being shared or not; and accountability levels-up when issues are discussed in the open
Sending an email to a personal address or an info address to submit an issue, feedback or idea isn’t the most engaging interaction. Its lack of visibility and reach as a communication channel may make the difference in bothering to share it at all.
For programs owners, it’s a problem if you don’t know you have problems. Just because you are not hearing about issues, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. It’s better to have a mechanism where they can easily be shared, heard and worked on by both the owner and members of the community. As a program owner you want to know what’s working and what’s not, so you can help people on their way.
When we switch to these discussions occurring in a visible place; the customer service, speed to resolution and all-around accountability motivator has been taken up a notch. Unacknowledged or unanswered questions or too much time taken to get to resolution can be viewed by all. This increase in visibility puts more pressure on a program owner to be a provider of excellent service. It means you are putting your customers first, and this is good for the program. No-one said raising your profile and reputation doesn’t take effort!
From my personal experience, an online travel agency messed up my travel itinerary. My email conversation was unheard because the person assigned to me was on leave (yep, they didn’t even have a generic info email address). My further email conversations were going nowhere. After a week I ended up posting the same issue for help on their Twitter page, and it was resolved in half a day.
Open feedback encourages discussion to help improve your program
An essential part of running a change program is procuring feedback. If your program involves a pilot run, then a feedback channel allows the pilot testers to quickly share their experiences of what is and isn’t working. They can share what people are saying, how the change message or strategy is being interpreted, and what the response or vibe of the coalface is towards the change. This can be done as it happens; all recipients can be in the know ‘now’, rather than tomorrow. A simple feedback post can trigger a conversation thread that percolates into a potential improvement or solution.
Owners of change programs cannot be everywhere at the same time, they can only do so much floor walking. Enabling a distributed way to get a feel for how the change is being received and how it can be improved is essential for the success of a program.
This feedback channel is not just about issues and improvements. It’s also an opportunity to gather success stories to enrichen your launch. There’s no better way of changing the culture than by spreading stories of success.
Crowdsourcing enables your change to be as relevant and as possible
One of my past use cases involved a new global initiative to review and update project procedures and documentation. This involved a harvesting exercise of all the local procedures used around the world, followed by re-vamping them into global versions as a baseline. The aim was for a consistent approach in delivering projects (based on over 50 years of knowledge and experience.)
Typically, this exercise would have taken a long time by email, using many middlemen, and most certainly failed to catch enough in the net. Instead, with an online community, we were able to source the crowd for help. We posted a simple ‘we need your input’ post to each dedicated online group representing a functional area of the business involved in project delivery improvements. The crowd left numerous replies on each of these posts with links to their local procedures. Very quick, very comprehensive. Especially when you have the potential of 10,000+ people helping you put items in your basket, so to speak.
Further to this when global procedures were being written there were shout-outs to the crowd for input. There was plenty of discussion on the nuances, intricacies and peripheral information and contexts of how they can be improved to reflect the myriad of contexts encountered in a global company dealing with hundreds of clients. In the past, it was too time intensive to garner feedback from a wider audience using a tool like an email, as well as focus group interviews. And surveys often fall short in the rich context, and return rates can be low. Usability and adoption suffer because the results are not based on enough of the collective experience of the organisation. Not having the same reach and conversational richness can produce a less balanced result.
Online communities really do mean ‘continuous’ improvement
Let’s face it, people don’t like reading a manual, nor have time. We are more interested in the context of need, and digesting learnings in small chunks. We often need our handheld to explore how the change can benefit our work processes. As the program owner, you can continually share tips and share use cases to help translate the change and prove its worth.
But you’re not alone, the community itself can do the same; learning from each other, and developing new skills and knowledge. An online community enables your program to keep developing, to keep being nurtured, to evolve with practice and adapt over time. Online communities enable continuous improvement to indeed be continuous. Even without a continuous improvement program, you are likely to find people sharing improvements anyway. This is what happens in engaged communities!
There’s now an expectation that help is a second away and in the context of a need
People are busy at work. They’ve got jobs to do. They often don’t have enough time in the day to get what they need to get done.
When people have a query, they are used to being one-click away from getting answers at the time of need with the least friction possible.
Forrester has some data about customer behaviour in relation to ‘support’ on the external web. We think this data resonates with the behaviours of employees within organisations. Support is support, and employees are customers too, they are your internal customers. They say, ‘53% of US online adults are likely to abandon their online purchase if they can’t find a quick answer to their question; 73% say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good online customer service.’
We can translate this to employees within an organisation abandoning your product or process if they can’t find a quick answer to their question. They have work pressures, deadlines, and time constraints, and will move on without adopting your offering.
If your support and feedback model is slow or doesn’t match these expectations, know now that they’ll give up. Remember people are used to instant support behaviours on the external web, like Q&A forums, FAQ’s, instant chat, customer reviews, personal assistants, etc. The only way you can live up to these expectations is by having an army of helpers. Members of an online support community can be the army that supports your internal program.
If you are looking to have a well-received change program, look at using an online community to help support its adoption. It’s a way to allow people to be part of the change process in a more inclusive way, where they feel heard and consulted, and support each other through the change. Your program will have more potential for success in unlocking value when the crowd of people you’re serving are also able to serve each other. Help the crowd succeed, they in-turn will help you succeed.
Part 1 of our series – Part 1 of our 2 part series – Why your change program needs…