Employees today have more ways to communicate and collaborate than ever before, from desk phones and email to productivity apps in the cloud, instant messaging, video conferencing and smartphones. Many IT managers, however, are hesitant to invest in new collaboration technology, most claiming the tools they’ve already implemented to help employees work faster, smarter and happier are not being used to their potential.
As we’ve seen before, what end users want is rarely in perfect alignment with what IT departments provide. When selecting and introducing new office communication tools – which employees rely on regularly – even small discrepancies in priorities can result in major gaps in user adoption and even job satisfaction.
In our recent study, Working Hard or Hardly Networked we surveyed employees and IT managers to explore IT departments’ processes around unified communication (UC) and collaboration tool rollouts, and their impact on employee user habits and overall happiness.
We started by comparing what tools are at employees disposal and what tools they use every day. We found a stark drop off in usage for more modern collaboration tools like instant messaging and video conferencing. According to most IT managers, UC tools take up very little of their time to support (indicating the technology itself works as it’s supposed to, at least most of the time).
So who (or what) is to blame for the low adoption rates?
The problem is rooted primarily in IT managers’ tendency to leave front-office employees out of the loop when choosing and implementing new tools, which is the case for 77% of end users. It doesn’t stop there. After implementing new communication tools, 58% of employees say their companies fail to follow up with them to gauge the tools’ usefulness. Ironically enough, it’s a communication breakdown that dooms the adoption of communications tools from the start.
Our research shows that employees whose companies do consult with them on new communication tools are more productive (81% ) and satisfied at work (82%) than their counterparts who are kept out of the equation (62% and 59%, respectively). By letting employees weigh in prior to choosing specific tools, aligning those tools to fit culture and employee needs, and better communicating the value and training employees post implementation not only boosts user adoption – it gives organizations an edge in employee job satisfaction and retention.
Communication tool initiatives are about people, not technology
If a business is investing money and time into a new communications or collaboration initiative, IT managers must focus on these five tenets of employee engagement:
- Involve company leadership and end users in the communications tool planning process. Focus groups and surveys are great ways to get everyone, from entry-level staffers to C-Suite execs, interested and informed about better collaboration and the tools at their disposal
- Be sure to communicate all details of the new tool, including the benefits, the problems it will help solve, and when users should expect to be fully trained and transitioned
- Establish an end-user training program to divulge the features and uses of the communication tools and their processes. Do so in a way that fits your culture and is most effective for your employees
- Set and measure tangible and objective adoption goals pre-rollout. Monitor progress post-rollout and make any alterations to the adoption plan as necessary.
- Most importantly, be sure to practice the follow-up. Check in with employees in periods after the technology rollout to fully understand how, if, when, and why they are using the new tools. Knowing these details will allow you to make better decisions in the future and also better leverage the current technology at your disposal.
To see an improvement in communication tool adoption and use, IT managers need to break out of their project management silo. Organizations that get it right focus on unleashing their people’s potential through technology, not just technology alone.