It’s like Facebook – and it’s OK…

You’ve seen them: 7 steps for a more social enterprise, 3 top-tips for increasing employee engagement, 5 strategies for…. These are all very good and useful, although rather repetitive, but one thing is always left out: The fact that Social networking is for entertainment – not for work! Or at least that’s the way many people still see social media.

I have been working actively on an internal Yammer project for the last 8 months and while we have had lots of people sign up and also quite a few engaging actively in the discussions on the platform. Notwithstanding the relatively large contingent of people who are not active, we think that it has been a quite successful journey – more about this journey in later posts.

Introducing Yammer to the masses.
Nothing beats face to face contact so My colleague and I have introduced and demoed Yammer and what it can do for a certain department at department meetings and conferences. Two statements have stood out and we hear them almost everywhere.

  1. We don’t have time for a new tool.
  2. it’s almost like Facebook.

The first preconception is relatively easy to address with the simple answer that you need to take some time to get used to a new tool – any new tool – and that this obviously starts with a cultural change and a handshake that a given group of people will give it a try. As always, with things that requite a change of habits, it is much easier said than done but that’s also a topic for another post.

We always start every introduction by asking a few questions about people’s social media habits and since Denmark is one of the countries where Facebook has the highest penetration rate everybody know Facebook – also if they don’t have a profile. Usually this is very helpful and people who compare it to Facebook will be more prone just to get started but there is another side to this statement. Why does this matter in relation to social media at work? More importantly: Why does the Yammer/Facebook comparison pose a challenge for user adoption?

Entering the ‘Corporate Facebook’
In Denmark we have, like many other places, lots of stories in the media about what social media can and cannot do and along with this also quite a few stories about people losing their jobs or getting bullied on various social media. Additionally some of the larger Danish unions early on told people to be very careful with what they share on social media – especially when it comes to work. People listened and learned. Companies were also quick to announce that social media (ie. Facebook activity) was banned or should be minimized during working hours. Again people listened and learned. Just imagine what could happen if I started using Facebook during my workday…

This is where we are today. Our colleagues have been ‘brought up’ with the fact that social media is something that belongs in the private sphere and when you are at work the use of social tools should be kept to a minimum.

Next thing you know is that your manager has invited two strange guys who are talking about how important it is that we share information in the company and how important it is to ‘break down silos’ – and then they show a tool that looks just like Facebook. WHOA! Slow down! Less than a year ago we weren’t supposed to use this stuff at work – and now you’re saying what…..?

What basically happens is that in addition to the change of habits that is connected with the introduction of a new work tool you also have to come to terms with the fact that you must abandon the thought that using social networks is something you do in your private life – certainly not during 9 to 5. It is not real work! You may argue that this is an ‘age-thing’ and to a certain extent you are right. There ARE more young people among the early adopters but you would be surprised how many 20 and 30-year-olds who roll your eyes at you in the beginning of each presentation, some even saying out loud that these social networks are a waste of time and that they have no place in a work context.

It starts with the managers
I’ve had this talk with quite a few managers who have been wondering why the adoption is relatively slow even if the group has received introductions, training and it has been given an official seal of approval. When we talk about the change of habit and that social networking in a work context largely is like eating forbidden fruit, the manager often realizes how much more there is to it than just throw a new tool into the mix.

The biggest upside is that the “Facebook is not for work” argument works – it makes intuitively sense and it helps underline the importance of the change management effort connected with these tools and I believe that it will ultimately improve adoption. It still takes the 5, 7 and 10 tips that I mentioned in the beginning in order to truly succeed but make sure that you repeat after me over and over: “Yes! It’s like Facebook… and it’s OK…. Really….”

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2 Responses to It’s like Facebook – and it’s OK…

  1. It’s like Facebook – and it’s OK… Martin Risgaard…

    This article has been submitted to Intranet Lounge – Trackback from Intranet Lounge…

  2. Ryan Tracey says:

    Wow, even in a country famed for its egalitarianism, selling the message of collaboration is still a struggle.

    Martin, if your people can’t see the point, it sounds to me like you need to promote a few real-life case studies – and by that I mean examples of people in your organisation (rather than overseas somewhere) using the forum to solve a business priblem. I have found this approach can turn a “why bother” attitude into “I don’t want to miss out”.

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