Month: October 2012

Getting Started:: Video Sharing

One of the most powerful methods of collaboration is video sharing. Obviously, twitter has become a vital part of customer service and sales & marketing, but internally, a microblogging client is as essential as email or a phone.

As concepts become more technical, more personal or more essential, more and more meaning is lost in text based conversations.

By promoting video sharing in your organization, you provide an easy way to communicate the complexities that often impact decisions or action.

That being said, I understand that promoting and deploying a video sharing platform is a large initiative and getting buy-in or seeing the immediate benefits are often challenging.

Here are a few ways we’ve used our video sharing platform to help team members collaborate:

  1. Describing complex concepts
    Often our technicians are put in situations were systems are more complex than expected. Nothing looks like it does in the manual. By providing the technology and resources to record and share videos, we help eliminate the confusion of trying to describe wiring, set up and small details.

    Team members can simply record the video on a Flip Cam, Web Cam or Smart Phone and upload to the site. Because the videos can be tagged and viewed by everyone at the organization, and are given a unique URL, the link can be shared (via email, or better yet, via a microblogging tool) easily to specific channels of people.

    This type of solution isn’t only for technical issues. Imagine you work in a restaurant or retail store. Trying to write the perfect customer greeting or sales technique, accurately describe the proper way to open a bottle of wine or how to dispose of recycled materials correctly is dependent on the use of language. You can eliminate the uncertainty by simply recording a quick video with the step by step instructions.

  2. Improving engagement with team members
    We all get too many email; that’s not an opinion, it’s a fact. So, when it comes to formal, corporate communications, emails often sit unread or get deleted. Even if the email is read, it’s often a one way stream of information.

    What about asking your senior leaders to record the message on a web cam? Not only is the content less formal than an edited, approved email, it allows leaders to show emotion and passion. Team members can comment on the video and start a dialog. It might seem like a small ting, but promoting that discussion is crucial as more and more employees are home based or working virtual.

    We use our video channel to share community involvement and charity sessions, days on site with our customer facing employees and unique TELUS experiences most of the organzation would never get to experience (like a tech doing a panoramic video shot of what it looks like to be on the top of a tower doing maintenance). The possibilities are endless. The fact the videos can be embedded in almost any web page is yet another benefit.

  3. Share key learnings quickly
    Your learning team is probably stretched beyond capacity already, and formal content can no longer move at the speed of business. That’s why the need for user generated content is so high. Video sharing helps users create media rich presentations (slide decks, demos, imagery) that can be created quickly and shared organically.

    Instead of having to go through a requirements gathering exercise, follow proper instructional design principles and distribute the content to an audience, a team member can highlight a key learning and within minutes, share that knowledge with the entire organization.

Hopefully these ideas trigger some great ideas for you. If they do, I hope you share them with me 🙂

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Getting Started:: Microblogging

At Impact99, the most common question I heard was about getting buy in from executives (or as my co-panelist more accurately describe it, “getting them to open their wallets”). Personally, I think people need to look past ROI for most social channels; the cost of not having the tools is costing you innovative, creative people and drastically impacts your ability to collaborate, but that’s another post for another time.

Instead, I’d like to talk about four easy to implement strategies to get microblogging approved in your organization and drive adoption. These are quick hitters, intended to show value and impact with little to no overhead or training requirements.

      Subject Matter Expert (SME) location
      Without question, most organizations struggle with knowledge management and mentoring. People are too busy, and networks are to siloed. It’s getting harder and harder to look over the cubicle wall and ask your colleague for help.

      Just by setting up a few groups – HR, IT, Program Management are a few easy ones we leverage internally – you give employees access to an ever expanding network of people they most likely won’t meet in the lunch room or the elevators. Mentoring and expertise doesn’t have to be a formal process.

      But by having groups and providing access to a microblogging client, an employee needing help can ask a question that can be viewed by anyone logged into the system. No one can know everything, and no one can know every one, but social tools can bring together people with shared interests or concerns fairly easily.

      We set up a group to help people learn the basic skills required to use SharePoint as an internal platform. Instead of sitting in formal training or reading through pages of documents, we encouraged people to send questions to a group of “ambassadors” that were willing to answer questions.

      In the screenshot below, you can see how effective the system can be. A question about SP site sizing was asked at 13:13. The answer was given ONE MINUTE LATER. Even more importantly, a follow up question was asked and the discussion was continued until a resolution was reached.

      It might seem like a small win, but instead of searching sites to find the sizing/requirements documentation or waiting for another colleague to help, this team member had an answer sent directly to her in less than 60 seconds.

      Helpdesk Replacement
      I know it’s frustrating to sit on hold when you have an HR or IT issue, but the reality is things go wrong and helpdesk agents are busy all the time. By creating a group like “AskHR” or “Helpdesk_Inquiries” you can filter some of the chatter to an online, evolving knowledge base.

      Not every question requires a phone call, or complex solution. Often times it’s simply a matter of pointing someone in the right direction. It takes only a few seconds to tweet a link to a document or answer a query, but the bigger success is the content and conversation is stored online and completely searchable by other employees.

      Instead of having to field the same question multiple times, the answer (which can be updated if process changes) is available for everyone. Instead of waiting on hold, you simply search the microblogging channel for your answer. The most viewed questions? Why not move those to the permanent F.A.Q. section and start leveraging user generated content to drive your formal documentation?

      The beauty of this is you can also monitor the reduction in tickets or increase in resolutions.

    Improved access to senior leaders
    Most people heard about Barack almost breaking the Internet when he went on Reddit for an Ask Me Anything session. Certainly, access to the POTUS is a probably more exciting than access to a CTO or Director, but it’s a great way to open the communication channels for your employees and give people a voice.

    Set up an hour session on a Friday afternoon where a senior leader will answer questions sent via microblog. Not only does it get some senior level support – honestly, senior leaders love the chance to share their thoughts – it also promotes adoption because your most engaged employees want to ask questions and pick the brains of those leading the charge.

        Promotion channel
        Do you have new programs or services you want to highlight? Why not use your microblogging channel to broadcast exclusive content. At our company, we changed our philosophy and revamped our customer experience approach. Those customer metrics became the most important number we surfaced each week. We made the conscious decision to offer those metrics on the microblogging channel before any formal communication was sent out.

        Bottom line, if interesting information is presented by interesting people, your team members will pay attention.

Hopefully these tips help. If you have any other ideas you’d like to share, please do! We’re always looking at ways to continue increase the reach of our tools and increasing adoption.

Are we helping? Let’s make sure.

Yesterday I shared the TELUS story with 99 like-minded HR professionals at the fantastic Impact99 HR Summit. It’s easy to get excited about the amazing technology that we play with on a day to day basis, but during my presentation I used a line – one that was more off the cuff than I’d like to admit – that seemed to resonate with the people listening.

“Everyone can buy into this if you find what works for them.”

What I meant by this was pretty obvious; the value of social tools as a support mechanism for HR and learning is undeniable, provided you take the time to find out what works best for your audience. If you can find the trigger, you can connect with any audience of any generation. Micro-blogging. Mentoring. Coaching. Peer-to-peer sharing. Apologies to Malcolm McLaren, but the medium for learning is irrelevant. For most of our learners/team members, all they care about is the content we present.

Formal. Informal. Social. As long as we offer the effective content, it will be consumed. It doesn’t matter if someone is 18 or 64. It doesn’t matter if it’s through old school ILTs or futuristic gamification. If the tool works and promotes retention and engagement, people will keep using it. Our numbers prove it; our team is happier now than they were three years ago and not by a marginal amount.

But when I was driving home last night – thankfully, driving about 9km/h on the 403 allowed for plenty of time to reflect on the great content presented at Impact99 (seriously, how to people not lose their mind driving in and out of the ‘Saug) – I started thinking about how we need to regulate the flow of information to reduce the noise and simplify the end user experience.

Are we going to reach the tipping point and overwhelm the people we are trying to help? Have we reached it already? We are so busy trying to find new, innovative solutions, do we overlook the simplicity of finding the right one? I’ve heard the soundbite 1000 times in the debates so I apologize for yet another mention, but are we “giving the military two trillion dollars they didn’t ask for?”

I was asked about the pain points of the TELUS collaboration journey, and what I’d do different “next time.” Obviously, we had our fair share of swings and misses and will continue to fail, and that’s OK but as I watched tail lights stretch for miles I couldn’t help but wonder if we are too focused on the utopic end state that we forgot about the smaller milestones. Are the learners still getting information they need, and the support they want when they want it? Did we stopped solving problems and earning trust? Do we need to acknowledge that it might be better to fix the current process/tool instead of simply providing an alternative path.

It’s amazing that a day of innovation and inspiration actually made me want to take a step back and become a shepherd instead of constantly surging forward, but it did. It’s great to blaze trails and push boundaries, but at the end of the day we’re here to make things better for our team and that might mean taking the foot of the gas or turning down the pressure to the hose.

The Responsible Collaborator

On Wednesday, I’m heading to Impact99 to share the collaboration journey we started at TELUS over three years ago. Without question, the need for social tools in the workforce is huge (did you know that most Gen Y employees value access to social tools more than salary?), but the road map for successful collaboration is more complex than giving people access to a tool and getting them to create an account.

If you are following me on Twitter or reading this blog, you are either already using social tools and value collaboration or you are related to me. The point is, you get it already. You don’t need convincing. Our mission at TELUS was to convert the social atheists. Try to win over the people that didn’t believe in our ideals. We needed to help employees see the value of the tools, not simply cram a new technology down their throat. What I didn’t realize is that trying to tell someone I knew their job better than they did, well, that was a bigger issue than whether or not micro-blogging made sense for a business unit.

We realized that simply providing access to tools was only the first step in a very long journey, and we actively tried to work WITH the business to find a blended approach to collaboration. Convincing a field technician (that climbs poles every day and rarely has time to log into a laptop or smartphone) or a call centre agent (who is measured on quality AND quantity) to abandon their routine in an effort to embrace a new HR initiative is at best, bold, and often simply inconsiderate or naïve.

We spun our wheels, but when we started to talk to techs, one on one, and asked them about what needs to change, we started to see potential areas for improvement. They didn’t care about having a video channel at their fingertips. It was too big in scope and potential, but when we asked them how they described complex installations to help get support from his team and they admitted he simply called people and tried to talk them through the situation, we started to see how our solutions might help.

“What about taking a picture on your smartphone, or recording a quick video to make sure you are all talking about the same issues? What about having a way to send a quick request to all available techs from your phone instead of having to call the people in your network?”

We could see the light bulb turning on and the excitement. More importantly, we started to see techs thinking about other ways to use the tools to make life easier. We gave a solution for a problem, but we also helped people become their own leader.

The thing is, in some cases, it didn’t make sense for team members to change. The tools we offered, well, they couldn’t solve the problem and we had to start realizing we were only causing a distraction.

It’s hard to realize that something you are so passionate about isn’t going to work, but we found more and more cases where the answer of “what’s in it for me?” seemed to be “nothing.” The thing is, that’s ok. If we talk to a team and they hear us say, “you’re right. This ISN’T better”, we build up trust. We get access to their process and they can see we are actually here to help.

In all honesty, if you are proposing a solution you need to ask yourself a few simple questions:

Is this process or tool actually going to make their lives easier or more efficient?
Is our suggestion the best solution?
Did we find a solution for their problem, or just provide another path for them to explore?

I know we are on the right path at TELUS; the improvement in engagement shows employees are excited about the fact we value sharing at our organization, but we have a long way to go in terms of finding answers and constantly have to decide if we are helping or simply adding more content to the overwhelming tide of information we are forced to sift through on a daily basis.

But what does this mean, in terms of actually supporting the people we are trying to help? Well, to me it’s similar to the approach environmentalist – and personal hero – Yvon Chouinard outlines for business in the remarkable book, The Responsible Company. We are here to make things better, easier, not to leave an impact that can’t be reversed.

For me, collaboration isn’t about the numbers (followers, posts), it’s about providing the information and support to the people that need it, when they need it. We already get too many emails, IMs, tweets, friend requests and honestly, 90% of the social collateral we are asked to digest is simply a distraction. People no longer read or debate; they “like” or retweet. We no longer take the time to process and think. We simply consume, consume, consume.

Are we helping, or simply causing irreversible damage for our own enjoyment and pride. Social tools give us the mic, and a platform to stand on, but is what we’re saying really of value?

So what does this mean? Well, the first step is a shift in focus for this blog and basically how I approach collaboration. Instead of cutting edge social exploration, I will be writing about concrete solutions and ideas. If in certain cases, social tools aren’t the answer, we need to be ok with that and realize that newer isn’t always better. At the end of the day, I want to help but need to know my social footprint isn’t going to leave a mark.