Thursday, May 15, 2014

Don’t Yell! A Quiet Whisper Will Ignite IT Adoption


By Holger Reisinger

How you “nudge” people into using technology that will make your company – and employees – more productive.


It’s the business case of the century: implementing Unified Communication & Collaboration solutions that make it possible for employees to communicate, share ideas, and work from anywhere. From one day to the next, all of your employees are accessible and fully “operational,” freeing up time and offering opportunities to boost productivity, innovation, and value creation.

It’s the perfect match.

The money side is exceptionally encouraging as well. According to studies from Cisco, Avaya, and the like, payback periods are less than a year, return on investments are higher than 100 percent in a few years, and 74 percent of companies report an additional $5,000 or more in extra sales per month per sales agent. It’s a sure home run.

There is a catch, though. Most people don’t simply embrace the technology, and even if they do, they can’t figure out how to use it in the right way. A recent study shows that a whopping third of all IT managers report that adoption of Unified Communication tools is in the low ten percent range. And suddenly it’s not a home run – but a catastrophic strikeout.

Changing old habits

The basic challenge is that most employees are stuck in old and entrenched habits of communicating. Most IT departments don’t get it that “IT is both habits and behavior.” UC&C is often just deployed with some training, and after six months, everyone is still waiting for the magic to happen. Since we are dealing with the change of really strong communication habits - like email - it is not surprising that it reports adoptation rates as low as ten percent. What should we do?

The old ways of introducing technology are not effective when dealing with UC&C. Fortunately, new theories and methods - from the behavioral economics domain - give us new, efficient ways of dealing with employee resistance to change. Studying how people actually make decisions gives us useful insight into how we can “gently push” employees to take the right decisions, such as accepting new collaboration platforms. Just like the mother elephants gently “push” their calves in the right direction.

This is called “nudging,” and the research we are doing has provided us with some great results so far. Nudging basically means designing people’s choices so that they will unknowingly choose your preferred solution. And the tools are many and surprisingly simple.

Research shows that we eat less dinner if it is served on smaller plates. A series of footprint stickers leading the way to a waste basket will inspire more people to use the basket instead of throwing their trash on the street.

If we could design smaller inboxes or put up footprint stickers leading away from the email inbox and pointing towards UC&C, it would help a great deal. We have not tried that yet, and I imagine it would look stupid. Nevertheless, we need to rely on people’s basic need for feeling that they are part of a crowd.

Pushing the “social control” button is very efficient. We may believe that we are unique, but we tend to behave like the rest of the crowd. Check this out as an example: we all know that we should reuse towels at hotels to benefit the environment – however, we don’t always do it, do we? But when you read a sign on the bathroom door stating that 75 percent of the visitors are reusing their towels, then you tend to reuse them too, right?

Gently pushing and whispering is a power tool 

A good “nudge” has the power to inspire employees to change without asking for the exercise of their will power each and every time. Here’s a helpful list of tips:

  • Have your colleagues commit to using a new technology publicly, and ask them to make positive statements about the advantages of using the new technology.
  • Provide your colleagues with activity indicators and give them the opportunity to show off their own results and compare them with others’. There is nothing like a little competition among friends to get adoptation rates going!
  • Visibility is very important. When you have decided to change a habit, then create a forum where your colleagues can show off their newly adapted behavior and gain credit from their peers.
  • Giving peers the power to push new behavior forward is also very efficient. Jabra is presently testing how small artifacts can act as humor as well as a sweet nudge from a colleague.

It used to be the oldest joke at any CIO convention: what’s the fastest way to lose your job? The answer: convince the board to invest in a large business critical IT system! Not anymore. Look to the elephants and learn how to meet your deadlines and bottom lines before you get sacked!

2 comments:

  1. Good read. Jabra's solutions and business discussions can definitely help employers and their employees get the most out of their UC infrastructure - we can encourage, stimulate, etc., so the employee works as efficient as they do at home as well as in the office, however, now this is a moot point, since this space has merged into one.

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  2. Let me add to that of the sweet nudge :-)... Since we are dealing with technologies dependent on networks effects, speed of adoption is very important. We simply can’t wait for the skeptical, the “e-mail followers” and the laggards to onboard. So what I’m looking into is, as Holgers says, easing the difficult conversation with a colleague about changing a BAD habit. When biotech giant, Biogen, introduced Microsoft Lync as a new ‘instant’ communication channel the Danish branch saw that different understandings of the red, yellow and green presence indications was unwillingly causing intrusive behavior and therefor resistance and low adoption rates. They launched a pilot project, which focused on “new social norms” and we handed out big jars with red, yellow and green wine gums with stickers explaining the new behavior. They were to facilitate a dialogue between the intruders and the people intruded when tress-passing. The wine gums enabling the intruded to say “Hey, have a red wine gum bear - you actually disturbed me when my red signal was on” we don’t do that anymore”. And it worked!

    I’m testing more of these “small pushes” as we speak. And the results may prove to be the most valuable addendum to the behavior change tools we have available right now. I believe that with nudging we will be able to get the most of our IT and Unified Communications investments, boosting productivity and profits while at the same time helping employees acquire a better work-life balance.

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