Are Your Employees Really Using UC?

 
by Pete Fox, President of Jabra North America
 
Getting your UC to work is one thing; making it the key tool for your employees is quite another. Making the cultural change happen is not a one-man job – you will need help!

 

UC is great! I use it every day. I think it makes sense in a modern organization to cut costs on telephony, manage disbursed teams, and get all the benefits that the software offers. At Jabra, we could literally not do without it. Here in North America, we’ve built our people strategy around the existence of UC, by hiring the right person for the role, considering geography as a secondary criteria.  We believe that the war on talent requires employers to be flexible about work location.

However, like all other significant change, a successful UC deployment takes courage, leadership, a ton of planning, and a good 360° view of the organization. People don’t necessarily want to change the way they use the telephone, so asking them to do so, even with the promise of improved collaboration and performance that a UC deployment entails, is sometimes not enough.
 
That is something a good friend of mine, John, quickly realized after setting up and rolling out his company’s new UC platform. Being a fan of useful technology, like myself, John had spent significant time on evaluating UC platforms and choosing the right product for his company. He also took time to inform and engage senior executive leadership.  Getting their buyin ensured that the rest of the staff would understand the business rationale behind the change.
 
The UC technical deployment went smoothly, and HR did a great job on the training. Yet, after a month, John called me for advice, as he had realized that people were still doing business as usual – all of the in-house meetings were still carried out face-to-face and people were still driving in and attending meetings in person. Plus, there was the disturbing report that otherwise cooperative Linda from Accounting had thrown a fit, which could be heard on the entire floor, when IT had tried to remove her desk phone.
 
“It’s human nature, isn’t it?” he sighed into his brand new headset. I could only nod and try to comfort him and tell him that it would all be all right. But change is hard and does go against human nature, as John put it.  Even when a deployment goes well technically, people have to want to change for it to reach it’s full success and meet the Return on Investment (ROI) as planned in the business case.
 
So what does a leader do to ensure the use of UC in their organisation?


Start by engaging your end-users in developing an understanding of what the communication and collaboration needs of the organization are.
 
Great change management requires that the people you are asking to change have had their voice heard.  If the end-users see that their needs are understood, and can be a part of the planning for the change, they have the time to prepare for the change and can see the benefits of something they are a part of, bought in to, and are actively helping to come to fruition.  This requires more than typical end-user surveys.  Set up user councils and workshops.  Find the champions for change in those settings, and engage them and you will have them on your side for the entire deployment.
Make a point out of using UC yourself and ask your leadership team to do the same. You need to lead by example, take an hour a week in the roll out phase where you make yourself available through UC to your direct reports, or anyone in the company if that is what it takes, and ask your management team do the same. Also, insist all internal meetings leverage the UC system.

Create a Change Communications Plan that builds and maintains awareness and excitement about the benefits of the new platform. HR or Internal Communications are key players in the UC roll out, so getting their help when you stand before a cultural change is pivotal. Make a project team that can help with a plan that features guidelines, and maybe some tips and tricks to make the UC tools interesting, helpful, and relevant to all departments.

Remain steadfast and consistent in your support of the new platform.
You can bring a horse to water… most of your employees are probably highly accomplished in the software disciplines they use every day, and they are rarely digitally inept. But they may be scared of the new technology or feel irrational fear about change (we have all been there!) Most of us have grown up with the desk phone, and all of us use a mobile device today. UC is a whole new way of working, which may be out of their comfort zone, and they may need a while to get their heads around it. Asking how people are doing with the new platform can help you wear down the resistance and create more interest in your employees to want to use UC.

Highlight and reward best practice teams.
Highlighting best practice is a no-brainer; take some time to hear from the people who are depending on UC the most, the 100% remote worker may be a good place to start. How do they feel about the new software? Has their life improved? Are they closer to HQ after the new platform has been put in place? Mention great working teams and reward their efforts.

Keep it simple!
Today, in my own organization, we often have our meetings using UC even though all participants are in the same building, because it is easy and a whole lot quicker to do it that way. Nobody has to book a conference room, and meetings tend to be shorter. When we are finished working and the chit chat is over, we are done! I find that we cut approximately ten to 15 minutes from UC meetings. With two meetings a day over a year’s time, that frees up approximately 62.5 working hours a year.  Don’t be the person who insists on ALL meetings being face to face.

 
In 2012, we did a Global UC survey that showed that the US, Japan, and Australia in particular were at the forefront of the UC implementation, having removed up to a quarter of all desk phones in favor of mobile and softphones, a trend that I am sure is even stronger now.
 
UC is definitely the future, and as futures go, it is a pretty good one, even though it does not come about without effort. I will be visiting John in about two weeks for a cup of coffee to hear about how the cultural change is coming on – and whether Linda has adjusted to the new reality.
Are you able to help your own “Linda” make the change?