Adoption of an internal social network can be slow, there’s no doubt about that.

Introducing a new communication channel, tool, and process to employees in your organization is about changing behaviour. And changing behaviour is the biggest challenge.

This isn’t new information, however, and it shouldn’t stand in your way of improving your communications.

Any new communications channel you introduce into your organization will naturally take time to adopt and feel “right”. It may seem like it’s never going to happen for your organization.

But it takes time, strategy and a lot of thought. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither will your new enterprise social network (ESN) -- luckily, we’ve taken some of the guesswork out of the adoption process for you.


1. Setting Short-Term S.M.A.R.T. Goals

leo wins- oscars goals

First things first: goals. Start by setting a short term goal for your internal network. This ensures that you’re not setting your goals too high to even reach when users have yet to log on for the first time.

And before you can really measure the effectiveness of the network and engagement, you have to make a calculated effort to get employees on the network and then start measuring adoption.

You can't accurately measure engagement without first optimizing adoption and 'selling' the channel to employees across your organization.

For your own sanity as a communicator, it’s also motivating to have an attainable goal to work up to. This gives you the opportunity to rethink how things are going to eventually create a new, higher-achieving benchmark over time.

Benchmarking is very important to this process. In the last post, we laid out a few example benchmarks for the implementation of your new social network.

It’s good to remember to set S.M.A.R.T goals. Here's our short-term goal from the previous article:

  • “Have 50% of our employees able to easily access the network and log on at least once."

This goal works because it's not setting the adoption bar too high, keeping in mind that adoption is a slow process of changing behaviours, which definitely doesn't happen overnight.

This goal also has a quantitative value of 50% of employees (not all employees, but a desired amount within reason). And of course, having employees log in once a week is the start of a healthy network. Eventually, you may want employees to log in every day but don't worry about that just yet.

Set your own short term goal and remind yourself to make it reasonable considering that adoption is a process.

2. Training

cat training

Getting started using an enterprise social network becomes a lot easier with a set of guidelines for employees to follow. For example, create an employee social network handbook with the top 10 guidelines for employees using the new network.

If you're implementing Yammer for the first time for a workforce that generally has never used it before or seen what it looks like, a concise guide takes a lot of the guesswork out of the process that often intimidates employees (particularly those who aren't big social media aficionados).

The guide can be a PDF emailed out to the entire workforce. Better yet, ask your CEO or another leader to send the introductory email and guide from their own email address. As we know, an email from the CEO undoubtably boots opens and clicks, resulting in more engaged and informed employees.

Put some effort into the design of your guide as well. Keep in mind that this is going out to your entire organization; it should look presentable to communicate well.

Create a social media policy and be transparent with what’s okay and what’s not.

As far as the content goes, it's a good idea to include links to the app store where the network can be downloaded (include specific instructions for each type of device employees may be using), and a 'Getting Started' page with instructions on how to download and set up the network.

To achieve easy accessibility and successful adoption, you need to provide employees with all of the information and steps to get set up. Make the process simple.

Along with helping employees get set up, a document laying out how to use the network is vital.

Create a social media policy and be transparent with what’s okay and what’s not. This gives employees an idea of how to use the network it if they are clueless and not social media's best friend. Set the standard for how this should be used in future organization communications.

This "policy" can be anything from a little infographic with tips on what to post, rules or simply a list of ten guidelines. Another more interactive option is to make an informative video instructing employees.

Now we're going to go into a topic here that's been written about in excess: millennials. There's a lot of talk online about this issue sweeping workplaces across the globe. And with good reason, too. They're young, technologically savvy, upbeat, optimistic, and multitasking pros. Scary stuff.

But there's a way internal communicators can leverage these youngsters in adopting an ESN. Having spent a lot of their lives on the computer and on social media, millennials understand how new tech works and chances are, they probably will have a fairly easy time with a new network -- take it from me, a real millennial. 

Reverse mentoring might be the magic formula. If there are employees in your organization who have expressed that the new network is hard to understand and use, this system might give them that special 'aha' moment. Get the younger people in the organization who are naturally more familiar with similar platforms to teach other employees how to use it.

Not only does this help get all employees on board, but it creates connections spanning generations and engagement amongst employees.

Align company goals and strategies with the social network. Perhaps you want more employees taking part in internal events and training and social is the way to get the word out.

3. Buy-In from Management

worlds best boss- the office

Management has to buy-in to the idea of an ESN for the rest of the employees to really get on board and see value in the network. Successful adoption isn't guaranteed without management buy-in.

Without it, you can bet your employees probably won’t buy in either.

If you're having trouble getting busy managers and CEO to latch onto the network and broadcast their own engagement, give them a much needed boost of encouragement.

Encourage them to take a moment to write a quick message on the network. Adoption and engagement is dependent on their visible support; we already know employees are always keen on hearing from their CEO.

A CEO engaging with employees is really quite simple. It could mean wishing everyone a happy holiday, congratulating them on a successful few months, or as simple as a thumbs up on a post or a quick update that says "I’m here and I’m on board with this; you should be too”. CEOs can be champions, too.

4. Championing the network

leslie knope celebration- internal comms

This part is especially helpful for communicators who are able to speak with employees in their organization in person.

Be a champion of your ESN. We strongly suggest also finding examples of other employees using social the right way and using it habitually. But being your own champion is also pretty powerful. And really, why wouldn't you be?

Any time you speak to employees or send an internal email, mention the new network and what a valuable resource it is for informal communication, a source of company news, and a new way to collaborate with decentralized coworkers.

Where do you start with finding champions within your organization?

Well, narrow down on departments and begin with one that's easy and already full of young people hooked on social. That group will most likely be the easiest to convince and quickest to adopt.

5. Make it Easier for Employees

If your company already provides mobile devices like iPhones to your employees, it could make adoption easier and more streamlined with a device that easily supports an app.

The idea here is to bring your network to them. Allow employees to easily adopt the network remotely and not just at their desktops.

If your organization doesn't provide devices for employees and it's entirely BYOD, you can still provide the necessary information to many it easier to download the app on any device.

Take advantage of existing channels to drive adoption and organizational buy-in for your new social network, like internal email, newsletters, intranet, even posters (gasp, posters!). We know internal communicators favorite channel is still email, so continue to push out the network over email.

Send an introductory email and before that, tease the arrival of the new network in other emails. Just about every email should somewhere mention this new channel will be introduced in their organization.

With email measurement, you can also track emails and clicks on links to see how many employees are reading about the network and engaging in the upcoming changes.

Adoption is possible, if not for all employees in an organization but at least for many!

What Does Successful Adoption Look like?

amy poehler and seth meyers- bananatag

You've set an adoption strategy in place, you're working hard to get all or most employees in your organization on board, and now you have to see how your efforts have converted into engaged users.

Let's circle back to the short term goal: to have 50% of our employees able to easily access the network and log on at least once a week.

  • Members or Users: You want the number of new users to increase every week. There might be a flood of early adopters in the first week which would be when the network is first up and running. If you notice a plateau in the early stages before you've reached your goal it's a good opportunity to solicit feedback.
  • Employee Feedback: To help you navigate the pitfalls of ESN adoption, plan to survey your early adopters of the network. Your early adopters will be the most vocal sources of feedback. You can also check comments and posts on a daily basis -- it's likely you'll see insightful comments or general questions you can help answer.
  • Activity: Signs of a soon to be super healthy network look like new users logging on and doing something on the network. This can be comments, posts, 'likes', downloads of files, etc. You're looking for any sort of heartbeat on the network, which simply means any activity.


Use Your ESN Wisely

It must be said that implementing a new network doesn't mean you should abandon everything else and use this one network for all communications.

There are a couple reasons for this: full implementation of a social network from the employees perspective might take a little time, in that, it might take a while for employees to get used to using day in and day out.

Another reason is that email and other communication channels such as email will always rule; we know they'll remain the primary method of communication, particularly for more private messages within an organization.

Implementing a new social network is about changing behaviors. To change behaviors, employees have to see value in using the channel. Strive to give them something to be excited about on these channels.

The adoption of a social enterprise network for internal comms is an exhilarating adventure for communicators to embark on. By setting short-term baselines, and following these adoption tips, social networks can be a unique tool to boost employee engagement in your communications strategy.

Don't let your fears of a failed ESN hold you back.

In the next post of this series, we'll be discussing how to keep your network strong and healthy post-adoption.

Millennial, out. 

millennial blogging