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How to Get Your Employees to Use Technology

What's your biggest challenge at work?

Biggest Challenge at Work Commentary are Tim’s thoughts on real-life challenges submitted by readers like you. Want to send us your challenge? Take the Biggest Challenge at Work Survey

“Keeping staff interested in growing with new technology”
IT Project Manager

CAST OF CHARACTERS:

CHUCK: an IT Project Manager complaining about technophobic coworkers. (Quoted above.)

SALLY: a Publications and Internal Communications Director complaining about the company’s existing intranet.

TIM: an intranet software sales guy


A little while ago, I wrote a post about Sally’s biggest challenge at work. Here it is again, in case you’ve missed it:

“Making our intranet really work for us, instead of making tasks more difficult to complete.”
—Publications and Internal Communications Director

I used the same size font on both quotes for you to compare and contrast them. Don’t they seem like the two sides of the same never-ending argument? I don’t know about you, but I definitely sense office drama brewing beneath the surface.

Isn’t it time these two faced each other and hashed through their differences?

The particular individuals who left these comments on my site do not work for the same company. But their exact counterparts very likely do. Else, how would these be their biggest challenges at work?

Let’s pretend for a moment that the IT Project Manager—let’s call him Chuck—and the Publications and Internal Comms Director—let’s call her Sally—are talking about the same piece of software. Imagine them sitting in a conference room and talking to me on one of those conference speakerphones. How would the conversation go?

TIM: Thank you both for coming. I understand that you have concerns around your current intranet platform. I invited you today to see how we can resolve them and move forward.

CHUCK: Thank you, Tim. Yes. So, last year we installed SharePoint.

TIM: Very interesting. What made you choose SharePoint?

CHUCK: Well, Tim, our servers run on Microsoft Windows and we use Microsoft Office products, so it made sense to use Microsoft software for our intranet too…

TIM: I see. And how is that working out?

CHUCK: Are you familiar with SharePoint, Tim? Okay, so you know it’s not plug-and-chug. There’s a learning curve. Even for us in IT. But it’s up and running now. We’ve got all the departments on it. And we have a dedicated IT support team, just for the SharePoint user requests.

TIM: Wow! That seems like a lot of work, huh? And what about you, Sally?

SALLY: Before I answer your question, Tim, let me set the record straight. My staff and I are definitely interested in “growing with new technology,” as Chuck put it. What we are not interested in is wasting our time. We are a small group, and we handle internal communications for all departments in the company. A lot of the information we post is time sensitive, and we just don’t have the man-hours to battle with software.

TIM: I definitely feel your frustration, Sally. Tell me more. What makes using SharePoint a battle for you?

SALLY: As I’ve mentioned, Tim, we have a lot of time-sensitive materials, but we can’t make updates ourselves. We have to send everything to IT, which slows us down and creates extra work.

CHUCK: We conducted training specifically for Sally’s group, where we showed them how to post information and make updates.

SALLY: That’s true. The training was somewhat helpful. However, we were only trained to use our own site, which is confusing enough. When we work with other departments, their sites look completely different from ours and from each other. Every time we go to another department, we have to spend time figuring out where to click.

CHUCK: Have you tried using search?

SALLY: Yes, thank you for reminding me, Chuck. Search is another big problem for us. It doesn’t work.

CHUCK: What do you mean it doesn’t work?

SALLY: We can’t find anything. And it’s not just us. Other departments complain that they can’t find the information we’ve posted. So, they call us and we email it to them. Now they don’t want us to post on the Intranet anymore. They want us to use email all the time.

CHUCK: That’s what I mean! Back to the Stone Age.

TIM: Right. I am not a big proponent of email for internal communications either. Do you think you can find something that works better than either option you have right now?

SALLY: You mean, like an intranet we can maintain ourselves, without going through IT every time we need to put something up or take something down?

TIM: Exactly.

SALLY: Absolutely.

CHUCK: Wait! Are you talking about switching to a new platform? We’ve already invested a lot of time and resources into SharePoint…

TIM: I hear you, Chuck. You wanted to make it work for Sally and others, and you gave it your best shot. I talk to folks like you two all the time. Nobody wants to hop from platform to platform. They come to us because they’ve hit the wall with SharePoint.

SALLY: We’ve hit the wall with SharePoint.

TIM: Okay. Lets all imagine that there's a solution you both like. What does that look like?

CHUCK: Um…

TIM: I can see the gears spinning ...

CHUCK: Right now maintaining SharePoint takes about one and a half full-time positions, not counting the licensing fees. If your system doesn’t require routine support, it might save us money going forward …

TIM: Nope. Our platform is completely hands-off. We handle all the maintenance for you. What else?

CHUCK: I would need to see your security and technical docs.

SALLY: And I would like to see a demo.

...

At this point Chuck and Sally would go back to their respective bosses and put together the team of people who will watch the demo and make the final decision. It shouldn’t be a tough sell, but it would be even easier had they not invested into the wrong system to begin with.

To avoid their mistake next time you purchase office software, remember this one rule: pay attention to user experience.

When buying software, you have many factors to consider. There is functionality, flexibility, security, upfront and ongoing costs… But the real reason you are buying it is user experience—UX in developer jargon. If your people feel “overburdened” by the transition to new software (like the folks in my last post), they will not be able to “focus on transformational/strategic.” Nor will they want to “grow with new technology.”

Easy access to information is key. Today, people are used to Google, which all but reads their minds. They don’t want to click around to get the computer to understand what they are looking for.

Uniform UX is another key. Our eyes and hands learn the layout of the sites we visit often, just like we learn the positions of the keys on the keyboard. Move even one icon or link, and we’re stalled and annoyed. Similarly, the more you keep your intranet sites looking alike, the more transparent they are to the user.

Once you remove software from the list of your biggest challenges at work, your people can focus on solving real problems.

Like these, for example:

Job Title Biggest Challenge at work?
AMGR "People"
CEO "People"
Digital Communications Manager "People"
Head of Commercial "People"
Head of H&WB "People"
HR "People"
Managing Director "People"
MD "People"
Operations Manager "People"
Systems Development Officer "People"
Trainer "People"
Trainer "PEOPLE"
General Sales Manager "People"

Let’s see if there’s anything we can do to help them in the next post.

_____

If you like technology, you might like my book, because it explains how to use technology to engage employees.

If you hate technology, you will like my book even more, because most of the strategies in the book are low-tech.

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Tim Eisenhauer
About Tim Eisenhauer
Tim is the author of Who the Hell Wants to Work for You? Break Down the Invisible Barriers to Employee Engagement. He's also a co-founder and president of Axero, a technology company that makes intranet software for businesses. He's spilt insightful ink on the pages of Fortune, Forbes, TIME, Fast Company, Inc Magazine, Entrepreneur.com, and other top publications.

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