Kill the Jargon: 3 Rules to Simplifying Employee Communication Language

 Are your buzzwords keeping employees away from your collaboration solutions? It's time we simplify our language.

Are your buzzwords keeping employees away from your collaboration solutions? It's time we simplify our language.

I’m calling an audible on how we talk about the employee communication and collaboration space. “Digital Transformation” and its associated lingo have crossed the line into jargon territory.

Our industry has created an echo-chamber where we wax poetic about social ROI, being “cultural change agents,” the employee experience, talent analytics and multi-step collaboration maturity models. We use this terminology to educate CxOs about the value of employee communities and collaboration platforms. We build PowerPoint decks with complex workflow diagrams to help explain our blatant abuse of syllables and statistics found in an analyst report.

And while this might work for those of us who dream about social network analysis at night, why do we continue to rally around complex jargon that make great HBR articles, but have no meaning for the majority of the workforce who have knowledge to share?

Our lexicon of linguistic lunacy does nothing to help the retail associates and flight crews serving customers, the production teams building equipment, the everyday employees doing their best at their job, be it coding, writing or building, understand how open, community-driven collaboration can help them succeed.

Communication and collaboration friends, I’m calling on all of us to shift how we talk about our work, to focus instead on the 99.9 percent of employees at an organization who will actually be using social platforms. We have the opportunity to change the conversation and share the benefits of social collaboration and employee communication more naturally, in words that all employees relate to. 

It’s time to create a new dictionary for our work that is simple and meaningful for all generations in the workforce and all employee profiles. The result will be better adoption, meaningful engagement, and more valuable, applicable usage of these platforms at every level of our business.

3 Rules for Making the Switch to Simplicity

When you’re ready to start crafting a new language about employee collaboration and communication, keep these three rules in mind.

  1. Ask, don’t dictate. Collaboration leaders should conduct interviews and ask thoughtful questions about employees’ work, understand the vocabulary that they use daily, and inquire about the value of collaboration across desk-based and field-based workers. Interview a good cross section of people, listening for the language that resonates with each group. This will allow you to capture authentic content and context to build an authentic collaboration dictionary.
  2. Simplicity is king. Avoid any leftover grad-school instinct to add more complexity to your collaboration language than needed. If the values that resonate the most are stunningly basic, like “help,” “chat” or “talk,” embrace them.
  3. The grandma test. Once you’ve built out your new language, try to explain your company’s collaboration program to someone who has never worked in your industry — maybe your grandmother, or the neighbor who works in a totally different field. Something like, “We apply the principles of digital transformation by journey-mapping the collaboration experience across Gen X, Gen Y and Gen Z personas,” will undoubtedly result in a blank stare. But one that passes the grandma test? “We run an online ‘question and answer desk’ to help employees get support with their biggest challenges while on the road.”

New Dictionaries in Practice

Recently, we’ve worked with two organizations that have done significant work in building out new languages for their communications and collaboration efforts. 

UNICEF increased its Yammer engagement by 500 percent over the course of two years by completely rebranding the platform and its benefits. With a nearly 10-year-old Yammer network, UNICEF had been using the same formal, academic-style language to talk about collaboration for years. In 2016, a little more than 10 percent of staff were using Yammer regularly. When the Learning and Knowledge Exchange team began interviewing global staff, they learned that Yammer was not well understood in a complex environment of SharePoint, Skype for Business, e-learning tools, email lists and more.

To foster simplicity, UNICEF created the BUILD model, a new methodology for managing communities. BUILD was an acronym that encompassed the four key components of knowledge-sharing that we discovered at UNICEF: B (billboard — how you advertise your community to others), UI (literally you + I, the human element of communities), L (library — where your official documents are stored), and D (dialogue — the real-time conversations people have about important topics). 

Every community manager or leader was, in essence, an architect, and the BUILD model provided a simple approach to understanding the required components of an online community. Today, more than 5,000 users are active on Yammer on a monthly basis.

A well-respected North American equipment rental company recently launched Workplace by Facebook to more than 15,000 employees across the U.S. Uptake by desk-based workers was quick, but it took a bit more discovery to understand how to make Workplace meaningful for drivers, techs and service people in the field. What would make Workplace relevant to these employees who were incredibly safety-focused and encouraged not to use their phones while on the job?

After dozens of interviews with field-based workers, we learned that drivers and technicians were using Workplace as a type of mobile “how-to” guide — a quick reference on-the-go for equipment fixes and best practices. One tech called it the company’s “help book,” and we tested that name with other techs in the field. The term resonated well, and thus, we began a campaign touting Workplace as the company’s “Help Book” to get fast answers from peers with similar experiences. There’s no mention of collaboration, or ROI, or any kind of digital transformation. In this company’s case, branding Workplace as a good old fashioned reference guide made all the difference.

Putting Ourselves in Their Shoes

Fellow collaboration and communications friends, it’s time we step into the shoes of the thousands of employees at our company who work differently than we do. While there’s room for the academic and CXO-worthy language in our work, we must help our companies understand that the language we use across diverse employee populations about collaboration matters. By hearing the language used directly by our employees and putting it to work in our discussions about collaboration, we’ll see more of the true adoption, engagement, and yes, transformation, that we have aspired to achieve for years.

(This article by Talk Social to Me CEO Carrie Basham Young originally appeared on CMSWire in March 2018.)

Workplace by Facebook Analytics: The Ins and Outs

Workplace by Facebook Analytics: The Ins and Outs

As a Workplace by Facebook system administrator or community manager, you know engagement is a key indicator of employees' awareness, dedication, and ultimately, the platform's success. But how do you use Workplace by Facebook analytics to measure engagement? To get the most insight into how your employees are using Workplace by Facebook, it requires you to go deeper than looking at the platform's default analytic visualizations. We’ll tell you how.

How Enterprise Social Networks are Changing the Role of the CEO

Enterprise social networks are a great equalizer between the C-Suite and employees. Or at least, they can be. Here’s what CEOs looking to leverage the power of its people should do on an enterprise social network.

8 Workplace by Facebook Best Practices for Launching to Field Workers

Field workers are not that different than others in your company but getting their attention for Workplace by Facebook may be in competition with the circumstance of their jobs. Plan for this population to adopt more slowly. Here are eight best practices for launching Workplace by Facebook to field workers:

Talk Social to Me and ServiceRocket Team Up to Bring Elevate Program to the Enterprise

If you're bringing Workplace by Facebook into your organization, and you need more controls, insights and guardrails than what the basic platform provides, then it's time to customize your Workplace experience with Elevate.

 

Regulations + Deskless Workforce = Adoption Challenges

For anyone who has worked in a regulated industry or a “deskless worker” atmosphere (or both), you’ll know that using communication and collaboration tools at work can be tricky. For deskless workers like retail associates, manufacturing teams, and drivers, their day-to-day work brings them face-to-face with customers and products daily, but often they are more isolated from their coworkers and don’t have the technology tools to properly share information quickly. In regulated industries like healthcare, companies want to get their employees more connected while still adhering to the many restrictions and compliance requirements that are mandated. And, due to concerns around HIPAA and employee unions, deskless workers are sometimes seen as a riskier group to enable with company-wide communication tools.

Changing the Community Management Paradigm

Talk Social to Me has advised clients on regulatory challenges over the past 10 years and helped clients put programs in place to promote adoption of their platforms while still properly addressing these valid concerns. However, organic adoption in regulated and hourly environments can still be slow to take hold. But with the changing landscape, and the introduction of Workplace by Facebook,  the time was ripe to re-invent the standard approach to community management and empower companies to approach communities with less fear.

Introducing Elevate — Automatic Moderation, Personalized Use Case Coaching

This is why Talk Social to Me is excited to announce our partnership with ServiceRocket, a leading provider of Workplace apps and bots (in addition to other awesome collaboration apps for Atlassian). Together, we have created an accelerated adoption program aimed at highly-regulated and deskless workforce enterprise customers of Workplace by Facebook. Our program, called Elevate, is the first of its kind developed by two official Workplace deployment partners. Elevate will offer Workplace customers access to ServiceRocket’s proprietary Moderation and Insights app alongside Talk Social to Me’s consulting services for critical use cases in compliance management, employee discussion trends, and influencer coaching. Our program is designed to “elevate” the experience for companies that require keyword alerting, tighter governance, and behavioral guidance in their communication and collaboration efforts.

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So, What Does Elevate Look Like?

With the Elevate program, Workplace admins get access to two teams, new technology, and two paths of customized support:

1. Access to the Service Rocket Moderate app, which provides customized moderation and alerting for your Workplace community on a per-group and overall-network basis. With Moderate, admins can set alerts for keywords, find spontaneous conversations that have exploded in popularity, and take a real time pulse of what employees are talking about.

2. Custom coaching and guidance from Talk Social to Me's team of community managers, specific to instituting best practices in moderation as well as building engaging communities for a variety of employee populations.

ServiceRocket and Talk Social to Me’s Elevate program is available immediately. For more information, please visit our Elevate information page.

Bots and People - Together - Oh My!

How bots and people both have skin in the game to improve employee communication norms.

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Yammer Analytics: Get More Transparency from Group Insights

Yammer Analytics: Get More Transparency from Group Insights

Yammer has introduced Group Insights— a simple, effective set of Yammer analytics that give lightweight details about activity. Group admins can now have a look into metrics for the groups they manage to get a feel for how much their members are posting, reading, and liking the items posted in their group. So, what doe Yammer analytics look like?

6 Tips for Success in Your Enterprise Social Network

Enterprise social networks aren’t just another tool offered to employees. They’re intended to be a successful, business-critical tool for your organization. Enterprise social networks offer the promise of bringing your people together to help them connect on a more personal level and build relationships that create better collaboration and business outcomes. How do you get them to see the new collaboration tool as an asset, and not just another tool? Here are some ideas to get you started.

How Enterprise Social Networks Can Reduce Emails

 Email was such a ubiquitous, entrenched habit at my former organization -- and I contributed to that problem. If only I used our enterprise social network, Yammer, to reduce emails.

Email was such a ubiquitous, entrenched habit at my former organization -- and I contributed to that problem. If only I used our enterprise social network, Yammer, to reduce emails.

Knowledge workers are sick of all of the emails they’re receiving at work. U.S. workers have an average 199 unread unopened emails in their inboxes, according to a recent study by project management software company Workfront

This, too, was my reality before joining the Talk Social to Me team. [We use Workplace by Facebook as our primary means of communication. Organizations that adopt Workplace by Facebook see a reduction of emails by about 50 percent, according to Rebeca Tristan, Workplace by Facebook head of customer success.] My actions, admittedly, were a source of the problem. My position with the USA Today Network was a regional coaching role, so it wasn’t uncommon for me to include employees in four geographically distinct locations in one email at a time. The idea behind many of these “metrics roundup” emails was to highlight successes and identify opportunities for each property in hopes that it might spark inspiration among the other teams.

It was a well-intentioned concept – and blessed by my boss, but it quickly turned counterproductive when the emails often inspired an influx of “Reply-All” responses. Sometimes the emails would be positive in tone, “Congratulations, Rob and team for such a worthy watchdog effort!” Then there was a certain adversarial – and sassy – individual who responded with challenging remarks (directed toward me). Were said emails sent individually to me? No. They were “Reply-All” emails that included more than 50 other employees. Journalists are easily some of the gutsiest people I know.

It wouldn’t have been easy, but looking back, I should have created a group in company’s enterprise social network, Yammer, to communicate with the teams I coached. I was extremely active in an Audience Analysts community of practice group on to keep up with best practices for my role across the organization. The hurdle would lie in getting those I coached, the content managers – and their teams – to adopt the platform. Email was deeply entrenched in their work culture. Here are some ways I could have transitioned the emails into an enterprise social network:

Tips to using an enterprise social network to reduce email at work:

·       Post critical information. Cross posting information, in the long term, to both the enterprise social network and email doesn't see much success, as Talk Social to Me has witnessed in working with other organizations. Posting must-read content in the community would be a sure way to bring those I coached along with me.

·       Start with team managers. Sometimes – but not always, a top-down approach is best. I didn’t directly manage those who I coached, so leveraging the influence of direct managers to emphasize the benefit of using the group within the enterprise social network would have been extremely helpful.

·       Host a ‘Week without Email’ campaign. To help build awareness of the group, I could have experimented with a “Week without Email” for communications with me. It would be helpful to set a date on the calendar and to communicate the dates well in advance. All communications to and from me would be posted within the group during that week.

·       Advocate for the group. If a conversation should have been taking place in the enterprise social network group, I could suggest it be moved there, and help follow through.

Working with Talk Social to Me has been a complete 180 from working at an organization where email is such a ubiquitous, entrenched habit. If only I had been part of the solution – instead of part of the problem – at my former organization.

5 Rules for Selecting the Right Enterprise Social Network Technology

5 Rules for Selecting the Right Enterprise Social Network Technology

The search for your company’s enterprise social network should not just be for the best technology, but also one that fits your company culture. Enterprise social network vendors are amping up the pace of innovation to meet this growing portfolio of need. Here are five tips to ensure you pick the right technology.

Build Workplace by Facebook Engagement with Group Leader Coaching

Building engagement in Workplace by Facebook requires productive, confident, responsive and inclusive group leaders. It's not always natural for leaders to shift their work habits away from "what they know" into a more open, collaborative home like Workplace by Facebook. Here we talk about how one-on-one coaching with a Workplace by Facebook expert can help take your community from needing a kick-start to engaged and eager.

We're betting big on Workplace: Why Workplace by Facebook is a force to be reckoned with

Workplace is gaining traction -- and winning top-notch customers, including retail giant Walmart. Convincing the world's largest private employer to sign up for employee collaboration is no small feat; that they chose Workplace by Facebook over rivals is indicative of a larger global trend in prioritizing solid employee experiences and simple, easy communication.

Long-Term Value & Your ESN: Finding the Magic and Making it Stick

Long-Term Value & Your ESN: Finding the Magic and Making it Stick

You’ve got this shiny new thing called an enterprise social network (ESN). But you might be scratching your head, thinking, “How do I create long-term value with this thing?” Upper management is breathing down your neck, wanting to know how it’s going, and by the way, has it paid for itself yet? We sat down with Jeff Ross, who has had much success with Humana’s internal social network, named Buzz, for his top tips.

Yammer Engagement in a Time of Crisis: Natural Disaster Support

Yammer Engagement in a Time of Crisis: Natural Disaster Support

We helped Johnson & Johnson facilitate Yammer engagement to support employees during a natural disaster. An J&J employee shared her desire to help evacuated employees find housing with other employees out of harm’s way. Within hours, a cross-functional team from IT, Human Resources, Workforce Communications, Global Services and others mobilized to make this happen – and the Employee Home Share program was born. Here’s why you want to use Yammer engagement to support employees in a disaster relief situation.

Employee Communications: 7 Lessons Learned by Cutting Out the Middleman

What if you could obtain real, raw, unfiltered information from your employees about how your collaboration program is actually working today? What if you had the chance to put yourself in the shoes of line workers, field sales reps, headquarters teams, new hires and senior engineers alike? 

You’d quickly learn that regardless of however many collaboration tools or employee communication programs you put in place, real work is getting done through informal social networks — the relationships between employees that weave a web of friendships, trust, alliances, social power and ultimately, information exchange.

This organic collaboration has a tremendous impact on the way your company handles employee communication. But you can’t control it, you can only try to strengthen it.

Unexpected Collaboration and Communication Findings

Recently, Talk Social to Me uncovered a variety of interesting lessons from employees while conducting collaboration audits and discovery interviews for our clients. Seven of these lessons rang true for nearly every organization, from pharma to retail, from technology to utilities and banking. 

And, nearly all of them came as a surprise to the CIO and Head of Communications. 

How did we uncover these unexpected findings? Simple: by cutting out the leadership middlemen and asking employees what was important for them to be able to communicate and collaborate effectively with their networks.

Workplace by Facebook Best Practices: Multi Company Groups

With the multi company group experience, Workplace by Facebook has created a productivity bullet train by allowing employees to keep more workflows and more communication in one digital location. This reduces context-switching and keeps managers in control of when and where work is getting done – work with external partners can now happen alongside internal communication on Workplace by Facebook. How does your company get started with Multi Company Groups? Here are our Top 10 best practices to use them effectively.

6 Tips to Make the Transition from Print to an Enterprise Social Network

After decades of publication, C-suite executives have decided to cease the printing of your organization's company magazine as they launch an enterprise social network. It's time to transition away from print. Not sure where to start? Translating your existing internal print communications into an enterprise social network isn’t as daunting as you think.

Enterprise Social Network Rollout: Language and Culture are Critical

It’s exciting to introduce an enterprise social network (ESN)! It’s also very common to start by planning a giant, one-time rollout event. But enterprise social networks, while often guided by the same people leading other company-wide initiatives, are inherently different and there are many reasons why the correct sequence of events and use of language is critical during a rollout. To prove value back to the business and to the employees who use it, an enterprise social network requires the gradual steps of a crawl-stand-walk-run methodology. How else would you approach the Yellow Brick Road?

Enterprise Social Networking: Get Employees to Work Out Loud

Your enterprise social network should be a place where employee collaboration happens. "Collaboration" has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? But it's easier said than done. It requires employees to "Work Out Loud" by being willing to go a bit out of their comfort zones - and for leaders to model certain behaviors. It is a different approach to behaviors and relationships that you can use to grow and nurture your enterprise social network. In this post, we’ll focus on the beneficial behaviors that your employees experience by Working Out Loud.

Celebrating #WOL and Women of Leisure

As we sashay right into our first day of #WOLweek, we celebrate those ladies who best embrace living the #WOL lifestyle: bon bons in the morning, a cocktail at mid-day, and a bit of afternoon sun by the pool. It's high time that we properly acknowledge all of the women and their leisurely activities that sparked the powerful global social media trend called #WOLweek. Won't you join us in the festivities?

"But wait," you might be thinking right now. "It's Women of Leisure week? Is that what all of this #WOL chatter is about? That can't be."