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How to encourage adoption of enterprise social networks

Collaboration has become an important term in the digital transformation era. Internal collaboration and enterprise social networks (ESN) tools can help your workers be more productive, foster innovation and ideas, and even have a positive effect on staff morale. Our five suggestions can help you get the best from ESN and ensure your colleagues use them regularly.

Make communication count

One of the key barriers to uptake of new solutions and apps in the enterprise environment is fear of change. You should clearly articulate the reasons for adopting ESN tools, the benefits that they will bring and, perhaps most importantly, that it will only replace existing tools that workers use if the ESN solution is more appropriate.

Laure Van Der Hauwaert, Lead Product Manager for Social & Collaboration, Orange Business Services, comments, “Tell your teams not to panic. ESN is not here to replace your Internet browser, it is not going to replace your file storage outright – but it can enhance your existing content management system (CMS) with social features such as likes, sharing and comments. ESN is simply a suite that can help you be more productive. So communicate the benefits to staff, emphasize that there is nothing to be nervous about, and maximize your chances of buy-in.”

Secure executive sponsorship

Grassroots level enthusiasm comes not just from an appreciation of the benefits but also by being led from the front. To drive true enterprise-wide uptake of your new ESN tools and to get everyone collaborating, having senior and C-level executives setting the trend makes the tools seem ‘normal’.

Buy-in from all the business units in the organization is also advisable as this gives sense and context to your ESN tools. “If people can see the ‘real world’ reasons for using ESN, they are more likely to be convinced by them. By involving your business units you can promote your ESN tools as business-oriented; if it was ‘just another IT thing‘, people often see it as a fad and it becomes harder to get the benefits across,” continues Van Der Hauwaert.

Renault Retail, a company of over 7,000 workers, employed executive leadership to drive uptake from their ESN launch and saw great results. Nicolas Guiochet, Marketing Director at Renault Retail, comments:“For our ESN launch we had our CEO shoot a video of himself on his smartphone and post the video. It was unique content about our ESN; it helped to get employees to engage and showed our CEO leading by example. It worked.”

Customize it

This is a great way to get people to buy into your ESN; give them the same sort of personalized, customizable experience they get with their personal social media apps. Tools like Slack and Spark offer APIs so that they can be customized quickly and easily – Slack already has over 900 APIs in fact – and you can use these to give your enterprise users an ESN experience tailored to their expectations and usage habits.

“For me personally, I use Jive and Spark and have integrated many other apps into them, from my daily task list to my fitness apps, so that I have everything in one place. This is another good way to engage people in ESN, to make it easy and to give them personal tools plus work collaboration tools in one central location,” says Van Der Hauwaert.

APIs are becoming increasingly important to driving uptake of ESN. In the past, enterprises tended to be a little afraid of APIs as they didn’t want to open systems to third-party programs – but that attitude is changing fast. APIs let you make enterprise social tools more social and by basing them around an employee’s personal apps you can drive usage and make them part of people’s daily routine.

Make your ESN an information hub

Many Generation Y users now see their instant messenger, be it Facebook, WhatsApp or whichever, as  the first place they go to each morning when they go online. Creating that thinking around your ESN also encourages routine use. You want your workers and teams to come into work and in the same way that when they search for something they think ‘Google’ when logging on in the workplace they should go straight to your ESN hub.

Other ways to encourage this thinking include gamification. By including games and other fun activities within your ESN hub, you can add fun to work tasks and drive usage through play.

Must be mobile

Many IT users in the enterprise are now mobile-first, so you should ensure your ESN works effectively on a small screen. If you want to engage as many employees as possible in using your ESN, give them as many ways as possible to use it. The opportunity is then there for them to collaborate no matter where they are.

These tips can help you formulate a plan that gets employees and teams thinking ESN first and using it on a daily basis. You want it to become second nature to them, a habit as normal as switching on the lights and the coffee machine when they arrive in the office. Employing these tactics can help you convince your workers that they do not ‘have’ to use ESN in the workplace – but that they want to use it because it is worthwhile, useful and helps them do their jobs better.

To read more about how Orange helps companies get the very most out of ESN discover how to foster collaboration