10 tips for increasing executive social adoption

We all have those “good corporate citizen” moments at work when you are asked to make a change in the way you do work… like one time where my employer adjusted T&E policy and required that I attach an email to every travel expense report that showed my manager had pre-approved the trip (SmartRoutines would have made that so much easier!).  Of course this was a small change to the way I work.  Most of us would easily accept such a small change and keep moving forward.
But BIG asks that significantly change the way you work usually elicit a different reaction.  I remember being at a company where everyone had individual offices and then it was announced that my division was moving to a different building where everyone would be in a cubicle.  At the time I was not happy about it – having walls and a door were simply what I was used to.  Plus, I expected to hear that executives were going to be treated differently…  but they were not.  Senior executives had a cubicle the same size as mine.  I had no choice in the matter, but somehow it was easier to mentally and physically commit to this big change when I knew everyone, including my management team, had equal skin in the game.

Having leaders model the behavior you want all your people to exhibit is a key element of any change strategy.  And it was the topic of a presentation that I had the opportunity to host at Collective in Orlando earlier this year.

The discussion focused on getting and keeping executive participation in your enterprise social community as a key strategy for driving adoption and engagement, and shared ten core tenants to follow:

1. Start with your leaders

Don’t expect your leaders to dive right in.  You need to clearly communicate the expectations of those you want to participate.  Make sure your executive sponsors are behind you in delivering the message and let senior leadership know their participation is crucial to the success of the network and the major investment being made in it.  Of course you’ll need to educate each on the value and the growth outcomes you expect your social collaboration strategy to drive.

2. Remind them of their promise

Once you get the executive promise to participate, there’s a good chance it will be forgotten. Usually it’s not because they don’t care, it’s probably the massive priorities sitting in front of them also clamoring for attention.  Make sure you keep the promise top of mind and do what you can to get them to participate.  Hoping it happens won’t work, you need to make it happen.

3. Show them the “Easy” button

And the best way you can make it happen is to help it along.  Even if that means writing a profile page for an executive or sitting with them to show them how to do a post.  Maybe it’s reminding for the fifth time that an email doesn’t need to be sent on their behalf, they can go into the stream and post it themselves.  In all cases, make it super easy for the executive… if there's too many steps, you can forget it.

4. Prime the pump

If you want your senior executives to model behavior for their people, you need to be their model for behavior.  This will also allow you to show examples of how it's done when you are training an executive.  Talk about the habits and tricks you developed to make things easier so you'll have strong engagement.

5. Tickle them

Of course, you don’t want to be a nag but you will need to stay on top of your executives.  Encouragement, light coaching points, gentle reminders – all driving toward objective outcomes help your executive remember to use the network and eventually make it their default way of engaging.

6. Show them it’s safe

There’s a big fear with most people to look bad in front of peers.  You need to disarm an executive’s fear about being themselves and speaking freely on social channels.  Show them people care more about the engagement than the grammar and how real-time participation has huge benefits to employee satisfaction and retention.

7. Have them cross-sell in every rich channel you own

While shutting off email would likely drive up social adoption, you probably won’t be able to make that happen – but you should be promoting your social network via email (in signature lines or just gentle reminders that a conversation can happen in the stream).  This can also be done via signage, in person presentations, all hands meetings, mass voicemails, and every other medium used to reach people – keep pushing them to the network to get from a one-way to a two-way communication mode.

8. Provide tiered support

It’s not possible for you to do everything for your executivess, but you are going to need to make yourself available to help them or there’s a good chance you could lose them forever to a perception that the network is too difficult to use.  You’ll likely find that your executives expect this to be very hard but the solutions are actually quite easy.

9. Starve other channels

Dial down the volume on your other communication channels to dial up your enterprise social network.  Try getting your executive to do their next town hall via the network and limit any other access (no emailing questions, no dial in number).  Make the network the only way to participate.  Not only does it help get your executive involved, but it also means people have to get on board with social to be in the know.  There are many other ways you can use this tactic to cultivate adoption.

10. Rinse and repeat

None of these tactics are a once-and-done effort.  The strategy of garnering executive participation is one that you will need to continually drive.  Before you think about that as an exhausting effort, look at it this way – how many other people in your company will get this much exposure to your senior leadership?  Now get back in there!
Did these tenants help you and do you have anything that you would add to this list?  I’d love to hear how these core tenants work for you, tweet me @kenclem!


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Ken Clements, Director of Marketing

Ken leads our efforts to bring the Sitrion story to the world. He spent the better part of the past ten years working for business partners Avanade and Microsoft. With his own passion for technology and how the right tools can make your life easier, Ken is forever looking for the customer win -- not just making the sale, but also how the customer wins with an amazing outcome from using our software. He also walks the talk, using mobile and social to stay engaged as a remote employee at home in Seattle, Washington.

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