Why isn't HR more involved in social collaboration initiatives?

Angela Ashenden
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People often talk about why social collaboration initiatives fail, and any organisation on their own collaboration journey will be conscious of the massive pressure to achieve strong levels of adoption of their new technology in order to demonstrate their success. The trouble with this, in my view, is that while technology adoption metrics provide insight into how quickly people start using the new platform to collaborate, they are limited in the extent to which they qualify the nature of that behaviour (and in judging how that behaviour has changed from before the tool was introduced).

 

Let me try to expand on that. Organisations embrace social collaboration technologies because they want to encourage their employees to work in a more collaborative way. While some people are naturally collaborative in the way they work - and will quickly embrace a tool which allows them to achieve this - others need more guidance and support in how to do that. I've blogged before about the need for education and training as part of a collaboration adoption strategy, but it is also important not to assume that just because people have received training, their behaviour will change. They need ongoing encouragement and prompting, but they also need to feel some incentive to make that change - the old "what's in it for me" adage.

 

Gamification tools provide some assistance in this area on the technology side, helping to acknowledge desired behaviour using social gaming techniques so that the most active users are celebrated more visibly. With more advanced gamification tools, organisations are able to weight the points earned by a user based on the value or desirability of the activity - for example you get more credit for a post which garners lots of comments or "likes" or for providing a "best answer" to a question, for example.

 

But gamification tools can only go so far in distinguishing positive, truly collaborative behaviours from more superficial activity designed to "play" the system (deliberately or otherwise); it takes a more qualitative approach to ensure that the right behaviour is being acknowledged and encouraged, and this is something that requires real human involvement. That's why I believe it is so important to look beyond the activity on the platform to determine how well your collaboration initiative is progressing, to ensure that your ongoing performance and development programmes incorporate recognition for positive collaborative behaviours, and to ensure that managers and leaders at all levels in the organisation understand the reasons behind the initiative, and are involved in encouraging and championing positive collaborative behaviour - not just in the context of the social collaboration platform. This, of course, means that we need to engage a part of the organisation that is often not involved in the initiative - and can even sometimes be a direct blocker to its success - the HR department.

 

Given that we are talking about employee behaviour, performance and teamwork, it seems obvious that HR should be central to the discussion and yet, more often than not, it's not even at the table. This HAS to change if today's social collaboration initiatives are going to stand the test of time; since building a collaborative culture is a multi-year exercise, an underlying HR strategy which supports the cultural change process seems only sensible. So why isn't it happening?

 

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this - is HR involved in your social collaboration initiative? Have you found a way to engage a skeptical HR department? Please get in touch, or leave a comment below.

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