A Plugged-In Workforce

Using Wiki's to Tap the Real Power Within

Looking for affordable employee incentives that'll improve productivity, lower attrition rates, and score you big points in the great-places-to-work arena?

Good employees expect work-life flexibility.

With the vast majority of employees already plugged into high-speed internet at home, many workers (especially ones with younger families) are now expecting, if not outright demanding, the ability to work from home.

A study by IDC and Nortel reports that employers globally are expected to provide the capability to be flexible and plugged-in from anywhere. And that approximately 36% of the workforce use at least four mobile devices – i.e., messaging, web conferencing and social networks.

Giving employees high-tech tools is not just an effective way to attract talent. It helps keep your best people by enabling them to participate from wherever they are, ensuring that they stay connected and have a voice.

Further, allowing your staff the option and the flexibility to work from home, for example, when aging parents need care, or the kids are home on ProD days, is one of the best ways to build employee retention

Using WIKI Technology to Take this to the Next Level of Employee Empowerment

In a previous article we talked about the two primary reasons that encourage employees to stay, or leave, your company:

1. their relationship with their manager, and
2. their opportunity to both contribute and advance in their job.

Whether it's work from home or open discussion forums, encouraging employees to participate in product innovations and improved customer service will make them feel they are an integral part of your team.

Achieving balance between top-down direction and control, and the need for bottom-up initiative and adoption can be tricky.

Assuming your employee relations are in good order, tackling number two will work best when you are clearly communicating to your front line employees (ie customer service and sales) that you rely on them to tell you how best to satisfy and keep your customers happy.

The more obvious benefits of doing so are:

  • faster innovation at lower cost,
  • improved responsiveness to customers,
  • instead of just showing up, your staff will actually be excited about coming to work for you.

Six tips that will make Wiki's work for you:

(the following is courtesy of Wikinomics author Don Tapscott and writer Anthony Williams in an article for Backbone Magazine)

1. Use pilot projects to prove benefits: Like any new technology, collaborative tools should be piloted in order to prove their utility. Early wins generated by these pilots will make it easier to gain credibility and buy-in from the rest of the organization.

They also allow project leaders to create and optimize appropriate incentive systems, control/governance, quality assurance and trust mechanisms before a wider rollout. Fact-based wikis, such as developing a manual, are easier to get up and running than those that are opinion-based.

2.  Choose a receptive area for the pilot: Selecting where in the company to conduct the pilot depends on the specific technology and company culture. The most successful pilots involve young people who are already using consumer versions of collaborative technologies.

One company chose to focus on call centres where many of the employees were young and open to adopting new technologies and approaches. Another firm chose a small group of young employees called the “Young Professionals Network” to experiment with building a social network.

3. Leadership and vision are necessary: As with any new technology, strong leadership is key. This is especially critical as many collaborative tools need to acquire a critical mass of users and content before they become valuable. However, too much drive and direction can be counterproductive. The project needs a leader who is passionate but not too controlling.

4. Use loose control systems: Collaborative technologies also require a mind shift for managers who are used to controlling their employees’ activities. Many managers fear the tools will be used to waste time on idle interactions instead of adding true value.

The natural response is to clamp down, set strict rules and monitor content. This will be counterproductive. Instead, managers should set clear performance goals while encouraging the use of new tools that will help employees meet the goals.

5. Use innovative techniques to achieve critical mass: Gaining user buy-in is critical for collaborative technologies to reach critical mass. To increase the chance of this, identify a key user group to jump-start the collaboration.

One IT leader said he looked for “people who are ready to take risks, ready to take the lead, do something right, experiment and burn some midnight oil.” A more hands-on approach is to directly implement or “buy” the critical mass by, for example, pre-populating a wiki with useful content.

6. Use light incentives: The open nature of collaborative tools does not lend itself to overly formal incentive systems. The most obvious incentive is designing a system and tools that help employees be more efficient. This starts with establishing team-based goals that require effective collaboration, which naturally leads to the need for collaborative tools.

For collaborative efforts that engender less immediate payoffs, other intrinsic incentives include personal rewards such as creative pleasure, peer recognition of one’s expertise, visibility of work to upper management and the potential of unexpected benefits of one’s contributions.

Flexible work-life is something that's not only easy to implement, it's affordable. Not only that, it will add green to your bottom line, and your corporate profile. Now that's a win-win.

Abby Rubin is founder and owner of Abby Rubin Personnel, a Vancouver employment agency founded in 2007.
Abby has been providing Western Canadian corporations with expert employee recruitment services in administrative, property management, sales, marketing, finance and executive management positions since 1989.

Call Abby at 604.836.2672 or email abby@abbyrubin.com