Crafting a New Approach to the Internet, Part 2

If your company has talked the talk of e-business, now it’s time to walk the walk. Last time, we discussed the need to take a serious look at your organizational structure. In this second of two parts, we look at what it takes to encourage and motivate organizational change to realize the promise (not the hype) of online business.

Obtain Feedback During the Implementation Process

People will feel more compelled to participate in the change if they don’t feel that it’s a mandate or an edict from the company. If they feel, for example, that they were involved in the process of implementation, then you can accomplish two things: jump-start the education process, and build a sense of teamwork and excitement for the initiative.

Most content management systems are based on the use of templates so content contributors can simply complete a browser-based form and send it to an editor for review. Ask your contributors to participate in the design of the templates. Ask them if the “form” covers all the information they’d want to share with the target audience. This gives them a sense that their opinions matter, and it helps them foresee the kind of information they’ll have to gather to post to the site.

Integrate Current Processes

Rather than forcing people to change their current business processes, see how the online tools can enhance their work. For example, if there’s a certain chain of review and approval for information that is released on paper, then make sure that your content management permissions and workflow reflect that process.

It’s enough that your contributors need to embrace a new system; don’t overburden them with an entirely new process for doing their jobs. When you integrate current processes with the new system, they’ll immediately start to see how it can make their lives easier, not more difficult.

Ensure Senior Management Support

If people don’t feel that senior executives are excited and supportive of the online initiative, they aren’t going to feel motivated, either. Employees need to know that this is a priority and their performance reviews will be based on their participation. If staff members understand the strategic importance of the project, they’ll feel they’re making a difference.

Reduce Dependencies on Consultants

Often you’ll need outside consultants to get you going. You may have organizational development experts create a customized plan for your organization. You may have business consultants develop the business logic and rules for the software based on your business needs. You may have technical consultants do the development and implementation of the software. Using consultants helps move things along faster and can give you objective views of the process.

But, at some point, internal staff will need to take over. If employees see the initiative as an externally driven process (rather than a grassroots project), they may be more suspicious. Although consultants can support and assist you, internal staff needs to take center stage (and the credit!) for the implementation.

It may be tempting to want a turnkey operation and to turn everything over to the consultants. But that will work only for the short term. Insist on knowledge transfer and internal participation. This gives everyone a sense of ownership and accountability — reducing the tendency to blame the consultants if things don’t work.

Make Education Your Cornerstone

People are more likely to embrace a new responsibility if they are comfortable with it. That is, if they feel the company is supporting them by giving them enough training, then they’re more apt to accept the change to their jobs. If they also see this as a professional growth opportunity, they can get excited about their own personal career opportunities.

Don’t expect people to just grasp a new technology or a new way of doing things. Plan for and schedule formal training. Don’t forget to include education about “the big picture.” That is, tell them how their contribution fits into the larger scheme of things and how it all works together to achieve strategic goals for the organization.

Use a Carrot and a Stick

Some people simply don’t want to change. They like things just as they are, thank you. For those who are difficult to motivate, you may need a more direct and forceful approach. Some organizations have changed job descriptions and work performance evaluations to include contributions to the Web site. If employees don’t contribute to the Web site based on certain standards, they can kiss their raises goodbye.

For those who do willingly participate and make a genuine effort to contribute, be sure to recognize them formally. Set up incentive programs, and give people prizes for a job well done. Extra vacation days, gift certificates, and other prizes can make the process fun.

Initiating organizational change is difficult and takes a long time. But with these basics in mind, you can successfully manage process changes and maintain employee morale at the same time.

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