Facebook Spaces launches at F8 with Carpool's support. Carpool was engaged to help design and develop the launch site working directly with the marketing and product teams. Our objective was to follow the design language of the new virtual world in the 2d web environment. 

The site we created can be found at https://www.facebook.com/spaces.

Why Asynchronous Video is Awesome for Business Communications Part 1

By Colin

 

Every day, it seems, we’re finding new, better ways to communicate. Memos are transitioning into internal blogs, email is moving over to collaborative platforms like Yammer and Facebook at Work, and now video is opening up even more ways to share information within an organization.

Video is expanding throughout our personal lives, popping up more and more in our social feeds and news sources. But it’s been making headway in the professional world as well. Consider that Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes recently began publishing quick selfie-style videos to share important company updates. As Holmes explained in an article for Fast Company, “I started hunting for a different way to connect with my teams—something that didn’t feel too distant and remote but also wouldn’t consume more time and resources than I genuinely had to offer.”

The firm Melcrum discovered in a 2011 survey that 93 percent of internal communication professionals reported that video is essential, and now we are starting to see practical applications come into play for our day-to-day workplace interactions.

Most recently, Facebook at Work implemented live video for companies that use the service. At Carpool, we’ve been using Facebook at Work for several months and, due in part to the way the network is presented, we have begun using video much more to share what we’re doing and to collaborate remotely.

One of the greatest ways to use video, we’re finding, is as a form of asynchronous communication. Think of it like an internal kickoff meeting, but employees can consume the content when they have the bandwidth to do so.

Recently, we posed a question to a few people in Carpool: “What do you think about asynchronous video?” Here’s what they said.

Jarom Reid, Cofounder

There are three main reasons I’m all for asynchronous video updates:

  1. It adds another sense to the communications experience.
  2. Consumers engage in a more meaningful way when it best fits their schedules.
  3. I like that it allows for the engagement to happen quickly and those who need to know and take action aren’t waiting for everyone to be in the same place at the same time.

The downside is that it can require a little more work for the creator, but I have found more thought and professionalism go into the creation of the video and therefore create a stronger channel of communication. In general, we move faster and with more accuracy.

Alexandra Kruse, Social Engagement Specialist/Community Manager

In the world of email, attachments, and conference calls, video proves to be a quick and effective form of communication. It can connect people across the globe in a matter of minutes.

The problem some people experience with video, according to Glide CEO Ari Roisman, “is that we’re using synchronous video communications tools in an asynchronous world.”

“We’re used to responding to an email or Facebook message whenever it’s most convenient for us. Having to make ourselves available at exactly the same time as the person we’re talking to feels, and in some ways is, anachronistic.”

Asynchronous video can be a speedy and effective form of collaboration. Recorded videos can be shared as a usable work product. An asynchronous environment allows the audience to review and consider other comments and perspectives before replying, therefore creating a culture of reflection and learning. It also allows the author to control the amount of time spent on the topic of discussion. Though it can be time consuming, depending on the nature of the content, video provides a reliable source of communication that can be used over and over again.

Next Week

In Part 2 of this series, we’ll revisit the same subject with Director of Strategy Chris Slemp and Account Director/Business Development Darren Litchfield.

Why Asynchronous Video is Awesome for Business Communications Part 2

In the last installment of this series, “Why Asynchronous Video is Awesome for Business Communications Part 1,” Jarom Reid and Alexandra Kruse shared some of their thoughts about asynchronous video.

At Carpool, we use video all the time, but not always in the way you might think. Beyond Skype and Facebook video chat, we have deployed a range of video communication channels to help us move information more efficiently and engage more deeply with content.

With recorded video shared to Yammer and now Workplace by Facebook (formerly Facebook at Work) live video, we’re able to quickly share client updates internally without having to gather everyone at the same time for a debrief or update. By asynchronous, we mean all types of video usages that don’t require two or more people communicating at the same time. Whereas we used to set up in-person meetings—which requires downtime while we wait for everyone’s schedules to line up—now we tend to record a video and let Carpool employees get the information when they have the bandwidth to do so.

“I like that it allows for the engagement to happen quickly and those who need to know and take action aren’t waiting for everyone to be in the same place at the same time,” Jarom explained in Part 1.

This week, we’re staying on the same topic, but turning to Account Director/Business Development Darren Litchfield and Director of Strategy Chris Slemp for their thoughts on using video. For Darren, this is especially important as he is a remote employee located in Atlanta, a long ways away from Carpool’s headquarters in Bellevue.

Darren Litchfield, Account Directer/Business Development

Video, in general, adds another element to text and images. Meetings are enhanced as attendees can get much more context through body language. The next step is to make video conferences as convenient as a written message. A written message can be consumed when the recipient has time. This means communication can happen more quickly since you don’t have to wait for everyone to be available at the same time.

However, as this becomes more commonplace, some unwritten rules need to be established. People tend to get nervous when a camera is on, which can cause messages to be less polished and concise. In a written message, you only consume what the author refined into a (hopefully) concise message. Think about how often you re-read and re-type even little parts of business communications to make sure the messaging is right. This also speaks to organization. People tend to be more organized in their written communication than their video posts. If people give the same organizational effort in quick video posts that they do in written posts, there are many situations that can benefit greatly from video context.

Chris Slemp, Director of Strategy

Darren hits some important points about our relative lack of comfort with video, especially if we’re not going to the effort to script something out and edit it. We’re still the TV/movie generation, and have grown up equating video with polish. However, the upcoming Selfie generation is much more comfortable in front of a camera. What is Snapchat if not visual texting with myself as the subject? As we all get over our nerves and embrace authenticity, casual video updates will become more natural.

There’s an undeniable advantage to video: We’re wired to be attracted to, and to learn more from, a personal delivery than the written word. If a picture is worth 1,000 words, a video delivery speaks volumes. The challenge that remains is the lack of easy skimming or retrieval of the content. However, once text-to-speech is fully integrated and made available for search—or as insta-transcripts—that hurdle will be a thing of the past.

The role of video in internal communications is and will continue to be pivotal. We see the evidence as our clients embrace it even faster than new social platforms. In fact, we’re curious to see if the increased integration of video with social, as we now see in Facebook Live at Work, will accelerate the adoption of those networks.

After one month spent working remotely, employees at the internal communications consulting agency Carpool reported increased communication and accessibility, higher job satisfaction, less email, and increased productivity, among other positive effects of the Office Anywhere.

During the month of July, Carpool encouraged employees to work from home, cafes, the downtown Bellevue headquarters, or anywhere else that helped them be more productive. Although the experiment was not specifically intended to force employees to work from home, many chose to work remotely for the majority of the month. Despite the largely remote workforce, employees reported increased job satisfaction and, due to tools like Facebook at Work, Carpool found that overall task productivity and the use of social collaboration tools increased, while email usage actually dropped.

Some of the highlights from Office Anywhere included:

  • 16% decrease in overall email activity
  • 22% increase in tasks completed per person.
  • Mobile chat use increased from 60% to 85%
  • 92% of employees want to continue Office Anywhere

Carpool Increases Engagement, Transparency, Work-Life Balance Through Office Anywhere

With the reduction in email usage alone, the average worker could save more than 100 hours per year that are ordinarily reserved for managing inboxes and place that energy to more productive tasks for the company.

“We started the Office Anywhere experiment because we noticed that Carpool employees often suggested they were more productive outside the office,” said Carpool Cofounder Jarom Reid. “This experiment started with the hypothesis to test whether we could improve overall productivity, but it was fascinating to see that not only did our employees prefer the flexibility of a remote work environment, but they were able to get more work done and do it more quickly.”

Although many aspects of Office Anywhere were positive, Carpool also gathered a plethora of additional data that will be used to help improve remote work environments for others and provide valuable insights for clients. Some of the challenges encountered included:

  • Technical challenges and hiccups with video conferencing
  • A disparity in some individuals’ abilities to set up a home work space
  • Less opportunities for social interactions with colleagues
  • Less banter on Carpool’s internal social networks, such as Facebook at Work and Yammer

However, those challenges were generally outweighed by positives, such as:

  • Employees felt more energized
  • They enjoyed the flexibility
  • They found it easier to complete tasks more quickly
  • Fewer distractions
  • It made employees examine tools and communication strategies more than ever
  • Time saved from commuting
  • Ability to be there more for family

To learn more about the Office Anywhere experiment, view Carpool’s group Progress Reports and individual Check-In videos on Instagram that were compiled during the month.

About Carpool

Carpool was founded in 2010 and has evolved into a consulting firm that specializes in internal communications. Our history, expertise, and the talent of our people give us the experience to navigate and understand personalities, technical environments, and content channels. We expertly discover insights, craft strategies, and implement a vision developed hand-in-hand with our clients.

Contact

Jarom Reid

Twitter: @jaromreid

carpoolagency.com

facebook.com/carpoolagency

twitter.com/carpoolagency

instagram.com/carpoolagency

Follow our progress with #OfficeAnywhere

We are lucky enough to work with amazingly talented people. One of those people is Steve Sweetman. He works at Microsoft in the Services Technology Office where he and his friends help customers imagine and build the future. 

Data-Driven Collaboration Part 1: How Rich Data Can Improve Your Communication

 

By Chris   Director of Strategy

This is the first of a series, coauthored by Laurence Lock Lee of Swoop Analytics and Chris Slemp of Carpool Agency, in which we will explain how you can use rich, people-focused data to enhance communication, increase collaboration, and develop a more efficient and productive workforce.

It’s safe to say that every enterprise hungers for new and better ways of working. It’s even safer to say that the path to those new and better ways is often a struggle.

Many who struggle do so because they are starting from a weak foundation. Some are simply following trends. Others believe they should adopt a new tool or capability simply because it was bundled with another service. Then there are those organizations that focus primarily on “reining in” non-compliant behaviors or tools.

But there’s a way to be innovative and compliant that also improves your adoption: focus instead on the business value of working in new ways—be data-driven. When you incorporate information about your usage patterns to set your goals, you are better positioned to track the value of your efforts and drive the behavior changes that will help you achieve your business objectives.

While it’s assumed that doing market research is critical when marketing to customers, investments in internal audience research have gained less traction, yet they yield the same kinds of return. Data-driven internal communication planning starts at the very beginning of your project.

Here we will demonstrate—using real-world examples—how Carpool and Swoop use data to create better communications environments, nurture those environments, and make iterative improvements to ensure enterprises are always working to their full potential.

Use Data to Identify Your Actual Pain Points

One team Carpool worked with was focused on partnering with customers and consultants to create innovations. They thought they needed a more effective intranet site that would sell their value to internal partners. However, a round of interviews with key stakeholders and end-of-line consumers revealed that a better site wasn’t going to address the core challenge: There were too many places to go for information and each source seemed to tell a slightly different story. We worked with the client to consolidate communications channels and implemented a more manageable content strategy that focused on informal discussion and formal announcements from trusted sources.

In the end, we were able to identify the real pain point for the client and help them address it accordingly because of the research we obtained.

Use Data to Identify New Opportunities

Data can drive even the earliest strategy conversations. In Carpool’s first meeting with a global retail operation, they explained that they wanted to create a new Yammer network as they were trying to curb activity in another, unapproved network. Not only did we agree, but we brought data to that conversation from another analytics solution we use: tyGraph. This data illustrated the exact size and shape of their compliance situation and the nature of the collaboration that was already happening. This set the tone for a project that is now laser-focused on demonstrating business value and not just bringing their network into compliance.

Use Data to Identify and Enhance Your Strengths

In-depth interviews can be added to the objective data coming from your service usage. Interviews reveal the most important and effective channels, and the responses can be mapped visually to highlight where a communication ecosystem has broadcasters without observers, or groups of catalysts who are sharing knowledge without building any broader consensus or inclusion.

Below, you see one of Carpool’s chord chart diagrams we use to map the interview data we gather. We can filter the information to focus on specific channels and tools, which we then break down further to pinpoint where we have weaknesses, strengths, gaps, and opportunities in our information flow.

Turning Data Into Action

These kinds of diagnostic exercises can reveal baselines and specific strategies that can be employed with leaders of the project or the organization.

One of the first activities organizations undertake when implementing an Enterprise Social Networking (ESN) platform is to encourage staff to form collaborative groups and then move their collaboration online. This is the first real signal of ‘shop floor empowerment’, where staff are free to form groups and collaborate as they see fit, without the oversight of their line management. As these groups form, the inevitable ‘long tail’ effect kicks in, where the vast majority of these groups fall into disuse, in contrast to a much smaller number that are wildly successful, and achieving all of the expectations for the ESN. So how can organizations increase their Win/Loss ratio? At Swoop Analytics we have started to look at some of the ‘start-up’ patterns of the Yammer installations of our benchmarking partners. These patterns can emerge after as little as 6 months of operations.

Below, we show a typical first 6 months’ network performance chart, which measures group performance on the dimensions of Diversity (Group Size), Cohesion (Mean 2-Way Relationships formed), and Activity (postings, replies, likes etc.). We then overlay the chart with ‘goal state’ regions reflecting the common group types typically found in ESN implementations. The regions reflect the anticipated networking patterns for a well-performing group of the given type. If a group’s stated purpose positions them in the goal-state region, then we would suggest that they are well positioned to deliver tangible business benefits, aligned with their stated purpose. If they are outside of the goal state, then the framework provides them with implicit guidance as to what has to happen to move them there.

At launch, all groups start in the bottom left-hand corner. As you can see, a selected few have ‘exploded out of the blocks’, while the majority are still struggling to make an impact. The 6-month benchmark provides an early opportunity for group leaders to assess their group against their peer groups, learn from each other, and then begin to accelerate their own performances.

Painting the Big Picture

The convergence of multiple data sources paints a holistic picture of communication and collaboration that extends beyond team boundaries. This new picture extends across platforms and prescribes the design for an ecosystem that meets user and business needs, aligns with industry trends, and is informed by actual usage patterns.

The discussion about the ROI of adopting new ways of working, such as ESNs, hasn’t disappeared. While we believe it’s a waste of resources to try measuring a return from new technologies that have already been proven, it’s clear that developing business metrics and holding these projects accountable to them is just as critical as any effort to increase productivity.

The nature of these metrics also needs to shift from a focus on “counts and amounts” to measures of a higher order that tie more closely to business value. For example, knowing that posting activity has risen by 25% in a year may make you feel a little better about your investment in a collaboration platform. Knowing that there is a higher ratio of people engaging vs. those who are simply consuming is much better. Showing a strong correlation in departments that have higher percentages of engaged users with lower attrition rates … that’s gold.

So now is the time to look at your own organization and wonder: “Do I track how my people are connecting? Do I know how to help them become more engaged and productive? When was the last time I measured the impact of my internal communication ecosystem?”

Then take a moment to imagine the possibilities of what you could do with all of that information.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for Part 2 and Part 3 when we address the topics of driving engagement by identifying types of enterprise social behavior in individuals, and the results we’ve seen from being data-driven in how we shape internal communications and collaboration.

Data-Driven Collaboration Part 2: Recognizing Personas and Behaviors to Improve Engagement

In Part 1 of this series, “Data-Driven Collaboration Design”—a collaboration between Swoop Analytics and Carpool Agency—we demonstrated how data can be used as a diagnostic tool to inform the goals and strategies that drive your business’ internal communication and collaboration.

In this post, we will take that thought one step further and show how, after your course is charted to improve internal communication and collaboration, your data continues to play a vital role in shaping your journey.

Monitoring More Than participation

Only in the very initial stages of the launch of a new Enterprise Social Network (ESN) or group do we pay any attention to how much activity we see. Quickly, we move to watching such metrics as average response time; breadth of participation across the organization, teams, roles, or regions; and whether conversations are crossing those boundaries. We focus on measures that show something much closer to business value and motivate organizations to strengthen communities.

For our purposes in this post, it will be useful to pivot our strategy to one that focuses on influential individuals. The community or team—whether it’s a community of practice, a community of shared interest, or a working team—isn’t a “group” or “si te,” but a collection of individuals, with all the messiness, pride, altruism, and politics implied. Data can be used to layer some purpose and direction over the messiness.

Patterns Become Personas

The Swoop Social Network Analytics dashboard uniquely provides analytics that are customized to each person who is part of an organization’s ESN. Using the principle of “when you can see how you work, you are better placed to change how you work”, the intent is for individual collaborators to receive real-time feedback on their online collaboration patterns so they can respond appropriately in real-time.

We analyzed the individual online collaboration patterns across several organizations and identified a number of distinct trends that reflect the majority of personal collaboration behaviors. With that data, we were able to identify five distinct personas: Observers, Engagers, Catalysts, Responders, and Broadcasters.

In addition to classifying patterns into personas, we developed a means of ranking the preferred personas needed to enhance an organization’s overall collaboration performance. At the top we classify the Engager as a role that can grow and sustain a community or team through their balance of posting and responding. This is closely followed by the Catalyst, who can energize a community by provoking responses and engaging with a broad network of colleagues. The Responder ensures that participants gain feedback, which is an important role in sustaining a community. The Broadcaster is mostly seen as a negative persona: They post content, but tend not to engage in the conversations that are central to productive collaboration. Finally, we have the Observer, who are sometimes also called ‘lurkers’. Observers are seen as a negative persona with respect to collaboration. While they may indeed be achieving individual learning from the contribution of others, they are not explicitly collaborating.

Using Personas to Improve Your Online Collaboration Behavior

Individuals who log in to the Swoop platform are provided with a privacy-protected personal view of their online collaboration behaviors. The user is provided with their persona classification for the selected period, together with the social network of relationships that they have formed through their interactions:

You may notice that the balance between what you receive and what you contribute is central to determining persona classification. Balanced contributions amongst collaboration partners have been shown to be a key characteristic of high performing teams, hence the placement of the ‘Engager’ as the preferred persona.

Our benchmarking of some 35 Yammer installations demonstrates that 71% of participants, on average, are Observers. Of the positive personas, the Catalyst is the most common, followed by Responders, Engagers, and Broadcasters. It’s therefore not surprising that an organization’s priority often involves converting Observers into more active participants. Enrolling Observers into more active personas is a task that falls on the more-active Engagers and Catalysts, with Responders playing a role of keeping them there.

At Carpool, during a recent engagement with a client, we encountered a senior leadership team that was comprised of Broadcasters who relied on traditional internal communications. Through our coaching—all the while showing them data on their own behavior and the engagement of their audience—they have since transformed into Catalysts.

One team, for example, had been recruiting beta testers through more traditional email broadcasts. But after just a few posts in a more interactive and visible environment, where we taught them how to invite an active conversation, they have seen not only the value of more immediate feedback, but a larger turnout for their tests. Now, it’s all we can do to provide them with all the data they’re asking for!

Identifying the Key Players for Building Increased Participation

When Swoop looks at an organization overall, we will typically find that a small number of participants are responsible for the lion’s share of the connecting and networking load. In the social media world, these people are called ‘influencers’ and are typically measured by the size of the audience they can attract. In our Persona characterization, we refer to them as Catalysts. Unlike the world of consumer marketing—and this point is critical—attracting eyeballs is only part of the challenge. In the enterprise, we need people to actively collaborate and produce tangible business outcomes. This can only happen by engaging the audience in active relationship-building and cooperative work. This added dimension of relationship-building is needed to identify who the real key players are.

In our work with clients, Carpool teaches this concept by coaching influencers to focus on being “interested” in the work of others rather than on being “interesting” through the content they share, whether that’s an interesting link or pithy comment. With one client, our strategy is to take an organization’s leader, a solid Engager in the public social media space, and “transplant” him into the internal communications environment where he can not only legitimize the forum, but also model the behavior we want to see.

In the chart below, we show a typical ‘Personal Network Performance’ chart, using Enterprise Social Networking data from the most active participants in an enterprise. The two dimensions broadly capture an individual’s personal network size (number of unique connections) against the depth of relationships they have been able to form with them (number of reciprocated two-way connections). They reflect our Engager persona characteristics. Additionally, we have sized the bubbles by a diversity index assessed by their posting behavior across multiple groups.

The true ‘Key Players’ on this chart can be seen in the top right-hand corner. These individuals have not only been able to attract a large audience, but also engaged with that audience and reciprocated two-way interactions. And the greater their diversity of connections (bubble size), the more effective they are likely to be.

Data like this is useful in identifying current and potential key players and organizational leaders, and helps us shift those online collaboration personas from Catalyst to Engager and scale up as far and as broadly as they can go.

Continuous Coaching

Having data and continuous feedback on your online collaboration performance is one thing, but effectively taking this feedback and using it to build both your online and offline collaboration capability requires planning and, of course, other people to collaborate with! Carpool believes in a phased approach, where change the behavior of a local team, then like ripples in a pond, expand the movement to new ways of working through compelling storytelling, using the data that has driven previous waves of change.

To get started now, think about your own teams. Would you be prepared to have your team share their collaboration performance data and persona classifications? Are you complementing each other, or competing? If that’s a little too aggressive, why not form a “Working Out Loud” circle with some volunteers where you can collectively work on personal goals for personal collaboration capability, sharing, and critiquing one another’s networking performance data as you progress?

Think about what it takes to move from one behavior Persona to another. How would you accomplish such a transformation, personally? What about the teams you work in and with? Then come back for the next, and final, part of this co-authored series between Swoop and Carpool, where we will explain the value in gaining insights from ongoing analytics and the cycle of behavior changes, analysis, and pivoting strategies.

Data-Driven Collaboration Part 3: Sustaining Performance through Continuous Value Delivery

In Part 1 of our series on Data-Driven Collaboration, “How Rich Data Can Improve Your Communication,” we identified how to plan for collaboration by ensuring that goals were established and aligned with our organizational strategy. We then moved on to Part 2, “Recognizing Personas and Behaviors to Improve Engagement,” to explain how you can build engagement by managing behaviors. In this, the final post in our series, co-authored by Swoop Analytics and Carpool Agency, we will identify how to sustain the momentum to ensure that value is continuously delivered as a matter of course.

Previously, we identified the importance of migrating from simple activity measures to those that signify when collaborative relationships are being formed. It is through these relationships that tangible outcomes are achieved. Therefore, it is not surprising that analytics—as applied to sustained relationship-building—plays an important role in continuous value delivery from collaboration.

For example, a CEO from one of Carpool’s clients had been using Yammer to receive questions for a regular Q&A session, but they’d grown concerned that the CEO’s infrequent posts in the group were creating an echo chamber among the same small group of contributors. Careful analysis showed that this was more perception than reality, and the group showed a great deal of variety in cross-organization conversation. As this was precisely the executive’s goal in forming the group, the team doubled down on their investment in this executive-to-company relationship.

Monitoring Maturation Using Analytics

At SWOOP, we have been benchmarking Yammer Installations from start-up to ‘normal operations’ for some time. With Yammer, the typical pattern of start-up is a bottom-up use of ‘Free’ Yammer, which for some, lasts for many years. Without exception, however, sustained usage only occurred after a formal launch and the tacit approval of senior management. We observed different patterns of start-ups from the ‘big-bang’ public launch, through to more organic, yet managed approaches. Whatever strategy is used, organizations always reach a stage of steady-state operations or, at worst, a slow decline.

For an Enterprise Social Network (ESN) like Yammer, we have found that the average engagement rate of the 35+ organizations in our benchmark set is around 29% (i.e., non-observers) with the best at around 75%. It is evident from our benchmarking that for larger organizations—for example, more than say 5,000 participants—it can be hard to achieve engagement levels above 30%. However, this doesn’t mean that staff aren’t collaborating.

We are seeing a proliferation of offerings that make up the digital office. For a small organization, Yammer may be their main collaboration tool, where team level activities take place. For larger organizations, however, Yammer may be seen as a place to explore opportunities and build capabilities, rather than as an execution space. Increasingly, tools like Slack, HipChat, and now Microsoft Teams are being used to fill this space for some teams that depend on real-time conversations as their primary mode of communication.

A Collaboration Performance Framework

As organizations mature with their use of collaboration tools, it is critical not to be caught in the ‘collaboration for collaboration sake’ cycle. As we indicated in “How Rich Data Can Improve Your Communication,” collaboration must happen with a purpose and goals in mind. The path to achieving strategic goals is rarely linear. More regularly, we need to adopt a framework of continuous improvement toward our stated goals. For many organizations, this will take the form of a ‘Plan, Do, Check, Act’ cycle of continuous improvement. However, in this age of digital disruptions and transformations, we need a framework that can also accommodate transformational, as well as incremental innovation.

At SWOOP, we have developed a collaboration performance framework drawn from Network Science.

 

The framework balances two important dimensions for collaborative performance: diversity and cohesion. It identifies a continuous cycle of value delivery, whether it be radical or incremental. Let’s consider an innovation example, with an organizational goal of growing revenue by 200%:

Individuals may have their own ideas for how this radical target could be achieved. By ‘Exploring’ these ideas with others, we can start to get a sense of how feasible our ideas might be, but also have the opportunity to combine ideas to improve their prospects. The important ‘Engaging’ phase would see the ideas brokered between the originators and stakeholders. These stakeholders may be the key beneficiaries and/or providers of the resources needed to exploit a highly prospective idea. Finally, the ‘Exploiting’ phase requires the focus and strong cooperation of a smaller group of participants operating as a team to deliver on the idea.

The performance framework can be deployed at all levels, from enterprise-wide to individual business units, informal groups, teams, and right down to the individual. In a typical Carpool engagement, we work with smaller teams to demonstrate this cycle and then use the success stories to replicate the pattern more broadly. A current client started with a smaller community of interest of 400 people, and is now expanding the pattern to their global, 4,000-member division.

Deploying Analytics and the Performance Framework

Like any performance framework, it can’t operate without data. While the traditional outcome measures need to be present, the important predictors of collaborative success are relationship-centered measures. For example, your personal network can be assessed on its diversity by profiling the members of your network. Your personal network’s cohesiveness can be measured, firstly, by how many of your connections are connected to each other; and secondly, by how many of these connections are two-way (reciprocated). We can then add layers provided from HR systems such as gender, geography, organizational roles, age, ethnicity, etc. to provide a complete picture of diversity beyond typical dimensions.

In the example below, we show the collaboration performance of participants in a large Yammer network over a 12-month period. You can see how challenging it might be to become an ‘Engager’, maximizing both diversity and cohesion.

 

We profiled their personal networks for their diversity, cohesion, and size, and plotted them on the performance framework. Interestingly the data exposed that the nature of this Yammer network is a place for exploring and, for some, engaging. There is a gap, however, in the Exploiting region. This is not to say that these individuals were poor at putting projects into motion. More likely, at least in this organization, the ESN is not the usual place to collaborate as a team. If there is no easy transition from the ESN to a team environment, then we have a problem that many ESNs experience: lots of activity but a perception of few tangible results directly from the ESN. Carpool’s approach puts this data together with data from other services and sources to create a holistic picture of the results and impact of the organization’s collaboration evolution.

Continuous Monitoring

For many organizations, continuous monitoring simply means monitoring activity on digital platforms. As we indicated in “Recognizing Personas and Behaviors to Improve Engagement,” activity monitoring can be a poor predictor of performance. At SWOOP, we look at activity that establishes or strengthens a relationship. In the screenshot below, you can see measures such as the number of two-way reciprocated relationships; the degree to which relationships are forming between the formal organizational departments; and who is influential, based on the size of their network, not how frequently they contributed. We identify key player risk by looking at how polarized a network may be among a selected few leaders. Even the Activity/User measure inside groups predicts how cohesive that group may be. By providing this data in real-time, we have the best opportunity for both leaders and individuals to adapt their patterns of collaboration as they see fit.

 

At Carpool, our engagements use a set of such dashboards to regularly check in on all the various channels and stakeholders, and make recommendations on an ongoing basis that accounts for the holistic communication picture.

Final Thoughts

In this series, we have taken you on a journey from planning for, launching, and productively operating a digital office. At the very beginning we emphasized the need to collaborate for a purpose. We then emphasized the need to ‘engage’ through relationships and adopting appropriate behavioral personas. Finally, we have explained the importance of adopting a collaboration performance framework that can facilitate continuous delivery of value.

In order to do all of this effectively, we not only need analytics, but interventions triggered by such analytics to improve the way we work. Analytics on their own don’t create change. But in the hands of skilled facilitators, analytics and rich data provide a platform for productive change. Collaboration is not simply about how to get better results for your organization, but also to get better results for yourself, by helping you to be a better collaborator.

Want More?

We hope these insights into data-driven collaboration will give you new ideas to innovate your own approach to internal communication. If you have any questions, or would like to learn how to establish, nurture, and grow deep internal communities, Carpool has a team of strategists who are ready to help you grow your business today.

Contact Us

info@carpoolagency.com Facebook Twitter

The Trolleyology Conundrum
and the Zen of Compartmentalization

Every parent knows that the supermarket is a minefield of distractions with a kid in tow. The simple act of buying a gallon of milk with a child also means running through a gauntlet of treats and junk food that seem strategically placed for the sole purpose of pulling your shopping trip off course.

If you’ve ever wondered why food staples like milk, eggs, and bread seem so hard to locate, it’s not by accident. Sstore owners know how you move through the aisles, and they design the store so that distractions, enticements, and diversions, are always there to pull you astray from your intended shopping list.

In Australia, they even have a name for this ploy called “trolleyology” (not to be confused with the philosophical thought experiment in the U.S.). At the supermarket, so much is pulling your attention away from where it should be focused, and the items that are least important still have equal — if not greater — visibility as the items that you want.

Actually, the supermarket can be a lot like work.

Typically, the communications we receive at work all have the same level of priority. Messages that require immediate attention get lumped into the same pile with others that are “just a heads up,” meeting requests, or company memos, for example. No matter the content, these messages are thrown into the same pot, and the most common way to separate out the critical from the noncritical is to go through and delete them one at a time.

According to the Harvard Business Review, we actually receive more noncritical emails than critical ones. They found that an average worker receives 3,000 emails per year, if you factor out all the junk that never reaches the inbox. Of that, 58% are noncritical emails, which adds up to about 1,700 messages per year — about 6.5 per day — that don’t require your immediate attention. Buried in there are the messages you actually need; the metaphorical milk hidden in a freezer behind all the aisles of junk food.

What if we could reorganize our workplace supermarket? Imagine walking into a store and finding it segmented into different rooms: one room for the essentials, another for useful kitchen utensils, and yet another for all the fun stuff.

In fact, the way we communicate in our personal lives already exemplifies this type of ideal organizational structure, while the “trolleyology” format is more akin to the traditional way of communicating at work. After all, when was the last time you shared an interesting news article by sending a mass email to friends? More likely, you would share the article publicly through Facebook, and tag specific friends so they’re sure to see it.

Outside of work, most of what we say, write, and publish is directed through the most appropriate communication channel. We share news and miscellaneous thoughts on Facebook, snap photos of our daily lives and post them to Instagram, compile our complex thoughts and beliefs into blogs, and privately message friends and family as necessary. Though we sift through and publish massive amounts of content, we rarely have any difficulty obtaining the information we need when we need it — the important content rises to the top with ease, while all the rest is always there when we choose to look.

This wasn’t always the case. However, shifts in social technology — particularly with the rise of the mobile Internet and social apps — have pushed more communications out of the inbox and into specialized applications and software.

Indeed, very few people rely on only one communication channel, and the average person has three social networking accounts, according to a report by The Radicati Group.

Correspondingly, it’s been said that email is about to die, or it’s already dead. That’s far from accurate. Email isn’t dead or dying, but it is being refined to serve a more targeted and useful purpose. As with other communications tools, email is just one aisle in our perfectly organized, dream supermarket. It has things we need — for instance, email is well suited to handle our formal communications and correspondence with individuals outside our own company — but we don’t need to go there for everything.

Other tools, of course, are better at serving other functions throughout the work day. Yammer is well suited for hosting all-inclusive group conversations. Skype provides remote, real-time group brainstorming sessions when in-person meetups aren’t feasible. IM is perfect for quick heads-up messages. OneNote gives us the ability to collectively view and simultaneously edit a single, flexible document, while SharePoint serves as a publishing environment for formal communications to a wide audience.

At Carpool, we don’t exclude email, but we do put it in its proper place within a compartmentalized communications structure. We divide our communications into three classifications: Informal, formal, and doing work. In this way, we don’t completely eliminate the background noise of the workplace. This “noise” can be beneficial because it ensures that information does not vanish into a vacuous email chain, and is instead out in the open for all who want to participate. Yet even with so much information available, we are able to keep track of the information we need to get work done.

 

How to Leverage the Butterfly Effect

To understand the information flow of a complex business environment, look no further than the mighty butterfly. And to do that, we should consult Dr. Ian Malcolm.

“The shorthand is the Butterfly Effect,” says Jeff Goldblum’s Malcolm in the oh-so ’90s classic blockbuster, Jurassic Park. “A butterfly can flap its wings in Peking and in Central Park you get rain instead of sunshine.”

(“Eat your heart out, velociraptors!” Butterfly drops the mic.)

The concept of the Butterfly Effect can seem complicated, but it is actually fairly straightforward (and it was actually the brainchild of American mathematician Edward Lorenz). In complex systems—such as an island full of genetically reanimated dinosaurs; or perhaps a modern workplace, if you want to use a more realistic scenario—even the smallest actions can have terrific outcomes. Every piece of the system is connected in such a way that no action occurs without consequence. For the butterfly, he flaps his wings, which changes the course of a weather pattern, which continues to alter other weather patterns; and in the end, the insignificant flapping of wings has brewed a storm on the other side of the world.

For the non-butterfly worker, almost everything he does ripples throughout the business. Even the things he thinks are insignificant have the potential to touch everyone around him. Actions have consequence; reactions create new actions; and every piece of the system can be equally effecting and affected. Unlike the butterfly, the shift from small actions to large outcomes needs to be nurtured a little.

Consider, for example, a recent situation I encountered with a client. This particular client’s entire job centered on creating spreadsheets. That’s all he did, and he thought no one noticed nor cared. He assumed that only the people in his immediate periphery paid any attention to his work. In reality—and unbeknownst to him—many people were paying attention. In fact, those spreadsheets he thought were so insignificant were being converted into graphics that went out across a team site for the entire department. What’s more, everyone loved them.

If somebody didn’t have the foresight to take his spreadsheets and share them with a wider audience, he might have been right and very few people would have known or cared what he was doing. By bringing his work into the open, he was able to have a greater impact on the company.

It seems that many people keep their work to themselves, and then wonder why they’re not getting noticed. A search of the phrase “how to make an impact at work” turns up 25,600 hits, which leads me to believe there’s plenty of interest in the subject. This, of course, makes sense, because the more impact you have, the more dependency you create; the greater the dependency, the more valuable you become.

But it’s silly to think that we need to read an article or blog post to find the secret to having that impact (other articles, I mean; definitely keep reading this one). Really, the only way to not have any impact is to not show up. So Step 1 is pretty simple: Just show up and do your job. But in order to amplify that impact, Step 2 is to share what you do.

The prospect of putting yourself and your work out in the open is understandably difficult for many people. You have to trust that your colleagues will be supportive, and you have to trust that your openness will be rewarded.

However, a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that workers who were overly pessimistic and unable to form trusting relationships made about $3,000 less per year, on average, than their optimistic, trustworthy counterparts, according to Quartz.

In order to form that trust, workers need an environment that encourages them to be open, which often isn’t the case. One employee survey conducted by New Norms @Work, found that just 16% said they feel more comfortable sharing their opinions on industry matters through social networking sites.

It’s safe to say that in many workplaces employees limit their impact by keeping their work private. In essence, the metaphorical workplace butterfly is flapping his wings in a vacuum and getting nowhere. Granted, work gets done, quotas get met, and the company probably gets by just fine. But in a world that is constantly changing, isn’t it also necessary to change how we work? Consider that in the tech industry, the median age of employees is 30 or younger. This is a group of people who are accustomed to sharing their work in connected social environments, and their ideas are likely valuable to company growth. It was this type of thinking that led former General Electric chairman and CEO Jack Welch to push 500 top-level executives to engage with younger employees and learn how to use the Internet in the late ’90s.

The workplace is a system, much like any other. And like any system, evolution often begins with small, incremental changes that transform into something far greater.

Back in July, Carpool began the Office Anywhere experiment: one month in which all Carpool employees were heavily encouraged to work outside the office.

It was the logical extension of the communications tools and strategies we promote to our clients, and an interesting step in the evolution of the modern workplace. More accurately, that is, work without the physical workplace.

Evolutionary steps aren’t always easy, particularly when it comes to convincing businesses to let their employees work remotely. In this interview with Carpool Cofounder Jarom Reid, we examine the philosophy behind #OfficeAnywhere, discuss the advantages of a remote workforce, the disadvantages, and lessons learned so far.

(Psst! If you haven’t already, check out our earlier post, “5 Ways to Improve Communication in a Remote Work Environment,” where we highlight best practices about working remotely from the employee standpoint.)

A partial transcript of the interview is posted below. Check out the embedded video for the complete interview.

Office Anywhere: How to Handle a Remote Workforce As An Employer

Why did you want to do the Office Anywhere experiment?

There are a bunch of reasons, but I think the main reason is productivity. I’ve always felt less productive in the office, personally, because when I’m there I find myself going into more and more meetings—just because. When I worked at home I was more productive and what I started noticing was that people would actually post to Facebook at Work saying, “Working from home today so I can be more productive.” In my mind I was like, “That doesn’t really make sense because you’re supposed to be in the office to be productive.” Yet when we want to be the most productive, we want to stay at home.

I think the enabler of that … was Facebook at Work and Yammer. Before we were on Facebook at Work, we were on Yammer, as you know, and Yammer was fine.

We realized at some point that the office we had was being replicated, by a degree, to the internal social network—it just happened to be Facebook. And because we’re more personable on Facebook, we thought we could capture a lot more of our company culture. So once we had that as our foundation, I think it’s a more effective form of an office than the actual physical location, because the physical location provides so many more distractions, whereas the digital version of the office is … asynchronous, so you don’t need to worry about being right there right now. It has a whole bunch of different functions and features that people are used to in their personal lives. It was just a natural transition.

So we’re talking about a lot of the positive aspects of this, but what were your concerns going into it?

That employees weren’t going to be as productive. It is still a concern; it’s a big concern. I think we’re more dependent on our tools now than we were before, because our tools are tracking [employee productivity].

Trust is one of the biggest motivators that we had for this.
— Jarom

So one of the things that comes out of this effort—going in we were aware of it, but I think it’s even more important now that we’ve experienced this Office Anywhere experiment—is the evolution of middle management. We’ve talked to clients about this, we’ve noticed it ourselves that a middle manager is essentially a glorified babysitter where the intent is, “We’ll give you 10 people that report to you and your job is to make them like you so that we can become 10 times more productive than we were when it was just you.” The evolution of that middle manager, I think, is still the same outcome, but the way you get to that point is a little different, where you’re not necessarily babysitting them every day—watching over their shoulder, making sure that their at their seat, at their desk, etc.—you’re looking at what they’re producing, their output if you will.

And so if their output is increasing, and we track that using our tools—we can look using Facebook at Work; we can look using Asana, our task-tracking tool; we can use SharePoint; we can utilize Harvest, which is our hour-tracking tool—we’ve got these tools that are telling stories about how our people are working. Because that digital footprint is there, we’re able to analyze what that footprint looks like; we’re able to see gaps.

How do you oversee a remote staff?

I use instant message as much as I can for one-on-one communication. So the three managers that report to me, my goal is to have engagement with them, of some kind, every single day. Every morning there’s a post that everyone is essentially required to do, which is “this is what I’m working on today.” I make sure that, with the people I manage, that I like those posts; I comment if I have questions; and then I make sure as soon as I can in the day, where it makes sense, I have one-on-one interaction with them.

Are there any challenges that you’re still hoping to overcome?

Trust. Trust is one of the biggest motivators that we had for this. I have to be able to trust my people, I have to be able to trust managers who are looking to help their people. There’s still hesitation for me. Some of the feedback that we got … was managers are jumping to conclusions to quickly. So what that basically means is that as I’m reading through my feed, or as I’m reading though the Microsoft group or the Facebook group, I see things pop up and I want to fix them; I want to meddle in that situation. The feedback came through that, “We understand, and sometimes we say something that we’re just looking for clarification on, it doesn’t mean management needs to jump in there and try and fix it—to trust us more.”

Lastly, do you think that other business should do this as well?

Most definitely. There are so many reasons. The four reasons that I focus on are:

Cost savings: If you can get rid your office commitments which is one of your biggest expenses outside of employees, mitigate that and utilize the office as a commodity concept—co-working spaces, etc.—I think a lot of companies will see a huge reduction in cost.

I think another important reason is sustainability. The lack of travel that has been required because most people are staying locally I think is important. The more people you have working locally working in their local community—whether it be their home, local library, coffee shop, etc.—you’re going to get less traveling. That means more time spent with family, more time spent doing the work that you want to do; you’re able to get up early, or whenever you want, essentially.

The more that we are productive, the happier we will be because we are producing something, and I think that’s something important for people to validate the effort that they’re putting in. My goal is to increase productivity, or output, and lower input. At the moment, I think it’s the other way around. We’re putting a lot of time into what we’re doing. So that productivity ratio has to switch.

And the last thing, ultimately, is work-life balance. If my efforts as an employer can help who I employ, and they’ll be happier in their life, then that’s way more important to me than the bottom line.

So other businesses who can look at those four different opportunities may be able to tell a different story in a couple of months. And I think the change will be quite drastic, fairly quickly. Now, it’s going to require a lot of change in mindset from the old-school way of working, but evolving the way you work doesn’t necessarily need to be focused around the tools you use. I think you can look at the things that … haven’t changed for a long, long time, which is the office and the way in which your people actually get the work done. They don’t need to be babysat. With a solid infrastructure that is digital, which is very inexpensive, if that is the foundation of what you build your office on instead of a physical location, I think those four areas, those four objectives, should be fairly easy to obtain.

I recently had a chat with my friend, Hans and he thinks corporations are crushing people. Hans is the co-founder of a startup called Verity. Verity is a bot that uses artifical intellegence and machine learning to evolve the way we think about people management and the role of HR inside of modern companies. 

 

The robots aren’t just coming—they’re here already. Take a glimpse of the future and you’ll likely see a world in which machines, not humans, handle many of the tasks that currently require a flesh-and-blood brain to complete.

Truck-driving is the No. 1 job held by Americans, but the advent of self-driving vehicles means it’s not a matter of if we will outsource the job of “truck driver” to artificial intelligence, but when. Even the $62.5 billion-valuated Uber is preparing for the pending robot takeover when they will eliminate “the dude in the front of the car,” as Geoff Colvin explained in an interview on the podcast “Between Worlds.”

My commute to work means I drive a lot. Fortunately, that gives me about six hours per week to indulge in a new love of mine: podcasts. The ones I stick with are the best story-tellers, and Colvin tells a great story.

In the episode that most caught my ear, Colvin spoke about culture, leadership, and how to prepare for the robot uprising. He made a compelling case about the ways in which humans can continue to offer a valuable set of skills even as AI replaces millions of jobs.

Here are Colvin’s three key takeaways that will help you continue to offer value even after the robots have taken over.

1: Empathy

Computers are very good at interpreting emotions, but responding appropriately is difficult even for some humans. People and companies that want to find continued success need to be excellent at discerning feelings and responding appropriately. Every individual and group—account teams, strategists, project managers, designers, and developers—needs to recognize and respond to clients and customers in a way that speaks to them. This means communicating a solution to their problem in a way that is inviting and straightforward.

2: Team Problem-Solving

The really hard problems can only be solved by teams. Research has revealed that the most effective groups at problem-solving are not those with good “cohesion,” smart leadership, or high motivation. The key is social sensitivity: the ability of team members to “read” each other, to anticipate, and read between the lines of other team members. Looking forward, the path to success is paved not with technology, but strategy that enhances team collaboration. Though many people have not jumped on board collaborative networks like Yammer or Facebook at Work, there are loads of valuable team-enhancing features there. It may sound silly, but I honestly believe that communication styled as a feed or chat, with all its emoticons and GIFs, makes all the necessary asynchronous communication so much richer; more natural; and as a result, creates the kind of sensitivity we all need to work effectively.

3: Storytelling

Humans are hard-wired to respond to stories, particularly those that tell the classic arc of overcoming-obstacles.

“If we want to change somebody’s mind, if we want to motivate someone to act, all the data and logic in the world isn’t nearly as powerful as telling them a story,” Colvin said in the podcast interview.

If you ask me, Skype hit the nail on the head in using storytelling to motivate. Watch this video. Try not to cry at the end.

Now, ask yourself how many times the product name was mentioned. How many features did it talk about? How many times did they talk about how many millions of people use Skype? This was a story about two girls and a human connection (oh, and by the way, there’s a Skype logo at the end). It WORKS!

The heart of the work we do at Carpool is to increase the humanity of your team communications and collaboration. We robot-proof your employees by creating more functional teams that love to tell the stories of their impact. We’re sure there are lots of ways in which AI will enrich our lives, and one of them is to make the work we do even more human.

Science has taught us many things, but few that have been as insightful as the power of the beard. According to science, beards are tooootally hot, except when there’s a lot of them—then unbearded faces are waaaay sexy. There are business applications to be gleaned from this observation, but first let’s really dive into the science of the beard. Be warned, this could get a little hairy.

In 2014, a team of Australian researchers found that men with beards are commonly perceived to be more attractive than their shaven counterparts. But there’s a catch: Bearded men are more attractive when they’re the outliers, not the norm. The more bearded dudes you have in a group, the less social capital their stubble is worth. Or, put another way, according to Mic, “One 2014 study found that the more common a beard is, the less value it has as a distinguishing and attractive trait.”

What’s relevant in the business world is the idea of differentiation. A bearded man among bearded guys isn’t particularly attractive or prone to standing out in the crowd. But a bearded man among a sea of faces that are as smooth as a baby’s bottom is more likely to be perceived as attractive. The key is to stand apart from the crowd—do something unique.

Consider the following quotes from a few insightful business and marketing writers.

Apple’s competitive edge, [Steve Jobs] and others argue, is that they have been able to avoid the ‘sameness trap.’ When you rely on consumer input, it is inevitable that they will tell you to do what other popular companies are doing.”

Being different can also be less tangible, such as being a company, like Carpool, that builds tools, strategies, and cultures that encourage employees to share work internally.

Not long ago, I led a few internal writers’ workshops. The goal of these workshops is to teach some fundamental principles, tips, and tricks that separate good writing from bad writing. I went into the workshop blind. After all, I developed my own voice and writing strategy in the world of journalism. But those principles don’t perfectly translate to business.

It wasn’t until after the workshop that I realized the true value and the lesson that was buried within all my rambling.

All of the points I stressed in the workshop—how to write a strong introduction, how to compose a written piece to hold the reader’s attention, and generally how to not be boring—rest on the same concept: How to be different and more attractive to strangers. In this instance, being different meant becoming better at storytelling.

Memorable ideas and products are often different. Many people like to call these ideas “innovative.” Einstein, for example, realized the inextricable link between space and time; Steve Jobs changed our conception of the personal computer; and Mark Zuckerberg refined how we communicate.

Consider a few blog posts I stumbled upon. Both focus on the same subject, but one of them is better positioned to capture your attention. One is titled, “Why Intranets Don’t Work,” while the other is, “What The Walking Dead Teaches Us About Surviving Traditional Intranets.”

Regardless of the content, chances are you’re going to remember one of these pieces (the zombie one, duh) and throw the other into a mental pile where good ideas go to be forgotten. Likewise, my hope is that you’re going to remember this article because of the beard metaphor, and you’re going to think about what you can do to stand out because the content stays on your mind. Maybe you’ll think about taking a slight risk to stand out, and hopefully you’re going to learn from it.

And, hopefully, you’ll think about how you can apply this to the way you work. For instance, rather than sending off an email some day, you might consider building a brand using your company’s internal network on platforms such as Yammer or Facebook at Work. Or, if you’re a manager, you might think of how to let your employees work remotely if it will help them be more productive and develop greater connections to their communities.

With a little luck, maybe you’ll publish an idea or an accomplishment to your company’s team site and compose it in a way that really sticks with the audience. Afterward you can come back and tell me that it worked, or that this advice is a bunch of nuclear-grade BS. Either way, we’ll both learn something and grow from it. And it will all be because I wrote a peculiar article about beards and business.

Sometimes at work we can get a little … backed up. When things aren’t flowing properly, it can be uncomfortable, to say the least. Fortunately, all it takes to get things moving again is the proper alignment and technique.

I am, of course, referring to a strong internal communication strategy—and, perhaps inadvertently, the ad campaign for the Squatty Potty.

Every organization lives and dies according to how it moves information from one person, team, or department to another. A kink in the communications pipeline can have dramatic effects over time and make it difficult for workers to do their jobs properly. Consider the following quote from a paper published by the Institute for Public Relations: “The competitive advantage of strategic internal communication comes not only from the obvious benefits of employee satisfaction and productivity, but also from the positive contributions that well-informed employees can make to a company’s external public relations efforts.”

In fact, according to a study commissioned by Cisco and Forrester Research, 77 percent of respondents stated “if their company became known for rapid problem resolution and reduced delays in internal communications, customer satisfaction would improve.”

Proper internal communications—when critical information is accessible, free-flowing, and easy to find—help businesses succeed. Alternatively, tangled, messy internal communications can have the opposite effect. Lacking an effective strategy, employees can become disengaged from the business as a whole. And according to PDP Solutions, actively disengaged employees turns into productivity losses of about $450 to $550 billion.

With that in mind, here are a few tips and solutions to consider when streamlining your own internal communications and information flow.

1: Rethink Your Newsletter

Internal newsletters are great—except when they’re not. Admittedly, a lot of internal newsletters are not that great. They’re often routine, dull, and easily lost among the background noise of the workplace. Why else would the industry standard for e-newsletters be an abysmal 20 to 40 percent open rate? In other words, many companies sometimes struggle to have between one- and two-fifths of their employees read company newsletters, which can take days or weeks to compile.

Rather than continuously pumping out the same old content, why not scrap the old format and remold it into something your employees will not only open, but actually find to be useful? And to prove it can be done, you need look no further than how a Microsoft global advertising group increased engagement through shared storytelling.

The group not only reformatted its newsletter from a slow-drip email into a dynamic, organic, and crowd-sourced team site, but it restructured its content to be more engaging and dynamic. Through this restructure and reformat, the advertising group saw its employee engagement rates increase from 35 percent to 85 percent. That’s more than double the industry standard.

2: Work Out Loud

It does you no good to bottle up information. This is commonly portrayed as working in silos, which can stop work dead in its tracks. ClearCompany found through a survey that “97 percent of employees and executives believe lack of alignment within a team impacts the outcome of a task or project.” In other words, people have difficulty working when they don’t know what others are doing.

On the other hand, you can open up your workflow by working out loud. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, working out loud is exactly what it sounds like: In as much as you can, you make your work visible. You take notes in the open. You create projects openly. You provide feedback in the open. There are, of course, exceptions (some degree of privacy and discretion is always necessary), but you try to abide by the philosophy that company information is better when it’s freed from silos and accessible by all.

Granted, this way of working does require some acclimation among you and your employees. After a short while, though, you will begin to see the benefits of unchaining information and processes. Working out loud helps push new, innovative ideas to the forefront. It allows employees to evolve their work on the fly. It helps bind your company around a common purpose.

3: Compartmentalize

There’s an old expression that says when you have a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. This is often the case with internal communications tools. At work, there are many types of communications, but we often try to pigeonhole all of our messages—regardless of length, tone, and urgency—into the inbox. In that way, we’ve stripped the sanctity of email and tried to force it to do things it was never built for.

A simpler, better option, is to divvy up communication based on the tool that best suits it. This means dividing communications into conversations (informal), creative tasks (work), and consumption (formal publishing). At Carpool, we call this process compartmentalization, which is a fancy way of saying we allow our tools to work for us and suit our needs, rather than trying to make our needs fit the tool

For example, we don’t hold large discussions over email, but instead house those conversations on our enterprise social network. We don’t issue a newsletter, but instead encourage employees to publish articles via the Carpool Team Site.

Using this principle, we avoid the pitfalls of an overextended, myopic communication strategy, and unchain the communications that were once held back by email.

Your Two Cents?

What methods do you use to free up the flow of information and improve your workplace. Let us know on Facebook, or tweet at us.

Facebook at Work is now Workplace by Facebook, and the rollout recently made the rounds of business news outlets like Fast Company and Forbes.

Regardless of the branding or the buzz around Facebook’s foray into business communications networks, the real question is “So what?”

So what if it’s Facebook at work? So what if it’s competing in the enterprise social space? And so what if it’s got a new name or a new look?

What most professionals really want to know is, “Does it work?” Not just does it work, but can Workplace be useful as a communications platform for business. Even more so, is it a better way to communicate than other platforms like email?

At Carpool, we’ve been using Workplace for several months and implementing it in our daily communications. Actually, we don’t send any emails internally and rely solely on Workplace to handle our informal communications, which is particularly important because of our environment.

If you’re new to Workplace—or new to using social tools in the enterprise for that matter—here are a few features you might not know about that will help you make the most of the tool at work.

Live Video Broadcasts

Video is big and getting bigger. In fact, in 2011, the firm Melcrum found that 93 percent of internal communication professionals reported that video is essential. In the years since, video has only grown more essential to workplace communications. Compared to other internal comms—newsletters, emails, chat—video is remarkably easy to compile these days, quick to deliver to an internal audience, and easily consumable.

Particularly in the areas of asynchronous communication, video offers a wealth of opportunity to get work done faster and in a remote workplace.

Workplace recently added live video to the platform. As live video broadcasts gain a foothold in the consumer world on the consumer Facebook site, Workplace presents the opportunity for people in your company to quickly broadcast their thoughts and important updates while gathering feedback from anyone who chooses to watch.

At Carpool, we’ve been using Workplace video much more to share what we’re doing and to work remotely.

Trending Topics

As with any communication channel that brings together a lot of people, Workplace can feel a bit noisy when many people are communicating. One obvious way to negate the amount of noise is to divide your network into groups that play host to conversations based on the topic, team, business goal, etc. In order to stay on top of all those issues, you could subscribe to every group—which we do not recommend as it will lead to the same issue many people experience with inbox overload—or browse through the different groups to see what people are talking about.

Better yet, you can use Workplace’s trending topics feature. Trending topics filter through all the conversations taking place on Workplace to find those that are generating the most interest among your employees. Much like the feature on the consumer version of Facebook, Workplace’s trending topics will bring to the forefront the content you need to know while not overloading you with everything that is being discussed.

Group Chat

Ideally, most, if not all, of your communications should take place in group threads. Of course, it’s not always feasible or wise to talk about some things in the open. Likewise, there are times when a quick chat is a more efficient way to coordinate.

Fortunately, Workplace allows multiple people to jump into one chat, making it easy to coordinate between individuals and across teams. You can also add people to the conversation in chat, much in the same way that you can in an ordinary group thread. There’s also a one-click method of starting a chat will all the members of a group. At Carpool, there are some groups that include everyone in the company. This means we can instantly open a chat room with everyone in the office at once—very useful when you got the office first and forgot your key.

Get Notifications in Your Inbox

Yes, you can forward Facebook at Work notifications to your inbox. Why would you want to? Well, we’re not really sure, but some people have a hard time saying goodbye to email. This is a great feature to onboard some of the more hesitant types as it will notify them in a place they already use and slowly, but surely, draw them away from the inbox and into a more open, social, and collaborative network.

Emojis, GIFs, and Other Fun Stuff

OK, you may have guessed this was included 😃. Although Facebook at Work differs greatly from your at-home Facebook experience, the ability to add emojis, stickers, GIFs, and reactions—like, wow, funny, etc.—lets people express their personalities and weave stronger connections with coworkers.

Your company culture isn’t just about making work an enjoyable experience, it is the glue that holds your organization together. According to a study by Columbia University, turnover at organizations with “rich company culture” is just 13.9 percent, whereas turnover at places with poor culture is more than three times that rate at 48.4 percent. With a poor company culture, you will likely lose nearly half of your employees and with them an almost immeasurable amount of institutional knowledge, experience, and money spent on training new hires.

Analytics

The role of the manager is changing. Today’s managers are no longer babysitters—at least, they shouldn’t be—but are instead data-driven productivity machines. A tool like Workplace offers so much more because it allows managers to measure actual productivity. Using the built-in analytics, you can see how information flows in an organization.

Speaking about the evolution of the workplace and transitioning into a remote work environment—which requires a heavy reliance on communication tools like Workplace—Carpool Co-founder Jarom Reid explained that the new role of the manager is fueled by the tools and data at their disposal.

“We’ve talked to clients about this, we’ve noticed it ourselves that a middle manager is essentially a glorified babysitter where the intent is, ‘We’ll give you 10 people that report to you and your job is to make them like you so that we can become 10 times more productive than we were when it was just you.’ The evolution of that middle manager, I think, is still the same outcome, but the way you get to that point is a little different, where you’re not necessarily babysitting them every day—watching over their shoulder, making sure that their at their seat, at their desk, etc.—you’re looking at what they’re producing, their output if you will.”

Reid went on to say “we track that using our tools—we can look using [Workplace]; we can look using Asana, our task-tracking tool; we can use SharePoint; we can utilize Harvest, which is our hour-tracking tool—we’ve got these tools that are telling stories about how our people are working. Because that digital footprint is there, we’re able to analyze what that footprint looks like; we’re able to see gaps.”

Final Thoughts

Tools like Workplace are about more than features. They hold the potential to deeply embed in your company culture and fundamentally shift the way you work. For Carpool, Workplace and Yammer are the linchpin that allows us to operate in a remote, digital office.

We preach the gospel of collaborative networks like these because we know, first-hand, what they can do for others. While change can feel intimidating, particularly when it involves pivoting from a cornerstone of communication like email, there are so many benefits to evolving the way we communicate at work. And we want to help others on their journey to becoming more agile and productive.

Let us know what you think and how we can help you by reaching out to Carpool Agency on Facebook and Twitter.