Just how do you transfer remote workers from analogue to digital ways of working?
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A new report from Bersin by Deloitte about Business and HR predictions for 2017 confirms that everything is becoming digital as businesses operate in real-time, dealing with a multitude of communications and via a network of teams.
As a result, businesses need to recognise and address this change, rebuilding companies into digital organisations, while also improving the employee experience and driving a strong well-aligned culture.
But what happens when you have a large organisation with many remote, field based staff for whom new digital resources are an unfamiliar concept? How do you ensure your workforce understands the benefits of these resources to their roles and engages with them?
It’s a problem which Network Rail faced and we helped them to address.
Recognise the issue
In the case of Network Rail, new tools and technology to improve the acquisition, storage and usage of information about the renewal and repair of track and other physical assets across the network were introduced to maintain a safer, more efficient railway network for both passengers and workers.
But knowing that workers would have been familiar with more traditional paper-based methods of recording, updating and sharing information, there were likely to be barriers to overcome in terms of knowledge and acceptance of the new technology.
It was therefore vital that these tools were supported by clear and accessible messages which brought home the benefits of using these resources and how they could enable people to work better, faster and more simply.
Create a clear, strong messaging framework for different audiences
Before any kind of messaging framework can be developed, it’s essential to understand the day-to-day working lives of the audiences you’re talking to and the impact that the tools can have. This information can then be translated into language and scenarios which make the benefits of these tools and resources abundantly clear.
Different kinds of workers require different solutions
The new tools introduced by Network Rail were to be used by three different audiences, who inputted the information, analysed it and acted upon it respectively – all of whom worked in different locations.
It was therefore imperative to have a clear understanding as to how the new resources would be used by each group, the benefits they would bring and importantly the impact that each groups’ work would have on the work of the others.
Taking this information, a message framework was developed that outlined the application of the tools, benefits and key messages for each audience – all while using familiar language and tone to be able to create a sense of cohesion.
Use offline channels
When introducing new tools and technology to staff who are used to more traditional methods of communication, it’s essential that offline channels are used as part of the campaign roll out to create a sense of familiarity with the audience.
Most of all, a disruptive approach where key messages appear in places that staff wouldn’t expect to see them but can’t ignore them often holds the greatest success at grabbing staff’s attention, making them stop and think.
As the new tools and technology introduced by Network Rail were a far cry from the paper-based methods previously used, the key message framework was developed to work across both offline and online platforms.
Campaign collateral was distributed widely across the company with a campaign video, posters, email banners, and a range of display and exhibition materials. There was even talk of foil wrapping the track-side sheds, as well as the wrappers of KitKats commonly consumed at tea breaks with key campaign messages!
Nudge don’t push
Nudge theory is a recognised concept in behavioural science which argues that one of the most powerful ways we can persuade people to do something or act in a certain way is to place prompts or encouraging messages right in front of them.
A ‘nudge’ refers to the idea and process of encouraging behaviour, whilst allowing the user the freedom to make decisions, rather than dictating to them.
Sometimes, a nudge is all it takes
Network Rail used nudge theory to encourage its workforce to adopt the use of the new technologies rather than mandating it through formal rules.
At the core of the key messaging framework was a call to action ‘Be Part Of It’ supported by sub messages which brought to life the objective of the new technology, the benefits to the entire workforce and reinforced what the platforms were already achieving and hence why the staff wouldn’t want to be the last to jump on board.
If all of these elements are put into practice, companies can ensure that the serious investments they put into tools and data analysis can not only create a return, but also have a positive impact on the confidence and morale of their staff.
We live in an increasingly connected and digital world, and businesses need to do everything they can to ensure their staff can make sense of this environment, and use these tools and opportunities to their direct advantage.
While the full benefits of the new tools and technology at Network Rail won’t be fully realised for a few years to come, the anecdotal feedback on their uptake and the resulting performance of their use has been extremely positive.
The key thing to remember is that your digital tools are only as good as the people who use them so it makes business sense to ensure your workforce understand the benefits and feel empowered to use them.
Frances Jackson is CEO of OPX, a design consultancy that helps organisations to manage change by designing brands and experiences that make a difference, with clients including Unilever, Arup, and Network Rail.