Your Employees Aren’t Consumers. They have Too Many Expectations. 

Your employee’s consumer behaviour won’t translate to the workplace. The barrier to consumer style adoption is the impact of your systems and culture. Implementation of technology alone does not address these cultural and systemic issues.

A common question for any vendor of future of work tools is ‘why do I need to invest in change and adoption? Aren’t consumers adopting these tools quickly?’  Consumer adoption of new tools is exciting. The vendors of consumer product have developed a new science of fostering adoption and engagement.

How Consumer Adoption Works

Successful consumer tools are designed to accelerate adoption. They spread through human networks using role modelling, social proof and by enabling these relationships to build on network effects to create standards of interaction.

The features and algorithms of these products are constantly tweaked to reward individuals for their use of the tool and to foster the social value that individuals seek from the tool. Because the vendors are only concerned with consumer behaviour on the platform, they have all the data that they need.

Make a mistake by adopting the wrong consumer tool and you simply walk away from the mistake. It is likely you discover it is the wrong tool because your friends and family don’t join you in using it. Switch to another tool and try again.

The only barriers to this consumer adoption are access, legal rules, and social acceptability. Given the cultural diversity of society and the rapid diffusion of new ideas in consumer society, the last barrier is malleable with enough time, enough users and a big enough marketing budget.

Unravelling The Corporate Barriers

Your employees aren’t consumers roaming the world with their own choice of relationships and their own choice of social standards. Employees are locked into relationships by their work, their roles and the systems of the organisation. Cultural and performance standards are managed tightly. Productivity pressures are deliberately real and demanding.

Culture is the expectation of how people will behave in work interactions. Culture is a tight envelope on what actions are acceptable to peers and managers. Culture shapes individual’s reputations which play a large role in the trust, work effectiveness and future career opportunities of individuals. Breaches of these expectations don’t cause mere social disapproval. They have real consequences for performance ratings and ultimately whether someone gets to keep their job.

Employees have been deeply trained in the performance ethic of organisations. Without a clear sense that a new way of working is authorised, more efficient and achieving a worthwhile goal of the organisation, they will rightfully refuse to take it on. Leadership plays a key role in providing this reassurance and setting a strategy for the work value of a tool.

The social, work and management systems of your organisation are designed to enforce a standardised way of working and standardised behaviours. These standards reach far beyond one tool. Your new tool is trying to introduce new ways or working and new ways of interaction. The benefits case depends on users using the tool in new way. Any tool that conflicts with one of these existing organisational systems will fail to realise its full potential.

Some brave Change Agents and early adopters will fight your systems to help adoption. Like consumers, they will try to change on the promise of the tool and fight the system pushback. Their success will depend on the ability of your culture and systems to adapt and the support they receive from leaders. The best way to ensure success is to invest in the change and adoption resources required to support this adaptation of work.

An investment in change and adoption to support your new tools must be more than communicating a new use case. Change and adoption support must be about enabling the organisation’s culture and systems to adapt to realise the strategic business value of the new tool. Change and adoption support must be about realising a richer level of trust in the new tools, new ways of working and each other. The path to greater maturity of usage and business value depends on it.

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