Helpful resources for ensuring business continuity during COVID-19 pandemic. From advice on transitioning to a remote workplace and maintaining company productivity to lessons on connecting workforce and encouraging employee engagement during a crisis.

Accomplish More with Your Remote Meetings – 5 Tips from Remote Meeting Experts

There are very few things we truly have control over, and a pandemic is not one of them.

In these past few months spent in isolation, our DevFacto UX team has reflected over the processes that made us successfully pivot into remote working – what works, what doesn’t, and why the mute button is so much more elusive whenever there’s more people in a meeting. Early on, we shifted all of our discovery workshops online and developed a formula for facilitating effective remote meetings via Microsoft Teams. Here, we share our top tips on how to make remote meetings work.

See, for us, UX professionals, being in the same room with our customer early in the project is incredibly beneficial to the final product. It is actually one of the reasons why we turn our software discovery sessions into collaborative ideation workshops.

Normally, we run these sessions in person, sometimes even in a specially designed room. During ideations, the group comprised of client stakeholders generates divergent ideas and converges on an action or decision to move forward. As a UX designer, this is usually the longest stretch I get to communicate with clients in person. It’s also my best shot at gaining a full understanding of the complex business problems they face. Being so, the workshop becomes a crucial step in establishing the necessary amount of trust to build software that humans love to use. Understandably, the stakes for our remote meetings are high because the success of the final product starts with expert meeting facilitation.

How do we understand a problem, gather requirements, and design a solution when we can’t meet our customers face to face? It starts by following these five tips during our Microsoft Teams meetings (but you use these with any remote meeting tool):

Tip 1: Turn on your camera

When we think about remote working, the most difficult barrier is the inescapable awkwardness of trying to collaborate while we are physically alone. Where the solution begins, is us – the facilitator of these sessions.

It was my eighth-grade teacher that told me, “trust takes years to build but just a moment to break”. I can’t imagine how long it would take to build trust trying to facilitate workshops remotely with your camera off.

Tip 2: Acknowledge that virtual meetings are awkward.

The first step in eliminating something is to acknowledge it. There is a spirit to human connection that a computer could never replicate. The subtleties in facial expressions. The cues we get from an intake of breath. Shifts in posture. The presence a person brings to a room.

What we found was the most pivotal in creating an engaging environment was to acknowledge firstly, that this can be awkward, probably will feel awkward, and it is not ideal. Then to establish a human connection, we start by turning our cameras on, looking into it when we speak, and making it apparent that we are not bots on the other side of the screen. We are humans enduring something that is completely out of our control and making the best of it.

Tip 3: Energize meeting participants

Another barrier we have come to identify is the lack of eagerness to asking questions.

Think about it in a typical workshop setting. Questions come up when a facilitator gives space for participants to feel comfortable asking them. We take these cues from a facilitator when that space has been created in the pauses in their speech and the open air, they let fill the room. When we find ourselves in remote settings, those kinds of cues are gone, resulting in fewer questions and less engagement.

Our solution is to start off with an ice breaker, aka energizer activity, at the beginning of these remote sessions. These serve to get everyone involved in a meeting, but they also come with another purpose – to create confidence through education. At DevFacto, we specifically choose exercises that can introduce concepts related to the workshop we are running to equip participants with the knowledge and confidence needed to share opinions.

This knowledge usually comes in the form of guidelines and terminology. We found that by doing so, participants felt more comfortable and assured in voicing their opinions and, at the same time, we were able to give them deeper insight on why we were making certain recommendations.

Tip 4: Plan silence

Another method we use at DevFacto is to frequently pause to ask for questions and have slides with questions to serve as a prompt to participants. My advice to remote meeting facilitators is to be comfortable facilitating to silence – it’s necessary for reflection.

Tip 5: Give your meeting participants a sense of control.

Our final barrier that we’ve identified is the distraction that comes from working in a home environment. Part of creating a space for collaboration is making sure the participants know what is expected of them in a meeting. Do not surprise your participants with tools they need to download and links they need to visit on the spot.

Give your participants a sense of control with a more transparent approach and send out a detailed agenda prior to a remote meeting. Include how long each activity will take, any links or tools they should have ready, and when the breaks are going to be scheduled.

For each break, encourage the participants to turn off their cameras, mute their mics, and stand up. Once everyone has settled back into the meeting, re-energize them again with a light-hearted activity.

Keep in mind to choose activities that require collaboration and interaction to keep your participants engaged. At DevFacto, we’ve adapted by introducing online collaboration tools like Mural into our workflow with features that allow participants to add, remove, and vote. Some of the best exercises to facilitate remotely are retrospectives, problem framing discussions, and journey mapping.

When we remember the human side of facilitation, doing it remotely doesn’t seem so overwhelming. The thing is a good facilitator is a good facilitator. Enter any space and make it safe to share ideas, offer yourself in an honest way, and recognized the value in the insights of your participants. Remote collaboration is a unique experience that requires an adaptable and flexible way of facilitation. Once you overcome the barrier that is your screen, you will see the amazing connections humans can build.

For consulting on getting the most out of your company’s new remote working landscape, contact us at https://www.devfacto.com/contact-us/.

Using Data to Mitigate the Impact of COVID-19 on Today’s Businesses

As the concern over COVID-19 continues, companies globally are exploring actions they need to take now to maintain their business. This crisis has hammered organizations forcing layoffs, reducing services, and creating anxiety among leaders and employees alike.

The C-suite has a vital role in making sure the organization can function as concern mounts over the scale and impact of the pandemic. They are being forced to make tough decisions about how to operate amid the chaos. What should they focus on, where can they cut, and how to prepare for the new world as the crisis eventually lifts – these are the thoughts weighing heavy on leaders’ minds today. Pairing high levels of uncertainty with mass amounts of new information mean they have to forge ahead without the luxury of past experience to help navigate.

There is a reason for hope, however. Information, data insights, and technology have fundamentally changed our capacity to successfully manage a threat like this pandemic and adapt for the future. Taking advantage of your data effectively to guide business practice and improve the well-being of the organization and its employees is the single best option to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.

Transforming data into actionable information and analytics that drive business decisions will fast-track the return to normalcy. Volumes of raw operational data are just waiting to be turned into valuable business intelligence assets that will draw the path forward.

Business intelligence helps leaders frame their strategy in three ways:

Looking at today

Understanding real-time or near real-time data trends will help prescribe rather than predict scenarios.

Having complete visibility into cash flows and other operational metrics is a critical first step to understanding the current business situation and achieving working capital performance goals.

Gaining access to available government incentives and programs and recognizing expense-reduction opportunities are a couple of examples of responding to the immediate cash-flow management challenges. Focusing on current business needs is integral to a companies’ overall COVID-19 risk assessment and action planning in the near term.

Looking to the future

The most critical analysis is a forward-looking perspective. Foresight provides organizations with the business and operating capabilities they need to position themselves for a successful post-crisis recovery.

A detailed assessment of future working capital and cash-flow requirements along with key business and division unit metrics will help to understand at what point, if any, is the continuation of certain operations no longer viable and suspending business activities preferable. Alternatively, the metrics could indicate what variable measures should or can be taken to ensure healthy operation.

Run scenario planning to ensure financing remains viable and to understand how much cash is needed and for how long. This informs considerations around such things as determining what capital investments can be postponed and which are required for creating a competitive advantage in the rebound. Gaining insight into end-to-end supply chain visibility for future demand planning, inventory management, and production planning and scheduling can ensure you have a robust framework for managing supply chain risk. Depending on what the financial scenario planning reveals, you may need to consider alternative financing options to support the future success of the business.

Looking back

Does the past predict the future? Maybe not, but it is the best way to protect us from being blindsided by any future structural shaking scenarios like this pandemic. Monitoring and measuring how the business gets through this crisis remains the best way to forecast for the future. Now is an excellent time to measure and evaluate business efficiencies, or inefficiencies, stemming from the alternate models of work that have been adopted.

There are two ways businesses can come through this crisis. You can use data to tell the story about the past, the present, and the future, or you can use a personal perspective (from gut instinct to experience). The problem with using your personal view is that it is often filled with bias and assumption. Using data is the only objective way to measure risk and lessen the impact of COVID-19 on today’s businesses.

Organizations that gain insight into their business in new and innovative ways will outperform those that don’t by making data-driven decisions that mitigate risk, drive innovation, and take advantage of opportunities for efficiency.

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The Changing Shape of Digital Transformation

The moment of truth – will COVID-19 be the tipping point for digital transformation.

 

If “necessity is the mother of invention,” than COVID-19 has forced business leaders all around the world to rethink their digital transformation strategies.

At its core, coronavirus is disruption. What it really is, is a disruption frenzy, as nations try to slow the virus, this pandemic is impacting our political environment, our healthcare system, our economy, and the way we use technology. When disruption comes, businesses must adapt or die. And, not just adapt but adapt better and faster than competitors.

The truth is, even before COVID-19, the business world was changing at a pace that was hard to keep up. Those businesses that had already embraced a culture of change and realized their digital transformation goals might have been better prepared for this disruption than others. For others, it’s been a challenge. A recent survey by Gartner reports that only 12% of organizations are highly prepared for the impact of coronavirus. This does not mean you should hunker down and wait out COVID-19, it’s time to rev up your digital engine and position yourself for growth when the pandemic subsides.

Here are the areas you should be focusing on:

Cloud first

As COVID-19 pushes businesses to their limit, there has never been a better time to focus on cloud strategies. With the rapid response to the pandemic, millions of people have shifted remote work, pushing companies to adopt cloud-based solutions at an unprecedented rate. Rapid to deploy, cloud-based solutions are the reason organizations around the world remain productive during this time. If there was ever a good time to migrate to the cloud, this is it.

Boost process automation

Unexpected circumstances place an added burden on the workforce. Consider automating repetitive processes to free up teams and allow them to focus on more meaningful work. Extending automation throughout the enterprise can help mitigate disruption and offer stability in times of uncertainty.

Harness the power of data

Now more than ever, business leaders need to analyze risks and develop the best methods for mitigating them. They need to know the effectiveness of the current recovery processes. To do this, they need to use data effectively to guide business decisions and improve the well-being of the organization and its employees. Fostering a data-driven organization galvanizes the vision of faster, better-informed decisions to enable businesses to return to normalcy sooner.

Be champions of collaboration

No matter the industry, digital collaboration platforms are the foundation of work during the pandemic. The success of operations today highly relies on the ability to collaborate in real-time and from anywhere. Many businesses are recognizing the need to improve collaboration to ensure business continuity now and into the future.

Deliver valuable experiences

As the coronavirus crisis accelerates the transition to a digital future, the shift to digital customer experience also hits fast-forward. Empathic tools such as service design and design thinking seek to address customers’ acute needs and forge stronger ties with the market in the post-COVID-19 era. Reimagining customer experience to meet the changing needs should drive your next steps in your digital transformation journey.

The new era of business reinvention is upon us. For most industries, revenues will fall in 2020, that’s a given. But companies can emerge stronger, more innovative, and more purposeful. By creating a forward-thinking, customer-focused digital company, leadership teams can mitigate today’s threat and accelerate into an eventual recovery.

 

COVID-19 Business Intelligence

Working in the Cloud: Tips for Better Remote Work

I still remember the first time I heard the term, “cloud”. It seemed critical to the seminar I was attending, confused, I passed a note to my colleague “Cloud????” He stifled a laugh and passed the note back, it read “Internet.” Ohhhh. 

Fast-forward 10-15 years and I now work for DevFacto, where we make software that humans love to use. I am responsible for delivery of our consulting projects and Chris Buchanan is responsible for the technology on our consulting projects. I have come a long way, but I am still not “technical” and could notshould not, would not get into a debate with anyone about the pros and cons of different aspects of technology. 

BUT. 

As a people leader and an information worker, I can assure you that working in the cloud is the key to my productivity and success these days. 

Prior to working from home full-time, my days were filled with meetingsboth internal and client-facing, ad hoc discussions and independent work. Yet, I was able to transition to working from home seamlessly. I literally took my laptop home on a Friday and stared working again on Monday with very little fuss. Here’s how: 

Better Remote Meetings

Instead of meeting in-person, I moved all my meetings to Microsoft Teams. Many of my DevFacto colleagues use their laptop cameras so we can still see each other’s facial expressions while we video conference. I share my desktop for others to see, just like I would have shared it to a projector in a meeting room. Meeting attendees often share files, links and comments in the online “chat, which makes it easy to keep all the relevant information in a single place without having to switch back and forth between Teams and email. When needed, I record the meetings so that we can all refer back to the topics that were discussed.  

I keep my meeting notes in a Microsoft OneNote which automatically syncs between the cloud and my computer, so I can easily access it anytime.  

Finally, Teams makes it easy for others outside my organization to join a callAnd when I want to send a meeting invite, Microsoft Outlook adds a Teams link automatically, so I don’t need to worry about copying and pasting. 

Better Ad hoc Discussions

I also use Microsoft Teams to replace popping by someone’s office or stopping them in the hallway to ask a question. Teams has a chat feature that keeps an ongoing history of my discussions with someone. I can see their status and if it’s appropriate, send an instant message (IM). If I need to discuss something with a group, I just add new participants to the chat so that everyone is involved 

Occasionally my quick question requires more discussion and I can launch a voice or video call right from the chat window. Teams also has an app for my iPhone (and configurable notifications!), which has proven handy when I’m away from my desk and someone is trying to reach me. The app also syncs with many smart watches, if you want to get alerts even when your phone is out of reach. 

Better Independent Work

The independent work that I do usually involves the Office suite: Word, Excel, PowerPoint. Prior to working from home, I was already disciplined about storing my documents either in Microsoft SharePoint or Teams. The few things that are saved to my PC are synced to OneDrive. This means that I can always access all my documents, no matter what. If my work computer stops working or isn’t with me, I can still access the information from a different computer or my phone simply by logging into Microsoft. No VPN or other magic required.  

The administrative aspects of my work also involve a mix of cloud-based applicationsThat part of my work also remains unchanged – I still regularly catch up on corporate news via Sparrow, review timesheets and project progress in Mavenlink, approve time off requests in ADP Workforce Now, or submit personal expense reports in Xero. 

I recognize that I am fortunate to work for a technology company where cloud has been the way of way of life for quite some timeToday, these same cloud-based applications and workplace collaboration platforms are helping us weather the storm and continuously deliver software to clients just like before. We are working together almost as well as when we get to meet in person at the office (I say almost, because nothing beats the Friday Beer o’Clock with my coworkers) 

Looking to work better remotely

Don’t Let COVID-19 Cripple Your IT Application Support

Helping you through your COVID-19 response

As the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues, and with 50% of the world’s population under a lockdown, many businesses find themselves supporting an entirely remote workforce. The gradual shift to cloud computing did a lot to help us manage this transition. Yet, the truth remains: most organizations aren’t designed to handle work that’s exclusively remote. Naturally, this puts IT organizations under new pressures to support an ever-increasing flood of requests from maintaining and supporting applications to enhancing the new ways of working.  

Remarkably, IT teams are progressing on remote work efforts at incredible speeds, moving systems in weeks rather than in months, according to Herb Schul, EY Americas Advisory Markets, Sectors and Solutions Leader. “Necessity and immediate need eliminate the typical barriers,” says Schul. “It’s been interesting to see the world adapt to working remotely so quickly.”

While supporting the core systems and applications that are running the remote business is essential, establishing and implementing a plan for business continuity is also at the top of IT leaders’ lists of priorities.

“There is undoubtedly a demand for maintaining the core environment and ‘keeping the lights on,'” says Ali Halat, Director of Managed Application Services at DevFacto. “But when this period ends, and it will, there must be a plan in place to recover from this merciless pandemic.”

We need to acknowledge that to weather this crisis and come out of it on the other end, IT leaders need to step back and evaluate their resources to determine where they should focus their time. Is it maintaining the surge of immediate requests or shifting over to focus on actions to prepare for profitable growth post-COVID-19?

We see a growing number of organizations struggle with allocating resources to maintain the core applications, while they adjust to the new normal and continue to respond to market needs. 

This is why we want to let you know we’re here to support you. To make the months ahead easier for your team, we have developed flexible and cost-effective application support services. Your situation is unique, and the challenges you’re facing evolve each day. We’ll help you support, manage, and enhance applications while ensuring continuity in the support model during the difficult months ahead. We’ll help balance day-to-day running with business continuity, and we will provide turnkey remote support. Our goal is to free up your teams to focus on strategic business needs. By augmenting your capacity and ensuring support coverage during this crisis, you will stabilize your operation support and maintenance. 

This is uncharted waters for everyone. Understanding what steps need to be taken today, while preparing for the shifts in strategy once the worst is over will be essential. The months ahead won’t be easy, but they can position your organization for growth when the pandemic subsides.  

 

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Tips for Engaging Remote Employees During the Coronavirus Quarantine

How to keep employee morale up when facing what will likely be the worst crisis in recent history? Remote work can wear down even the most experienced workers. It requires a different mindset than working in an office where employees interact with each other daily in person. Engaging remote employees is notoriously difficult. At the best of times, 20% of remote employees say they lose a sense of belonging and sometimes feel disconnected and lonely when they’re working from home. This number will most likely increase when more people join the ranks of remote employees due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

As the pandemic grows, so does the pressure on internal communications.  

Your employees naturally have questions that need answering. They want to know how the coronavirus will affect their work and what’s the company’s plan for mitigating the risks brought by the pandemic. Finally, they want to know if they will get to keep their jobs.  

You inform your employees and answer their questions right away. You can’t leave their questions unanswered. And, although unintentional, this can mean your internal communications ends up sounding quite serious at timesHow do you avoid eroding your people’s morale and productivity in this difficult time? 

Since coffee with a coworker and water-cooler talks are off the table, internal communications should evolve too and include some casual fun posts to keep both engagement and spirits up.  

Make Internal Communications More Human 

Here are some ideas for less-formal internal communications to help your people feel connected and supported: 

Share Breakthroughs and Uplifting News about the Virus

Sharing positive news about what’s happening in the world and your community can help loosen up deep-seated fears. For example, our own CEO shared his story of getting tested (he tested negative, in case you were wondering). It humanized the experience, gave hope, and created an opportunity for those who might go through the same thing to reach out and connect with him. 

Sharing good news with organization during coronavirus pandemic

Shine the Spotlight on Your (Remote) Employees

This classic ‘get to you know you’ post, highlights something unique and unknown about an employee. Have an employee share a little-known fact about themselves; their identity is only revealed at the end of the post. This exercise proved to be a lot of fun on my team. I didn’t know that we had a former championship bowler and a former police officer. If your internal communications tool lets you include photo and video, you can leverage that to make the post even more fun.  

Good News from Within

Share a ‘good deed’ story that the organization or someone within the organization has done to help the community. Every company has inspiring stories that are waiting to be told perhaps someone volunteers their time to an important cause or the company raised money to support a charity. Including motivational or inspiring stories feeds the sense of being part of something good. 

Give a Shout Out

Recognize those who go the extra mile. This ask your co-workers: who’s been awesome this week?”. Employees can submit their responses via the comments section including the colleague’s name and a story about something that happened to them. It’s a form of kudos that’s less formal and more conversational.  

Having Some Fun: The Imaginary Commute

Share a fun post about a disrupted daily routine. Here’s one I shared with my team the other day about my encounter with fiery dragons and puppy dog stares.  

Engaging remote employees during covid-19 with fun posts

Break Thing up and Start a Story

This is a form of the kids’ game, Pass the Story. Post a short prompt and ask people to comment with the next piece in the tale. Who knows, your team could be writing the next NYT’s bestseller. You can think of other creative ways to engage your teams by helping them create fun content to share and interact with.  

Share Tips for Coping with the Crisis

The pandemic is affecting your employees differently. Those who are parents may be overwhelmed with keeping their kids engaged while schools are closed. Others, might be struggling with planning their life around remote work.  

Take this opportunity to highlight a resource or have someone share their schedule for one day so everyone can benefit from other’s creativity. You can embed video links to recommended content for kids, or help co-workers organize dinner plans by sharing recipes. At the bottom of the post, ask people to suggest the next day’s feature idea, while in the comments, they can discuss what’s been proposed.  

Set a Tempo 

Having a variety of posts is great, but you will also need to maintain a schedule of publishingWhen people see there’s a pulse of different types of content provided, without it being a merciless barrage of notifications, it builds a sense of pattern and structure. This helps underpin their day and week. 

Gather Instant Feedback 

Poll employees to get quick feedback. For example, you could ask them if they have all the resources they need to work from home.  

In Sparrow, you can use the compliance post feature to do just that. Compliance posts allow employees to check a box to reply to the post. Normally, this feature is for policy updates or to confirm understanding. But you can also use them to quickly find out who needs extra help. Here, is an example: 

Internal communications during coronavirus pandemic

You’ll get an automatic report with names of people who check the box making it easy to plan further follow-ups. The post can be set to expire after a day or two so that it’s not open-ended. 

Poll employees to increase engagement among remote employees

Surveys or polls, are another way to engage people. They can be used to measure the pulse of the organization and see how connected your employees are. They can also be used to understand how employees are doingHere are some questions you could ask your staff: 

  • How many departments have you connected with this week? 
  • How many people have you video called this week? 
  • What’s the best way to break up your day? A. Walk, B. Workout C. Coffee/tea break D. Howling at the moon (always provide one silly option). 

Lower the formality and increase the humanity 

Because much of our social interactions happen at the office, remote work comes with a higher risk of social isolation. Adding uplifting information and a touch of humor to your internal communications keeps your tribe engaged and connected through the crisis. 

Have you tried any of these methods? Are there other ones you recommend? Let me know in the comments.

 

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Stay Connected During COVID-19 with Free Internal Communications Tool

Enhance internal communications during the Coronavirus pandemic, with Sparrow. Now available to all businesses for free.

In this time of uncertainty, businesses are facing unprecedented challenges in how they work remotely and stay connected during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

As a growing business ourselves, we understand the importance of effectively communicating with the entire workforce in times of crisis and social distancing. Emails and intranets alone aren’t enough when your organization seeks dynamic updates, or when your employees are working remotely.

As such, we want to play our part in helping businesses stay connected, informed, and productive in the challenging months ahead. That’s why we are offering Sparrow’s mobile app for free through to June 30, 2020.

Sparrow is a rapidly deployable communications platform that’s capable of providing a layer of trust and assurance throughout the organization. Whether its issuing time-sensitive information or pushing out safety updates and ensuring they are read, Sparrow’s built to handle these critical communications.

We are seeing a lift in utilization in response to the pandemic and I’m happy to report that Sparrow is making a difference for many organizations. If you are not yet familiar with Sparrow, I encourage you to check it out.

Sparrow is an award-winning platform that elevates internal communications and engagement. Connects employees meaningfully when and where they engage the most. Ensures companies can reach every employee with the right information at the right time to drive engagement and productivity.

With employees around the world working from home to protect themselves from the pandemic, organizations need to extend the reach of their internal communications. Sparrow’s engaging mobile app connects with your entire team wherever they are. Its easy-to-use interface pushes communications to employees’ mobile devices.  Communications can be targeted to define the information most important to each user. Sparrow notifies users when relevant information becomes available with push notifications.

Sparrow’s mobile app is a solution our customers have valued for some time, but over the past two weeks, we decided to make it available at no cost to support businesses in this time of need.

Whether it’s a company-wide message, a quick safety update, or a post to gain feedback from the team, our goal is to enable your organization to share important information with remote workers securely and seamlessly.

Sparrow for Internal Communications: Free Through June 30

Sparrow’s mobile app will be offered at no cost to businesses until June 30, 2020. The solution provides the following capabilities:

  • Secure, mobile message delivery to groups inside and outside your organization
  • Mandatory and compliance post capabilities
  • Quick content creation, including image and video support
  • Audience targeting
  • Extensive measurement and analytics tools

What’s more, this service can be enabled for almost any organization in under 3 days.

Let’s Get Through This

These are challenging times for employees and businesses. It’s also a time to adapt to new ways of doing business and to discover new ways of thinking. The days ahead will be challenging for all of us, but hopefully, the Sparrow tool can help you and your team stay connected at a time when it matters most.

Effective Internal Communications During COVID-19 Outbreak

The COVID-19 is spreading at a rapid pace across the globe, more than 190,000 worldwide have been infected thus far. This pandemic is being described as the ‘worst public health crisis for a generation.’ With it comes an unprecedented societal and business disruption.

Businesses are concerned about the welfare of their employees, while at the same time rethinking how to work and survive this crisis. The current situation has made remote work a real necessity. Employees are looking for clear guidance while working through this. Misinformation in the workplace can become rampant, making your employees feel stressed and insecure.

For both the safety of employees and business continuity Internal Communications and HR teams find themselves needing to adjust their communications strategies to align with the new situation. They are looking for effective ways to keep employees informed about the virus and its impact on the staff’s day to day activities.

Timely, accurate, and effective communication is vital when dealing with this outbreak. Waiting to respond until something has happened is hardly an option. During times of crisis, internal communication is the glue that holds the business together.

It’s time to ensure there is an excellent remote working system in place together with a transparent and ongoing communications strategy for employees. One of the most challenging aspects of crisis communications is the need to create a wide range of critical content and have it pushed out to the right audiences as quickly as possible.

Here are 5 crisis communications best practices that you can implement during the coronavirus outbreak:

Keep Your Employees Informed in Real-Time

Turn your current internal communication strategy into real-time communications. Not responding immediately to your employee’s concerns may accelerate the spread of panic and misinformation across the organization. In times of crisis, you need to create and distribute updates related to the pandemic quickly. Offer a two-way communication channel to foster engagement and comradery. Giving your employees a way to comment or react to company communications will help you collect feedback and address any questions that come up.

Reach Every Employee Wherever They Are

No matter where your employees are, they need the right information. More than ever, during a crisis, you need to ensure your content is getting to them. One way to do it is by extending your reach beyond the company intranet and pushing your updates to employees’ mobile devices or email.

Get the Right Information to the Right People

Your employees need information that’s relevant to them. Different groups within your organization will require different types of messages. For example, you might consider sharing specific resources with your company’s leadership to help them model stabilizing communications; or you may post FAQs for the frontline workers. Use your internal communications platform to segment your content, so your employees only receive the information they need and nothing else.

Make Sure Critical Information is Delivered and Read

At times, you will need to share urgent news or information that’s critical to your internal stakeholders. But it is not always easy to tell whether people have read your memo and taken the desired action. Having a communication channel that helps you easily track who has read and acknowledged your message, can make all the difference. Mandatory and compliance posts are a great way to clearly indicate to your audience that your message is mission-critical. Mandatory posts are visually distinct and stay at the top of Sparrow’s newsfeed until read. Compliance posts require the readers to acknowledge they have read and will comply with the information or policy change.

Measure the Impact of Your Internal Communications

Measuring the impact of your internal communications is even more critical than ever with the COVID-19 crisis. Track your most important metrics such as the number of unique views, complete reads (e.g. have they read the entire article or dropped off before an important piece of information?), or audience engagement. Knowing how many employees have read the latest COVID-19 update and are aware of important changes will empower you to make informed decisions about your crisis communication strategy. Additionally, it will arm you with data that you can share with the leadership team to help them understand the situation.

Proper communication will help protect your employees, build trust, prevent the spread of misinformation, and help employees feel secure. Transparent and real-time communication will help your business weather the coronavirus storm.

Learn more about Sparrow.

Beyond employee engagement, keeping healthcare staff informed in times of outbreaks.

Healthcare organizations have unique needs when it comes to internal communications. Beyond employee engagement, healthcare organizations need a highly reliable communication system that keeps its people connected in critical times of need. Mandatory and compliance posts in Sparrow come in particularly handy when healthcare organizations need to ensure that vital information reaches the right people.

“We have unique needs when it comes to internal communications.  Our staff and physicians work at multiple sites and around the clock.  An effective internal communications platform, like Sparrow, ensures we get the right information to the right audience at the right time.”
Patrice Cloutier, Manager, Corporate Communications & Public Affairs, Hamilton Health Sciences
EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT

A nurse stands in line for coffee in the hospital cafeteria. His Android phone buzzes, drawing his attention to the Sparrow notification with an intriguing headline. Glancing up to confirm he’s still got a few minutes to burn, he clicks into the Sparrow app and a smile spreads across his face.

“What are you reading?” asks a colleague.

“Did you hear about the new private donation?” pointing to the story he just saw in Sparrow. “This is awesome.” He picks the thumbs up reaction for the post and collects his beverage.

Finishing the story, he switches over to the Sparrow marketplace and flips through the latest ‘for sale’ posts. One catches his eye. He frowns as there’s not enough detail, so he types up a question and slips his phone into his pocket as he steps into the elevator, his break is over.

CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS

Elsewhere, a hospital director is standing in the doorway of her office, lost in thought when her iPhone chimes. Opening Sparrow, her current concerns wash away as she reads the mandatory post that’s been sent only to regional leadership.

The post talks about a virus that’s spreading and there will be a call at noon to discuss next steps. It asks everyone to comment on any cases they’ve encountered so far. She’s about to add a comment stating they’ve only had one case when she gets drawn in by a particularly well written comment that gets her thinking. Maybe they’ve had more cases then she thought. She stars the comment, increasing its score and importance to the group, and heads down the hall to ask some questions before adding her own two cents to the mix.

After the call, a compliance post goes out outlining the agreed upon actions and messaging to support it. Every member of the leadership team clicks the compliance checkbox in the post that confirms their understanding and commitment. With the compliance report showing 100% agreement, a message is crafted for broader communication.

A little later, a tired doctor sits on a stool at a communal computer in the busy hallway outside patient rooms. She puts her depleted phone on the charging pad and opens the Sparrow Web Portal.

“Hmm, that was quick,” she says as she opens a compliance post entitled Facts and Process for Dealing with the new Virus. She reads through it and clicks the checkbox at the bottom confirming that she’s understood the content and will act in accordance with its direction. She flags down a nurse walking by. “Have you read the new post about the virus? We need to change how we’re dealing with the patient in room 42.”

An hour later, the hospital director goes into the Sparrow Admin and Analytics Portal and pulls up the compliance report for the Facts and Process. She downloads its CSV file, opens it in Microsoft Excel, and cross-references the names of everyone who has complied with the staff who have scheduled shifts. There’s a handful of those who haven’t complied. She decides to email them, rather than phone them, and copies and pastes the list of email addresses into a new message. She adds a copy of the post in the body and clicks the send button. With strategic communications covered, she knows her staff will be well informed and ready to act.

Sparrow employee communications platform not only helps organizations build an engaged tribe, but layers on the tools for handling critical communications and enabling discussions with a targeted set of users at any time.

Learn more about Sparrow.

User Adoption Matters – How to Succeed with Your Office 365 Rollout 

We all know that technology is evolving fast. In fact, new technology has never been released as frequently as it is now, and this couldn’t be more true for Office 365 and SharePoint Online. Since Microsoft came out with Office 365 in 2011, many organizations moved to the cloud platform recognizing the benefits for their business and their employees. In the time since, Microsoft released many updates and many additional applications to improve the usability of its cloud platform.

But for every light, there must be a shadow. While Microsoft works tirelessly to continue improving its Office 365 platform, organizations often struggle to keep up with Microsoft’s pace. A prominent example is the fast update-cycle of Office 365, which can cause issues when organizations introduce new technology to their employees and plan accompanying activities like user adoption and change management. For some organizations, planning and executing user adoption campaigns can take some time, and while the user adoption team is still working on the campaigns, newer features may already be added by Microsoft.

For most organizations, the step towards the cloud (Office 365 and SharePoint Online) is a significant step not only for the organization, but the entire staff as well. As a consultant, I realize this every time I assist organizations with migrating from file-shares to SharePoint Online. Quite often, organizations manage this transformation by augmenting a SharePoint Online rollout with user training. Unfortunately, activities that are proven to drive user adoption, such as internal user adoption campaigns and proper change management, sometimes take the backseat – much to the detriment of the staff. In this article, I’ll discuss how including them in your Office 365 or SharePoint Online rollout can drastically increase the user adoption rate.

Why Office 365 User Adoption Matters?

First, let’s have a look at why proper and tailored user adoption activities matter to every organization implementing Office 365 or SharePoint Online. They:

  • Protect organizational ROI. Rolling out a new technology not only takes effort, but also costs money. Most enterprises justify the project spend with a projected ROI (Return on invest). Because technological investment should generally lead to lowered operational costs and increased efficiency, it is in the vital interest of all organizations to ensure that new technology is used by the entire staff as expected.
  • Benefit the Employees. Modern technology should not only provide benefits to the organization, but also improve the daily work of employees. Unfortunately, this is where the problems begin. Not all employees embrace changes to their daily routines, even at a promise of easing the workload. While tech-savvy ones are eager to try out the new tools and updates, others may remain reluctant or hesitant to change. This is where user adoption campaigns really matter. Organizations can run them to ensure that the new technology is used by the entire staff as expected by the organization – without making employees feel imposed!

The way towards organization-wide user adoption can differ between organizations. When talking to executives and stakeholders about user adoption and change management, I often realize that many organizations think they provided proper user adoption activities by offering tailored training sessions and emailing corporate announcements regarding the new technology. But in most cases, that is far too little to ensure that the new tool is used as expected. User adoption is much more than just training and announcements. It is a long-term activity (or an internal project – if you want to put it that way), which requires extensive planning.

Build a Office 365 User Adoption Team

It all starts with establishing a user adoption team as any user adoption campaign needs to be handled like an internal project. Here is a high-level list of roles within a user-adoption team, which should be adjusted based on your corporate culture:

  • Adoption Team Lead: Responsible for managing the user-adoption team, planning tasks and scheduling meetings.
  • Moderator(s): Responsible for planning and performing user-adoption campaigns. In most cases, it makes sense to involve Power Users or Key Users. I recommend involving professional moderators or at least employees who are used to public speaking (or have stage experience).
  • Communicator(s): Responsible for all communication around the user-adoption activities. I recommend a professional communicator as the style of communication needs to be engaging, enthralling and carefully tailored to the target audience.
  • Technical Expert(s): Responsible for technical support, knowledge transfer and measurement of the identified success factors (as explained later). Often, Office 365 admins take over this role.
  • Trainer(s): Responsible for delivering accompanying training sessions.
  • Executive(s) and Stakeholder(s): Part of the team to highlight the importance of user adoption and to ensure that organizational interests are considered.
  • Corporate Governance Committee: Although the Governance Committee does not need to take over an active role, keeping them up to date on planning and the current state allows them to chime in if there are any corporate policies which need to be considered.

Establish Goals

If we look at the user adoption team, it becomes clear that a user adoption campaign isn’t a one-time activity like training. Rather, it’s an ongoing process, that strives to accomplish several goals:

  • Introduce a new technology to employees in a way which is tailored to their skill set and technical abilities.
  • Provide individual examples on how to use the introduced technology based on roles and responsibilities.
  • Focus on the benefits that employees can achieve by using the new technology, in other words: show how this new technology can be used to meet individual goals.
  • Explain how the technology fits corporate strategy.

Out of all these, the most important one is certainly focusing on benefits that matter to employees, as it is likely that not all employees will embrace changes to their daily routines. From an organizational standpoint, user adoption activities need to ensure that new technology is used as planned. From the user’s perspective, new technology will affect the daily business and most employees are primarily interested in “what is in it for me,” rather than what are the benefits the organization is hoping to achieve. Basically, this discrepancy is the reason, why user-adoption campaigns are crucial.

So, What Can You Do to Drive Office 365 User Adoption?

Here are some proven tactics:

  • Schedule events to introduce the new technology to all employees. These events should offer a high-level overview of the solution that explains the intended use of the technology and its place within existing applications and procedures.
  • Schedule meetings with individual departments to showcase how employees of particular departments will benefit from using the new technology. Since requirements vary between departments, user adoption activities should be designed to address needs specific to different roles.
  • Use gamification. Create a buzz around your technology and get your employees involved early on. You can try panel games, quizzes or digital scavenger-hunts to draw the attention to the new technology. The most important thing is to be creative and engaging. Based on my long-standing experience, gamification works wonders if done properly.
  • Perform surveys throughout the course of the user adoption campaign to get a sense of how your employees are using the new technology and gauge if the campaign is working.
  • Identify success factors and proper measurements. For example, if you run a user adoption campaign for a OneDrive for Business roll-out, a success factor could be a 50% increase of the data stored to OneDrive for Business accounts within three (3) months of implementation.
  • Offer individual training for employees struggling with using the introduced technology.
  • Schedule recurring monitoring that continues even after the user-adoption campaign has ended. It is important to continue measuring how the introduced technology is used during the coming months.
  • Work with the corporate help desk to understand inquiries and tickets related to the introduced technology. Although an increased number of inquiries is common, too many inquiries are an indicator that the user adoption campaign isn’t working well or isn’t meeting your audience’s needs or expectations.

Finally, when it comes to user adoption, there is no one-fits-all approach. Organizations are diverse, as are their employees. A proper user adoption campaign needs to be tailored to the corporate culture, the skill sets of employees and most importantly, the expected benefits for individual users. Proper user adoption campaign is crucial for rolling out any new technology. Training is just an accompanying activity rather than a replacement for user adoption and change management. For that reason, the cost of a tailored user adoption campaign needs to be added to the costs of the new technology and the corporate rollout. However, when a user adoption campaign is planned and executed properly, these additional costs will pay off soon helping secure a timely ROI.

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