This year's KM World (#kmworld) conference was titled "Building Collaborative Organizations: People, Platform and Organizations," and in the stories and talks at the event, it's evident that companies and organizations have moved past the vision moment to reaping rewards, tranfsorming culture and helping guide the way for other organizations. It's a combination of culture, leadership, models of learning, and effective adoption of social tools, underpinned with focus on bringing it all to contextual relevancy.
Culture - Changing the Stripes of the Elephant in the Room
It's a commonplace that each organization has their own culture, but in my experience it's often like the elephant in the room - people walk around it, see only a piece of it, even operate as if it isn't there.
Yet there's one thing that seems to be fairly common amongst work cultures around the world - disengagement. In a talk at KM World on November 8, Dan Pontefract, Head, Learning and Collaboration at Telus, noted the level of engagement is alarming low in companies in the U.S. - Aon Hewitt says engagement is only 20% - Gallup indicates 30% of American workers are engaged, with only 13% engaged worldwide. The lost productivity of disengaged employees Gallup estimates costs the U.S. economy $450-550 billion. What is engagement? "the state of reciprocal trust between the employee and leadership to do what's right however, whenever and with whomever." Putting social technology in the hands of disengaged employees won't alter the culture - and as he says, "without culture, there is no collaboration, no productive, positive or panoptic use of technology."
Telus, according to Pontefract had static, mediocre levels of employee engagement a few years ago. Under his vision and leadership, the company has developed comprehensive cultural models, processes and practices. Now the company's rating for employee engagement now the highest in Canada and in the top 1% globally according to Aon Hewitt. That culture transformation is outlined in his recent book Flat Army that addresses all aspects of company culture, from leadership to collaborative work dynamics to social tools and virtual environments. Telus' leadership philosophy is "Open, Collaborative, Connected," and embodied in fifteen attributes of the connected leader and "CLAM" the Collaborative Leader Action Model
- Connect with your people
- Consider what needs to be done
- Communicate what you are going to do
- Create the results
- Confirm the results
- Congratulate/say thanks
Leaders are helped to develop their skills to become a connected leader and actively practice this mode of leadership. But it's also a participative leadership model with leaders contributing and not just consuming information, and becoming skilled at networking within and without their organization.
Telus has a connected learning model with formal, informal and social learning, and an array of tools to support all aspects of the model. Their Habitat social environment is a place for ideas, jams, photos, 'my sites', blogs and wikis (Confluence) and portals (Sharepoint). A virtual space, Telus Collaboration House (developed in partnership with Avaya) lets people gather and participate in a virtual world environment, and is used for 'fireside chats' and where all new employees go for on-boarding as they are issues 'passports' and acquire badges as they move through their orientation. Telus is also using SAP Jam to provide activity streams, video sharing and micro-blogging. Their company leadership program is now on on Jam, with 750 people working through a one-year curricula. Telus is also using games to help employees understand how they might interact in their company stores.
Building the behaviors and providing a range of participative tools allowed them to internally crowdsource their "Customers First" project which generated the top four promises the company was going to make and keep to their customers. As Pontefract noted this kind of exercise would typically be conducted at the senior executive team, who retreat for a period of time in a conference room, and then announcing the results 'fait accompli' to the employees. When Telus launched this effort in April 2012, they had 1100 team members engaged, with 1600 submissions, and over the course of six months winnowed it down to four.
The culture is the competitive advantage for Telus. What Pontefract and Telus has done is to make that culture explicit, collaborative, coherent, relevant and meaningful to all levels of the company, and to their customers.
Pontefract indicated engagement is now 83% after three years. He also noted that in the telco industry overall in Canada last year, customer complaints had gone up by 26% - however, Telus' complaints went down 27% over the same period, and the company did a two-for-one stock split recently. Now, Telus, like Unisys, is taking their insight, knowledge and practice to market - they've just created a Transformation Office to help other organizations with their collaborative culture.