By Gloria Lombardi

Deutsche Bank, the German global investment bank, employs nearly 100,000 staff across more than 70 countries. Through its Jive-based platform staff are learning a new habit: ‘working out loud’.

The organisation has been using its Jive-based internal social platform myDB since 2009 to foster collaboration among the almost 100,000 employees worldwide. John Stepper (pictured right), Managing Director, is committed to help colleagues to change their habits and embrace the value of working socially. “To achieve this at a large scale requires a lot of effort.”

Working out loud

Stepper quotes at least a dozen reasons why today’s large businesses should encourage their staff to work out loud on an enterprise social network. These include improved internal communications, peer-to-peer recognition, better working relationships, humanised work, higher productivity, commercial value, and increased innovation.

However, Stepper prefers to go beyond these kind of conversations. Instead, he likes focusing attention on “How do you actually get everyone to work out loud so that these benefits emerge to the whole organisation?

“From my experience, people seem to like the idea, but only a small percentage of them are really starting working differently.”

In fact, although 76,000 employees have accepted the conditions of myDB as well as tried to use the platform, only 36,000 are currently engaged with it. For most communicators, this is not a small number! However Stepper believes that despite the good organic growth the firm still has not fundamentally changed. Why? “Because using myDB is still perceived by the majority of people as another thing to do on top of their job. It is not seen as the way for doing work.”

Make it personal, make it clear, and make it easy

So, what made those 36,000 early adopters embrace this new way of working socially? And, how can the experience be replicated at larger scale inside the bank?

Stepper has a theory, which could be summed up as “make it personal, make it clear, and make it easy.”

“To motivate people to switch from a traditional way of communicating and working, it is necessary they feel confident with myDB; to help them to feel the bank allows staff the time to experiment for themselves. It is by working on the platform – not just by talking about it – that colleagues can build their social confidence and start doing great work on this new environment. We help them to get the first experience themselves. Instead of just trying to explain them all the changes and possibilities, we let them put their hands on these tools.

“We do this at Deutsche Bank in line with how our employees work. We provide people with opportunities to practise the behaviours that are meaningful to their own jobs to attain achievable goals. At the same time we give them immediate feedback on ways to get even better. Within a few weeks, through simple adjustments staff can start enjoying this new habit and even become among the best advocates of the network.”

In order to maintain motivation high, giving clarity on what to do and keep stressing the good reasons for doing it, is still prerequisite. This can be done through making visible the experiences of those who are already exhibiting the working out loud behaviours. “That way people can get insights on how to convert less productive ways of working into more valuable ones.”

The influencer framework

Stepper believes the above approach is the best way to help people work more effectively since it takes into consideration the implications of changing habits both from the individual and the firm’s perspectives.

When discussing this the Investment banking technologist, who is both an avid reader and writer on various organisational issues, cites the Influencer by Kerry Patterson. This is a book that combines “the science of changing individual behaviour techniques for making changes stick and stories of global change movement involving thousands of individuals.” In his work, Patterson makes it clear that “verbal persuasion rarely works” despite being often the most popular way to introduce change. Instead it is by altering behaviours that change efforts are more likely to be paid off.

In line with this philosophy, Stepper describes how the company is focusing its attention on “six sources of influence” to inspire its staff to work out loud:

1) Personal motivation. If people don’t find the social behaviour appealing, how can the organisation get them to try it and connect it to other things they value? And, if an employee likes doing it, how can the bank reinforce that behaviour by recognising their accomplishments and encouraging them to do more?

2) Personal ability. How can the bank make it simpler for colleagues to start? And, how can they provide staff with opportunities to practise the behaviour and attain achievable goals while giving them immediate feedback on ways to get even better?

3) Social motivation. Who are the myDB’s influential leaders who can help model the vital behaviours? How can the organisation identify relevant peer groups who are already behaving in that desired way?

4) Social ability. How can the company foster social ties (e.g. buddies systems, peer support groups, advocates programs) that can help an individual get better with the vital behaviours?

5) Structural motivation: After the intrinsic motivators and social support are in place, what other extrinsic rewards – which have to be gratifying and in line with the encouraged behaviours – can also be used?

6) Structural ability: How can the organisation change the environment to make those relevant behaviours easier to implement?

Re-platforming work

Linked to the last point – making it easy for employees to build habits out of the new behaviours – is the necessity of having the elements of the change as part of the everyday routines. They have to be institutionalised through “re-platforming how people work.” Here Stepper ‘steals’ a term used by his CEO at Jive World. The social environment of the bank requires to be tweaked in a way that provides people with cues on how to easily work socially. People should reach the point where they start thinking and asking themselves “Do I use wikis? Do I use SharePoint? Where do I put my documents?” in the same way they have always asked themselves what to do in the physical environments in order to accomplish their everyday tasks.

It is only through repeated use, that social behaviours can really become habits and the new way of doing things. “However, unless we make the environment user-friendly at the advantage of the single individual, and tackle this issue in a very systematic way, it will take ages, possibly a generation, for a large enterprise to really grow socially.”