The first mistake that business executives make is assuming that SharePoint adoption is all about updating technology. Yes, adopting SharePoint is partly about improving technology, but it is mostly about changing human behavior. That is why it requires the leadership of executives from all departments. Everyone, at any level, has a role to play. Leadership should definitely be part of an organization’s end user adoption strategy.

Executives are leaders. And what leaders do? Typically, leadership involves five essential tasks:

  • Motivate
  • Guide
  • Enable
  • Inspire
  • Reward

As in any undertaking, a successful SharePoint user adoption plan requires a committed leadership team that plays the role fully.

As an executive, a leader, how can you play your role effectively in order to get your team to embrace and actually use SharePoint? In this post, I will share five ways leaders can help employees toward successful and sustainable SharePoint adoption. Let’s start with the first leadership task: motivate.

1.     Motivate

The first step in motivating people to do anything is explaining the reasons why they need to do it. If people don’t know why they are doing it, they are more likely to lose enthusiasm.

A successful SharePoint adoption process starts with explaining the “why”. This can be done by simply describing in details the benefits that SharePoint bring to every employee. It’s about talking about the value – “What’s in it for me?”

Your job is to provide them detailed answers before this question even pops up in their head. Here are some tips to get organized and communicate that business value to your organization:

  • Make a list of all the data-related problems that your employees experience when working.
  • Study the list of all the solutions that SharePoint brings to those problems.
  • Create a presentation that explains how those problems can be solved by using SharePoint.
  • Create a weekly schedule with timeslots during which the message can be repeated. Repetition is a major component of an effective communication.

To obtain an exhaustive list of problems solved by SharePoint, you may need the help of your IT team or any SharePoint evangelist. For example, in many organizations, the most common problem is versioning of files. When collaborating on a document, the back-and-forth among team members usually results in tons of emails and file names ending with letters such as _version2, _v3, _final, _final4, _lastfinal, etc. With such traffic of emails and amount of documents versions, confusion, frustration and errors will reign. Almost every employee is familiar with this problem. After highlighting the problem, ask them: How would your work be easier if this problem went away?

Another example: the pain of spending hours just trying to find a document! SharePoint search can take away that pain. There’s also the fear of inadvertently sharing a confidential document. SharePoint Compliance Policy Center can give you peace of mind here.

To make your argument even more persuasive, use a live demo. Every employee will definitely find value in seeing how SharePoint can help them reduce errors, get things done faster, make collaboration easier, and improve the overall working experience: All you need is an effective way to communicate.

There is more than one way to motivate your employees into adopting SharePoint. Demonstrating the benefits is a good starting point.

The second way an executive can help users adopt SharePoint successfully is giving them guidance.

2.     Guide

From many SharePoint adoption projects, a culture of conversation about SharePoint yields knowledge of SharePoint. And, knowledge of SharePoint drives adoption of SharePoint.

Unfortunately, many organizations lack this culture. Why is that? Most employees tend to avoid asking questions for fear of being perceived as incompetent. They fear asking questions even to their IT team.

As a leader, it is your duty to provide guidance to your team and encourage others to do the same. Even though you know little about SharePoint functionalities, your mere participation is helpful. You don’t need to be all technical in order to provide guidance to your team. At the very least, guide them on document policies and business workflows.

Invest a few hours learning about SharePoint functionalities so you can answer some of your team’s most common questions. If you don’t know the answer, ask your IT team and transfer the knowledge. The point here is not that you are answering questions – but that the questions are being answered by you, the leader.

This task may sound unproductive but the impact will surprise you. When completed in conjunction with a digestible and contextual training program, the results can only be better.

Regularly encourage them to ask questions. This fosters a culture of talking about SharePoint, especially in the early stages of SharePoint adoption. If they can ask you questions without fear, they can easily ask their colleagues questions.

Convey to them that an inquisitive mind is more admirable than an inhibited one. Insist to them that asking questions says nothing about your competence; it says everything about your interest in talking about new discoveries.

As an executive, by making this effort, you achieve four things:

  • You subsides the fear of enquiring about SharePoint;
  • You strengthen the importance that employees put on using SharePoint;
  • You expose yourself to unfiltered feedbacks;
  • And, you establish the right atmosphere for SharePoint mastery.

Invest time in personally providing advice and guidance to your team. Also, schedule at least 30 minutes a day to actively ask them whether they have any questions. This effort will definitely improve the chances of SharePoint adoption being successful.

3.     Enable

An engaged executive should find ways to make things possible, easier, and faster for their team. This is all about making it super easy for your team to use SharePoint every day. Some obstacles to SharePoint adoption are natural, but many executives create new obstacles unnecessarily.

The most common roadblocks come from complex security policies and inconvenient access permissions. Many companies tend to implement these rigid governance policies across all departments. These artificial roadblocks can make the SharePoint experience unpleasant. Who wants to go through painfully inconvenient steps just to get their job done? Look for ways to remove the unnecessary extra clicks in completing everyday tasks. Is there a simpler and more direct way to do something?

The reality is that if you really use your creative mind, you will always find an easier way. Start by making it a point to ask everyone in your team these two questions:

  • Is there something that you don’t like about working with SharePoint?
  • What can we do to change that?

The secret here is to find a balance in your governance policies. Give your employees as much flexibility as possible without compromising your core document governance policies. Employees who are given options will always be able to find easier ways to complete daily tasks – this makes SharePoint adoption that much easier. Now go enable your team!

4.     Inspire

As you may know, for most people, it is easier to imitate than to initiate. If team members see their leaders do things a certain way, they are more likely to follow. Inspiring your team simply means “leading by example”. There are many ways you can achieve this. In the realm of user adoption methodology, two steps have proven to work well:

  • Be an exemplary user.
  • Appoint power users.

As an executive, you should be an exemplary user if successful SharePoint adoption is your priority. Use SharePoint for your daily tasks wherever applicable.

For example, instead of using emails, you can use the wiki page to share your meeting agenda and invite others to add relevant details on the page. Also, use SharePoint for your internal communications with your staff. Instead of sending the message as an email, post the message in SharePoint and email only the link to it. And don’t forget to share your experience with the rest of the team on a weekly basis.

However, you don’t have to be the only exemplary user – you can appoint two or more people on your team to take the role of leading the way in SharePoint adoption. You can call them “power users” or “early adopters”.

Find colleagues who genuinely love technology and show interest in using SharePoint. Then, have them show others the way. Make it their job to heavily use SharePoint wherever applicable. Also, encourage them to run some experiments. Give them a way to document their experiences.

Every week, schedule a session during which they would share their success stories with the rest of the team. Over time, they will serve as guidance providers and catalyst of daily conversations about SharePoint. Lead by example.

5.     Reward

The goal of handing out rewards and incentives is to encourage a desired behavior. Psychologists use the word “recognition”. It is simply a way of showing appreciation for someone’s effort. The truth is that humans always respond positively to a gesture of appreciation.

Use recognition to encourage your employees to continue using SharePoint. Implement a reward program until SharePoint is full adopted in your company. Reward your power users as well. Quantify their activities with SharePoint and award them accordingly, even with ranks: first position, second position, third position, etc.

When it comes to rewards, this is where your creativity has to shine. No one thing works for everyone in every company. You can get help in coming up with some ideas on the kind of rewards that have worked for others. The key is that the incentive has to be tangible and personalized. You can use points, badges, gift certificates, prizes, etc. You can even donate to a charity of an employee’s choice after they’ve reached a certain level of activities in SharePoint. The possibilities are endless.

The rewarding strategy works very well especially in the beginning of the adoption process. Use it, and better results will show.

SharePoint Adoption Tips: Video

Those are just five user adoption strategies you can use as an executive to drive SharePoint adoption in your company.

The steps above are only suggestions. The actual strategy that you implement in your organization will largely depend on the dynamics particular to your organization. There are many other ways to achieve similar results. At visualSP.com, you can find complete courses on how to increase user adoption.

In the short video below, Richard Harbridge of 2toLead.com explains more ways you can help your team adopt SharePoint.

Watch more video tutorials at visualsp.com.