People problems: How to get your team to engage with reporting


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How can you achieve success when rolling out a new reporting solution across your organization?

First, let’s define success: we’re referring to getting your team, department, or even organization to use their reports to make effective data-backed decisions. We believe that there are 4 key milestones on the path to achieving this: Awareness, Adoption, Action and Improvement. Below are our tips on securing success at each milestone.

Awareness: Get the word out

You can’t possibly expect your team to engage with your reports if they aren’t even aware they exist. Laugh if you will, but it’s unfortunately all too common that rollout arrives and no communication strategy has been thought through, or, that months after an implementation we hear from new users who hadn’t previously been informed that they have access to reporting.

To prevent these occurrences and ensure that you’re leading your team down the shortest possible path to data-driven decision making, make rollout communication strategy a priority at the planning stage. Not only will this allow you address communication with sufficient time in advance to create the best possible strategy, but considering this early on can also help determine the project scope and its execution. For example, if you know you will have upwards of thousands of new users, the ability to create these on mass would be critical in whichever solution you move forward with. Likewise, inbuilt automated email notifications and password management functionalities for new users should be a priority. In addition, analytics on who has successfully received notification, and who has taken action on this by accessing their reports for the first time, can help you monitor and control the effectiveness of your communication implementation.

When developing your communication strategy, it’s important to start with the following questions:

  1. Why: Why are you communicating the implementation of reporting? Keep the objective of your organizational reporting in mind as you craft your message. Conveying the purpose of the reporting and the larger objective behind it will help you incite action in your team and promote accountability around monitoring and acting to correct progress towards goals.
  2. What: What is it that you are sharing and what is expected of those receiving the communication? Without a call to action or the definition of a follow up task, it’s easy for your colleagues to simply mark your email as done or save it for later.
  3. Who: Who is your message getting delivered to? Ensure that you are using compelling, appropriate and relevant language for your specific audience. Segment your users and share differing copy where needed to help you touch on those things that drive each individual group, and why they specifically will benefit from utilizing your reporting. Considering their concerns and attempting to address the resolution of these through the employment of reporting can lead to surprising results.
  4. When: When should the message be delivered? Make sure that you’re delivering your message at the moments of greatest impact. Furthermore, sending out one mass email only may not cut it for encouraging adoption, so consider the pace and cadence with which you should send out these communications. Surprisingly, we’ve found Friday afternoon to be quite a successful time as people tend to be winding down their week and more receptive to disrupting current activities to look at something new.
  5. How: How can you effectively craft your message? It’s all very well to suggest sending an impactful message to relevant segments, but how do you know what will work? Simply checking the results of previous company-wide emails may help you understand which types of messages work for different segments. Additionally, you could start testing on small groups and proceed with the methods and messages that work best. Also, working with team leads and asking them: ‘how can I best capture the attention of your group, and get them to take action?’ can be extremely fruitful.
  6. Where: What are the most effective channels for communicating with your team and ensuring the message is well communicated?  Consider touching your audience across multiple channels, including email, in-person, at group meetings or through your intranet to ensure your message is received. As above, asking specific groups what the best channel of communication for them is can have a huge impact.

There are also some general rules that can be applied to all your communication to guarantee maximum effectiveness. Ensure that your formatting is appealing, succinct and promotes understanding, and that you use plain language that will be easy to comprehend, while effectively communicating your message. Be clear and concise but also provide additional clarifications where required. Summaries, especially of expected next steps, can be effective at inciting action.

And perhaps most importantly, address the concerns of your audience to develop trust and rapport through each message. Communication, by definition, is not a one sided dialogue, but an exchange. So don’t forget to inform your audience about how they can reach you. The most effective communication is often done by listening, not speaking, so do so actively by developing feedback channels and engaging in these with energy, empathy and consistency.

Adoption: Get them logging in

If you were successful in implementing your initial communication strategy, you should have seen a large number of your intended users log in for the first time. There is a massive difference between logging in once and adoption, however. Adoption occurs where users accept that the solution meets their needs and integrate it into their routine to help them complete tasks it is intended to assist with. Building habits, however, is an extremely difficult thing to do – as countless psychologists and behavioral economists, among others, will fretfully inform you. So if changing behavioral patterns is difficult, how can you get your users to adopt their new reporting solution?

Let’s break down adoption into its two distinct components. Adoption occurs where:

  1. Users accept that the solution meets their needs

How can you ensure it meets their needs?

Firstly, if you’ve done due diligence in the planning stage and scoped out users needs, and then implemented your solution in line with your plans and objectives, you should in fact be there already. Unfortunately, large projects with vast numbers of stakeholders often struggle to satisfy 100% of users, 100% of the time. Likewise, where users are making requests that are out of line with the project objectives, these will likely never be met (and in this case, these users should be educated about the project, it’s objectives and what falls outside of its scope, so they can make additional arrangements for non-compatible requests).

Secondly, if you see poor adoption, request feedback on why.

  • If users are testing out your reporting and providing negative feedback that it doesn’t fit their needs, listen and act accordingly, otherwise you’ll find they’ll never consult it. Be sure, however to make changes only where these these requests complement the larger objectives of the project.
  • If your team tests out your solution then stops logging in, but doesn’t share any feedback at all, you’ve likely got a bigger problem. Actively seeking feedback and making adjustments is crucial to success here.

You’ll most likely receive contradictory feedback from different stakeholders, and also have to find a compromise between the quantity of changes implemented as you start to experience diminishing marginal returns from adjustments made. Thus keeping the objectives of the project in mind at all stages is critical.

  1. b) Users integrate it into their routine to help them complete tasks

There are a number of typical methods through which you can promote behavioral change. Those listed below have proven to be successful in supporting data-backed decision making in our experience:

  • Rewards: incentivizing stakeholders can be a successful short term strategy for getting users to log in. Rewards can include increased potential for an end of year bonus, group prizes or prospects for promotion. This method, however, may not be sustainable in the long run.
  • Deterrents: or punishments could also be considered where desired behavior is not upheld. Some examples could be limiting capacity for an end of year bonus, mention of failure to act at group meetings or team penalties for individual failures. Where these do not provide significant deterrence to actually complete the action, however, they will be unsuccessful. Additionally, as with rewards, they will only likely be sustainable for a very short period. Finally, their impact on culture should be considered carefully before you consider implementing deterrents as they can have wide-ranging negative effects.
  • Education: Helping your users to understand the benefits they will receive, as well as the efficiencies and outcomes that can be achieved across the wider business can be critical in promoting long term adoption. It can also be a much more sustainable than the two methods previously discussed. In addition, providing sufficient training and education around how to use newly implemented reporting solutions can provide users with a sense of achievement and satisfaction. Where users feel accomplished with a task they are more likely to be open to working on it.
  • Positive Reinforcement can also encourage the changing of habits. Rather than providing specific rewards to users for adopting your reporting, reinforcing ‘good’ behavior can be a more organic and impactful way to encourage long term behavioral changes. Positive affirmation, recognition or the increasing of responsibility for successful team members can also have exponential effects on motivation across the board.
  • Time:  time has become one of the greatest restrictions on our work capabilities and one of the top cited reasons for lack of adoption. You can combat this in a number of ways:
      • Firstly, ensure that users are aware of the time commitment required to successfully adopt reporting. Managing expectations from the start can help team members plan and schedule these tasks into their routine.
      • Secondly, limit the time required for reporting tasks. Where time required is limited, you’ll increase the likelihood that users participate. Start small by recommending 15 minutes a week and once this has become normal, use engagement methods to lift it and feel the impact.
      • Thirdly, where required, help users prioritize their work and replace less impactful tasks with data-driven decision making. Sharing some examples or case studies on outcomes of adoption can drive success as colleagues start to understand the negative impact of not participating.
      • Triggers: Sometimes we all need a reminder. Triggers such as alerts, notifications or personal reminders can play a critical role in early adoption. Additionally, given that they can be automated, the effort required to create these is minimal. Try setting rules such as ‘send alert when [user has not logged in for one week]’ or ‘[no comment has been made in 10 days]’ etc.
      • Peer pressure: as juvenile as it may sound, transparency and accountability can be important tools. Where colleagues see that the rest of the team is participating and making an impact, the consequences of exclusion or negative social perception can be impactful. Start at the top by ensuring your executives are adopting, and watch the impact trickle down.

      We recommend testing some of these methods on different groups in the initial stages of rollout then continuing with the most successful across the larger implementation.

      Of course, it’s pertinent to note that long term success will not be achieved when the first condition of adoption is not satisfied, independent of how effective any of these methods are in the short term.

      Action: Get them engaging with it

      The objective of enterprise reporting, as discussed earlier, is to make effective decisions from the analysis of data contained within reports.

      Simply getting your team logging into their reports, viewing the data contained within them and exploring ideas for improvement just won’t cut it. In order to make a difference to outcomes and increase ROI, your team needs to ACT.

      They should engage with their reports, understand what they are presenting and run additional analysis on this where required. They need to be testing and recommending actions that can be taken, asking their colleagues for input and considering all suggestions for merit. And most importantly, implementing recommendations.

      Furthermore, they should be adding contextual information where possible to describe the decision making process, the final decision and the outcome of this. Opening up conversations around ideas is critical to maximising the value of your team and optimizing actions.  

      The methods described above for promoting adoption can all be equally applicable to encouraging engagement, or even more successful. At this stage you truly have the ability to demonstrate the impact of this engagement and tangible benefits.

      Improvement: Get continuously better results

      It doesn’t stop with action. Organizations are not static entities. Markets continually appear, develop, evolve, shift and explode. Teams shuffle and change, expand and contract. And objectives are revised, transformed and diversified.

      This makes enterprise reporting a process rather than a project, a cycle of: development of objectives, definition of a reporting model, creation of reporting structures, rollout and human adoption, and engagement and revision (before restarting it all again).

      Not only should you be reacting to massive internal or external shifts to adjust your objectives and definitions accordingly, but you should also be habitually revising your structures. You might be surprised at the misalignment you see between your reporting structure and current organizational goals as a result of multiple incremental changes.

      Additionally, one of the greatest benefits of organizational reporting is that not only can it help you to take impactful actions and improve outcomes at present, but also to improve future decision-making. By drawing on historical learnings that can be gleaned through analysis of: past performance, recommendations, tests and ideas, you have the ability to continuously improve the way you make decisions.

      To capitalize on this opportunity:

      • Frequently analyze successful decisions and synthesize information around the most impactful recommendations to discern patterns in what makes a decision successful.
      • Look at historically successful decisions broken down by goal type, decision type, extent of impact, individuals involved, change type, etc. to further understand what sorts of scenarios different decision types have the greatest impact on.
      • Consult experts. Research methods and best practices for decision making and speak with experts, consultants or people like you to understand what works well for them, then summarize your most relevant findings.
      • Disseminate your findings to the wider team. Keeping them to yourself will minimize the impact your analysis can have. Therefore, be sure to take time to speak with your team, share your conclusions and openly debate what in fact led to the success of any particular decision at its given moment in time.
      • Ask your colleagues to run similar exercises and share their own findings to enjoy the full benefits of collaboration, multiple diverse standpoints and the experience and expertise of you team.

      Now that you’ve shared ideas on improving decision making, it’s time to restart the process and ensure that your objectives and Key Performance Indicators are relevant and reflective. Use this opportunity to learn from the mistakes you made in the first round and the glory of your effective decisions. Don’t forget to compare your success in this second iteration against that of your first to understand the benefit of experience and analyze how successful you were in scrutinizing, learning from and improving on your first attempt, and use this to fuel you going forward as you continually improve your process and outcomes.


      Have you been successful in getting your team to engage with reporting? If so, what methods did you find most successful? We’d love to hear about your experience.

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      Megan Wilcock

      VP of Business Development for Sweetspot. Responsible for strategic brand development, marketing and business development. BA/BComm graduate from the University of Melbourne. My passion lies in finding creative solutions and encouraging collaboration.

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