Cloud Optimization Starts with the People on the Ground!

It’s hard to read a magazine or website without hearing the advantages of moving to the Cloud. And with good reason!  The Cloud is certainly where technology is heading and a great way to optimize your solutions. With that said, the Cloud is most effective if you have good old-fashioned engagement and connection on the ground first.  As the wise philosopher Casey Kasem told us, “Keep your feet on the ground but keep reaching for the stars.”

So–what are some ways to make sure you and your organization are connected to your real-life colleagues, and best use your cool tech solutions?  At the end of the day, it really comes down to making sure you take care of your communication skills—true listening, sharing language, and understanding your audience.

Ask and listen, really listen.

Canned employee surveys measure the satisfaction of staff as it relates to components of a job (benefits, parking, salary and culture.) However, is it enough to know if your staff feel connected to your mission? What is the measurement that will indicate satisfaction?  For example, staff may indicate they aren’t heard.  And the organization has an anonymous tip line.  But when an employee says, “I’m not heard” the medium of communication in place or the response to the communication does not resonate with the employee.

  1. What is the event or measurement that makes you feel unheard? Do you want to be heard or want something changed? What is the anticipated outcome or expectation of the change?
  2. What are the areas of employee dissatisfaction? If they are unavoidable, then analyze your communication strategy to clarify the reasons. If the concerns can be addressed; provide solutions and communicate the resolution to your teams.

Common language.

Use your words and say what you mean. When you don’t know the business jargon or words that go with the string of letters, you feel like an outsider.  “The BAP is not scalable, so we must shift our paradigm to our core competency thus achieving a best practice.” What??? The only person in the room who knew what that meant was the person who said it.

Being connected as a team begins with common language. We can prevent misunderstandings and decrease a learning curve by establishing a common language.  Every industry is layered with jargon, abbreviations and unspoken assumptions.  Ask your newest hire how long it took for them to decipher the office language.

  1. Acronyms have a time and place to be used. But provide a glossary of terms that go with the alphabet soup. Rid onboarding of all acronyms, use the complete title for clarity.
  2. Business writing needs to be clear. Avoid jargon by saying what you mean. For example, “must be completed ASAP.” Your point is made that you are in a hurry, but I have 20 things also due.  Instead, give me a due date.
  3. If you are unsure if you use excessive buzzwords and jargon, web search “business jargon” and you will find lists of buzzwords and a clearer alternative word. This also makes for a good laugh.
  4. Technology terms may represent 2 components of confusion. First, the new word represents change or a new process; an employee must adapt to that change. Second, the word may be vendor specific and translation may be necessary for the employee to relate the new word to practical application.

Impact and identity.

Identify motivators for employee work passion. One approach that many have heard of is to identify each employee’s WIIFM’s (what’s in it for me). It sounds a bit selfish, but it is simply referencing that all of us have reasons for doing things at our workplace—maybe we have a passion for students, or we like procedures to be followed, or we enjoy meeting new people–but only focusing on that in the short term does not foster sustainable commitment and job satisfaction.

  1. Take time to understand and identify your staff’s WIIFMs but do so more broadly than for just one specific instance. Think about what makes that person tick day to day, regardless of tasks.  Some people like creative tasks, some like to work alone, etc., etc.  As you think about leading a group, if you tie your initiatives to those WIIFMs you’ll be more likely to gain acceptance and adoption.  Just remember—do it more globally than instance by instance.
  2. Encourage team members share their motivators. The open communication of drivers and strengths can create a sense of understanding and respect. For example, to understand Rebecca, an academic advisor who is fueled by the success of her students, explains why she is the last one to leave the building during registration and the first one to scrutinize the degree audit technology and the one who claps the loudest at graduation.  So, when it comes to the selection of an evaluation team for a new student services workflow, Rebecca is a top choice.

The limitless advantages of technology, social media and the cloud give us the ability to automate what was once done in by hand. However, there isn’t a line of code that can automate leadership and good judgement, and those skills are delivered through communication.   Let’s remember Casey Kasem’s advice!  Keep looking for ways to optimize your technology solutions—but don’t forget to take care of those real-life humans around you first.   For more information on cloud optimization and other important higher education topics, please register now for our webinar series.

This article was contributed by Michelle Clifton and Michael Reardon, Ph.D.

Michelle Clifton is a champion for all things higher education. Throughout the last 20 years her career has had a common thread to align strategic goals and technology to improve operational efficiency and impact student success.  

Michael Reardon, Ph.D is the Manager for the Business Consulting Services team for Blackbaud with more than 15 years of experience in organizational communication, change management, virtual work, and corporate identification.