10 ways to motivate employees to use your CMS


Guest post by Anne Gentle

As a content strategist, what motivations help you meet your content goals when integrating a content system? Often the tool selection gets the most attention, yet the motivation of contributors is going to make or break the success of the project. Motivation is a psychological feature--a willingness to act that precedes behavior. You might think of a points system with rewards as a motivation system, but rewards are only one type of motivation. In fact, community and personal growth were the two highest reported motivators according to O'Reilly Editor Andy Oram's study on community documentation, "Why do people write free documentation?"

As the study suggests, people are motivated by different enticements, or motivated intrinsically, not by reward. Before you try any single motivator, realize that everyone's psychological makeup differs. Be careful about rewarding behaviors that don't accurately measure the value you want contributors to bring. For example, don't reward a high number of edits on a wiki. You may just get small edits that don't add up to substantial content generation. Here are some fresh ideas for motivating contributors.

  1. Build reputation: "My content reigns supreme!" Some people are motivated by power, and the power of shared content can help them build a reputation. Motivate these contributors by enabling a profile page where each can tout their knowledge and abilities. 
  2. Raise a barn: "I love intense periods of work with a close-knit team." You have heard of the rural Amish tradition of building a barn in a day as a community event--with good food, too. Try an intense book sprint, with a day or a week of intense, focused effort on writing, categorizing, tagging or organizing.
  3. Fierce challenge: "I want a challenge." Set up a competition for two or more teams, judging on certain metrics. Useful metrics measure a certain value per time period, such as page views per day, comments per week, or most revisions per article. The reward could be a virtual one, such as a nicely-designed online badge for the winners to display on their team's page.
  4. Organize: "This place is a mess!" The methodical ones among us would be motivated by seeing statistics that show great organization over time, so offer visible stats about how content is being used and how the navigation or search is helping people. Also, ensure the workflow works well for the methodical personality who is motivated by efficient processes.
  5. Reciprocate: "I was a newbie once, too." Researchers found that reciprocity motivates many people in online communities. Ensure that ratings and "thank yous" are part of your system. The number of times that a contributor is thanked can add to their reputation points, or you can highlight helpful contributors every week or quarter. 
  6. Offer loyalty: "I am fiercely loyal to this group." A sense of belonging is a huge motivator for many of us. To tap into this motivation, assemble a small team who already works closely together and trusts each other. Let them work on content for a while, and encourage them to share successes stories with other tightly collaborative groups.
  7. Reward independence: "I value autonomy and ownership." Many workers are motivated by a sense of independence. With contributors, this can be a tricky area for motivations, because you want to build and foster trust in coworkers. Security on content is important here, so show your trust in people by giving them access.
  8. Vision quest: "Working on what I believe in is more valuable than compensation." Articulating a vision and getting buy-in for the content management system helps people find their motivations for using it. People are motivated by knowing the gains you and the organization can see and measure from contributions.
  9. Increase efficiency: "I will save so much time if I can point people to a page." Saving time is a huge motivator. Your content management system can "free" topics from the email trap. Think of the expert who answers the same question over and over. By sending a link to a page that answers the question, they've reused the content and saved time.
  10. Make a goal: "I always work better when I see an end to the means." Create a campaign for the content system to be a certain size within a certain time frame, or for an outline to be populated by 85% within an achievable amount of time.

We've all seen the problems of content management systems without contributors, of abandoned wikis without owners and so forth. I hope these motivation ideas get you thinking about programs you can create and tweaks you can make to motivate contributors.

Anne Gentle works on an Agile software development team as a senior technical writer at Advanced Solutions International in Austin, Texas. She just finished a book about using social publishing techniques for technical documentation titled "Conversation and Community: The Social Web for Documentation." She's an active member of the Society for Technical Communication, serving as the chair of the Editorial Advisory Panel for their Intercom magazine as well as on a special Social Media Task Force. She volunteers as a documentation maintainer for FLOSS Manuals, working on manuals for One Laptop Per Child and SugarLabs, both education projects dedicated to providing technology for children in developing countries. She writes a blog at justwriteclick.com and welcomes feedback there. As the mom of two young boys, she loves to be busy and on-the-go.