Collaboration tools have helped companies expand well beyond the four walls of their office, giving employees free rein to work anywhere and promoting the idea of a virtual workforce.
But what companies gain in expanded reach and productivity increases they can sometimes lose in personal relationships with their employees.
However, no matter what type of collaboration setup your company is using—onsite, cloud-based or a hybrid environment that combines both—companies and employees both can enjoy the benefits of a dispersed workforce. Here are three best practices to consider when using collaboration technology:
1. Choose a communications platform that’s simple and effective: Technology is only useful if it’s being used. If your employees are struggling to get connected or find it difficult to operate, they’ll quickly abandon whatever communications platform you choose. To ensure success, choose a system that’s intuitive and easy to operate, and includes features that enhance the collaborative process.
A hybrid system such as ShoreTel Connect HYBRID gives companies the ability to manage an onsite system for their in-office employees and those working in branch offices, and the flexibility of providing collaboration tools to all their employees via the cloud. ShoreTel Connect HYBRID’s features include the most popular collaboration tools such as audioconferencing, screen share and instant messaging.
2. Schedule—and reinforce—a weekly face-to-face group meeting: Regardless of whether your employees are in the office or on the road, a weekly meeting via collaboration technology should be a part of your routine. Not only can your employees update you on their work progress, but you can also reinforce a personal connection that sometimes can get lost when your workforce is separated by many miles.
An article in Harvard Business Review suggests companies establish a “virtual water cooler” during their meetings so employees can share information and reinforce social bonds. The article proposes each meeting begin with a check-in, “having each member take a couple of minutes to discuss what they are doing, what’s going well and what’s challenging,” as well as having occasional virtual team-building exercises to further strengthen the personal connection.
3. One-on-one meetings matter: Employees need individual feedback no matter if they’re in the office or remote. Research has shown that managers who are more engaged with their employees have a more productive, satisfied staff, with deeper trust and a more objective view regarding how business is really operating.
Collaboration technologies are extremely powerful tools for breaking down the barriers to effective communication in a business. The key is to use the technology effectively to ensure both the business and your employees are getting the most from your collaboration investment.