Protek recently hosted a client panel on collaboration tools. By “collaboration,” we mean technologies that enable voice, video, and chat communications in the workplace. The COVID-19 crisis has leaders looking to collaborate better with their teams, sometimes over great distances, and many employees working from home.
Our client panelists shared their first hand experiences and best practices. If you would like to watch the webinar session on-demand, check it out here.
Here are the five most important best practices shared during the webinar:
1. Develop standards and stick to them
When everyone inside the company uses the same collaboration tool, the value of that tool increases. With everyone on the same page, chat volumes increase, meetings get started faster, and technical hiccups rapidly diminish.
Using the same tool helps the whole organization move up the learning curve fast. Too often however, we see tool fragmentation inside of organizations, with small tribes of users gravitating towards their favorite tool. For instance, it is not uncommon to see the engineering department using Slack, while marketing and sales use Google Chat. The result is fragmented communication.
Companies need to settle on a small subset of collaboration tools for internal communication and collaboration. It pay dividends to be explicit about it and force teams to standardize on the same tool set, even if that means some approaches need to be put on the back burner or all together prohibited.
2. Stay flexible
While standards are vital for internal collaboration tools, the complete opposite view is needed when dealing with the outside world of customers and business partners. With these interactions, we lack the luxury of mandating what tools they use. Teams that engage with external parties can have their favorites and standards, but it is vital to stay flexible and empathetic when working with others.
When you engage with your largest and most strategic customers, you shouldn’t waste time trying to get them to adapt to you. You should simply embrace their tool set wherever possible. Using a tool with security holes or drawbacks would be a notable exception. However, in most cases, it is vital for externally focused employees to be conversant and capable with a broad range of collaboration tools.
For instance, at Protek, we standardize on Microsoft Teams for internal chat and collaboration. When we do video conference calls with clients, we will propose Teams, but if the client says, let’s use Zoom, we will meet them on their playing field. On our recent webinar, James Trujillo shared how his team seamlessly switches between different tools throughout the day, using Teams, Zoom, and GoToMeeting where needed.
3. Match the tool to the collaboration need
It is also vital to match the collaboration tool to the job at hand. Each tool has different features and approaches to common problems. Some products are easier to use and have a slicker UI. While others may have more robust security controls, which sometimes can impact ease of use.
The important point here is to use the right tool for the job. Trujillo, from the webinar, shared how Kolbe Corp uses Teams for internal chat and video; Zoom and GoToMeeting for external client conference calls; and finally GoToTraining for engaging with larger numbers of customer trainees, especially where features such as quizzes, chats, Q&A, and polling are vital for an educational session.
4. Lead by example
To facilitate collaboration, a series of small steps and good habits make a huge difference. If there are standards in place, leaders should model good behavior and reinforce and conform to those standards. Some of these standards could include video cameras should be on by default for video conference calls, or employees must wear a company branded shirt during online meetings.
Leaders should have empathy for employees that are unable to meet the standards though. Many people could be nervous about everyday life intruding on their video conference calls. Simply put, a child or family member walking quietly through the frame is no big deal. Leaders can create a culture of tolerance and acceptance for employees who are under new forms of stress during this work from home phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.
5. Build in business continuity
As organizations ramp up their business continuity readiness, leaders need to think through how collaboration tools can keep employees productive and in touch, no matter the business disruption. In selecting collaboration tools, it is important to think about all the places where staff may need to work, for instance from home offices, temporary corporate offices, or from the road.
Road warriors, teleworkers, and executives should have world-class telework setups, with fast and powerful laptops, VoIP handsets, high-def cameras, high speed internet access, VPNs and secure remote access, and extra security precautions for doing sensitive corporate work from home offices.
Collaboration tools are a fast moving space. Without exception, we all need to up our game. Protek clients who wish to take their collaboration to another level should reach out to Michelle Lawson for a consultation.