Collaboration is king - but...

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Collaboration within the workplace is essential for a productive and successful modern business. Staying connected is vital, and technology is constantly evolving to provide businesses with the opportunity to keep up with increasing demands placed on them by customers. The benefits of heightened collaboration within a company are endless, especially when it comes to enhancing the customer experience.

Businesses are able to benefit from fast and secure services aimed at driving innovation. Introducing collaborative features such as instant messaging, video conferencing, screensharing, Voice over IP (VoIP), and shared cloud document management, allows a business to communicate more effectively between locations, departments (virtual or otherwise), and people.

Working between departments or locations is streamlined, as collaborative technology enhances the efficiency of a team and their work space. Connecting people within a business is the foundation of a collaborative work environment.

However, Timico’s recent research study, The Collaboration Landscape, found that a fifth of UK organisations have some form of collaborative technology in place, such as audio and video conferencing, and live chat, but only 9 per cent of employees are actively using it to full effect.

Why is this?  The digital workplace enables employees to work faster, more productively and efficiently than ever before, but the study found that employees are slow to embrace the technology. Over half of executives (57 per cent) believe that the workforce is slow to use collaborative technology because they ‘don’t understand it’. Forty-six per cent believe that lack of training is to blame for the slow uptake whilst over a third (37 per cent) feel it is due to a lack of management support.  Fear and reticence to change is also a big challenge with 43 per cent believing that stubbornness is a barrier to adoption and 38 per cent put it down to fear.

It’s clear that there is a real disconnect in terms of perception and reality when it comes to the adoption of collaborative technology in the workplace and that there is a lot of work to do to ensure better understanding and increase confidence amongst staff.

For example, according to a survey by US furniture maker Steelcase, 72 per cent of people felt self-conscious about their image on video and 58 per cent obsessed over the fact that they appeared washed out or tired. “People tend to behave in a very forced and formal way during telepresence meetings,” senior design researcher Ritu Bajaj commented “They sit up very straight as if they’re TV news anchors and are reluctant to move.”

It’s evident that people can be distracted or embarrassed by their appearance and can lose focus on the discussion or meeting task in hand.

Training, education and communication key to adoption (and confidence…)

Lack of proper training is stopping true collaboration and senior executives must get on board to increase confidence, awareness and understanding amongst their staff if they want to move forward.  The study found that over half (57 per cent) want more education and ongoing training for staff.

Organisations need to have a long-term strategy in place, actively supported by the board, with regular education seminars for employees on the increased productivity and cost benefits of using collaborative technology, while internally appointed ‘Collaboration Gurus’ in the business can help employees positively embrace change, increase confidence and eliminate fear on how and when to use it.

The report found that three quarters of leaders (72 per cent) believe better internal communications will increase the effective use of collaboration technology in the workplace, 63 per cent think that more information needs to be available overall, while over a third (39 per cent) believe that archaic systems are to blame and that more up-to-date devices need to be introduced to solve the adoption angst. Three quarters (72 per cent) of businesses are still using old fashioned and outdated desk phones; there is still a long way to go to achieve desk phone freedom.  Despite the mobile world that we live, and work in, no business surveyed was found to employ a mobile only policy.

Collaboration saves money but evaluation is needed 

A tenth of organisations polled (11 per cent) had no idea of the potential cost savings that could be made by the use of collaborative technology - such as reduction in travel costs due to video conferencing - and over half (58 per cent) were unaware if there was any process in place at all to evaluate and monitor cost savings to the business. For those that do have processes in place, 6 per cent believe that their organisations are making savings of £50,000 – £100,000 per year, 9 per cent estimate that costs savings amount to £20,000 – £50,000 per year, and 8 per cent believe that they are saving between £5,000 and £20k per year.

Of the small number of businesses that are monitoring their cost savings thanks to collaborative technology, the biggest savings are due to smaller employee overheads.  4 per cent said they have smaller premises due to staff working more flexibly and that savings are made due to increased efficiency. 3 per cent believe they have cut costs with advanced VoIP phone systems and that travel costs have been reduced.

With rising costs, it is becoming increasingly harder for businesses to gain a competitive edge. Through the effective use of collaborative technology, a business can begin to explore new ways of delivering their service, improving both end user and end customer experience.

Through collaborative tools - and proper training -  employees can efficiently communicate with each other, from solving customer queries, to contacting experts in their field whenever their skills are needed to escalate response times. A willingness to adopt a collaborative, customer-centric culture, led and endorsed by key stakeholders is vital, so it’s time to get on board, and now.

Colin Riddle, Head of Products and Services, Timico
Image source: Shutterstock/everything possible