It's no secret that technology has infiltrated daily life. And yet, while technology is changing, businesses are not; while technology innovation is increasing, workplace productivity is not. According to the Henley Business School, 70 percent of workers do not feel that new technology has increased their productivity. Improving digital collaboration can be the key to closing the productivity gap, by enabling employees to harness technology to become more productive.
The problem with productivity is that it's hard to measure; what it means to be productive is different from person to person. As such, an important first step in addressing productivity is defining outcomes, business results or KPIs that will enable the business to reliably track progress. Ensuring that employees understand how to apply collaboration to their work, and measuring those results, are key to really knowing if digital collaboration tools are helping productivity.
Just because we are used to collaborating via technology in daily life does not mean integrating collaboration technology into the enterprise is a natural process. Businesses today often miscalculate the difficulty of getting employees to use new collaboration tools and applications. Employees will use new tools only if they are relevant, easy to access, and have digestible material, and it is up to the employer to ensure these criteria are met.
Most companies deploy tools, or even multiple seemingly alike tools, without any training sessions on the tools or guidance on the best application for them, creating cross-over and sometimes confusion with legacy applications. This creates long-lasting consequences for internal communication - if all employees aren't using the same tools for the same purposes, it will be more challenging to integrate them into the daily work routine. Organizations should be providing guidelines on best practices or use cases for all collaboration tools up front to ensure a smooth transition and the greatest possible amount of cohesion.
The Remote Work Puzzle
Finding and standardizing on the right balance of chat applications and communication tools is vital for any organization with a remote workforce or satellite offices. Employees need to have the ability to connect with colleagues, partners, suppliers, and customers in a manner that is secure and reliable. Keeping employees engaged requires enterprise applications that provide seamless connectivity between tools and replicate the exchanges that employees are used to socially.
Video conferencing is an important piece of making remote collaboration work. If an organization has deployed video conferencing, employees can join meetings and engage as if they are sitting in the same conference room, making it easier for them to collaborate and build trust among one another. This also increases productivity within teams: when employees can quickly connect face-to-face to work through problems, they're likely to find solutions faster. Ultimately, video helps to remove geographic barriers between employees so that they can connect and get their jobs done as if they were in the same room.
Another reason collaboration technologies may not be widely adopted in the enterprise is that employees are unsure of the level of governance over these tools. If employees are unclear of the standards they are expected to uphold for each tool, they are less likely to feel comfortable using them freely. HR should take steps to ensure that employees understand the acceptable computer or electronic use policy in order to set expectations upfront on how employees should be using these technologies and what is appropriate. Content governance policies must be established early on and must be flexible enough to allow employees to connect, collaborate, and get work done without interference.
We've seen the number of people using collaboration applications in the workplace increase over the past few years and is likely to gain more popularity. When employees are constantly communicating and working together, collaboration technologies will become the standard way of communicating. The current workforce often prefers to communicate via digital collaboration platforms instead of email, as this has become the most comfortable and familiar for them.
Collaboration is vital to business success, and companies are starting to invest billions of dollars in enterprise collaboration solutions to improve communication among employees. As the workforce continues to expand and change, the ways that employees are most comfortable communicating will continue to evolve. However, the importance of giving employees easy access to tools that are as close as possible to those they use in everyday life will continue to be paramount.
About the Author: Daisy Hernandez is the GVP of Product Management for SAP Jam