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The Future of Work - Beyond the Tools: Investing in Collaboration that Actually Works
August 5, 2022

Missed last week’s webinar where we talked all things collaboration and communication? Watch the recording below or continue reading the highlights.

Did you know that nearly 80% of workers are using collaboration tools for work in 2021, up from just over half of workers in 2019? This is an increase of 44%! To understand why collaboration software demand has increased, we will look beyond the tools to the other factors that contribute to its success.

This edition from our series on the #futureofwork was hosted by Sam Miller, Product Marketing Manager at ServiceRocket and guest speaker, Alexa Lightner, consultant and founder of the Lightner Institute. Sam brings his expertise from the realms of customer value realization, where his role at ServiceRocket focuses on effective collaboration and communication. Alexa brings with her a wealth of knowledge and experience around negotiation, commercial skill development and future proof workplace collaboration.

This webinar is all about how to invest in collaboration that works. The hosts discussed:


Untangling Collaboration and Communication

Before we jump into collaboration infrastructure, it's important to start thinking about what the differences are between communication and collaboration. Let’s start with the terms and how communication relates to collaboration.


Defining Communication 


Let's say the sender is trying to communicate something to the receiver, the sender will come to this interaction with all of their emotions in the current situation, their values, and expectations of what they will get out of this interaction. The sender is trying to communicate their message with expectations on how the receiver will decode and interpret what is being said. 

When we communicate, we often have our own external influences on our side, along with the side of the person who we are communicating to. A message doesn’t always have to be a ping or a text message, it can also be communicated via body language. The result is that the receiver will encode that message based on their own belief systems and values.The solution? Know what tools to use to communicate a message, empathize with the other party and frame your message in a way that makes it easy for the receiver to read the message the way you intended them to.

The Importance of Collaboration


Let's imagine an ideal team collaboration scenario. Employees collaborate and communicate together in order to accomplish a common goal. It’s really important to understand what the goal that you're trying to achieve is, because different types of collaboration can have different outputs. 

Having a collaborative work environment has been linked to high levels of job satisfaction, trust and engagement. Collaboration requires coordination and that is proper infrastructure becomes integral.

Collaboration Infrastructure: What It Looks Like


Our hosts found a traditional definition of what collaboration infrastructure is, which comes from The Project Management Institute, however in the webinar, the hosts discussed how this definition is outdated.Where this definition falls short is that it's not explicitly acknowledging the importance of starting with the why. Going back to collaboration, you can't build an infrastructure for your collaboration until you really know where you're going and what you're trying to accomplish. 



Leveraging Digital Tools

Using different tools can enable a higher level of collaboration and communication, which can be really powerful. But you have to know how to use these tools both from a technical and practical standpoint. 

The Importance of Process and Norms

Unfortunately, this scenario is all too common at most companies. The tool that was carefully chosen slowly dies after a big initial launch and promotion. The operations and IT teams feel like they wasted their time and money because no one uses the tool. What needs to happen is for time to be spent training employees on how to use the tools and an introduction to the processes that the tools help to improve. With these training in place, leadership needs to establish new working norms.

To ensure that everything comes together and people use the tools effectively, it's crucial to create and update processes and norms. Having a tool isn't enough if you don't know how to use it and if you don't know how it impacts others. You need training.  This will constantly be evolving as the needs of your business and your people change.

Why Collaboration Matters

Common Challenges & Solutions Regarding Collaboration 

These challenges will seem familiar to everyone and our hosts found some solutions to help ease these pain points for everyone.

Many of these issues are related to the remote workforce management that can be resolved with the right tools. However, the tools themselves can create an issue if they are hard to learn or if they're not intuitive, these tools can end up costing you more.

Solutions

It’s really important to invest in teaching people how to communicate effectively with these tools, how to choose the right tools to send what kind of message that can be really helpful, along with things like cultural awareness, cross generational communication, things like that makes sense and to continue.

For proximity bias, first is awareness, because unconscious proximity bias makes it more conscious, so things like bias training can be really helpful to bring awareness to things so that people can be more explicit and conscious about how you overcorrect. Another sort of broad stroke solution is building social connection. It can be a solution for information silos, but really building in this infrastructure, thinking about processes and incentives to help people connect.

Group Communication Norms

Every message does not need to be sent to all employees. We've all received emails that have nothing to do with us or our work. What ends up happening is that people stop reading the important company updates because they see it as a waste of time.

This is a framework that you can use to align your team under communication norms for a hybrid or fully urban environment.

People managers and organizations should provide training to team members on best practices when collaborating with team members or other stakeholders in the organization. On top you will see the communications tools that are most commonly used: chat, post, video calls and email and on the left are variables that you should consider when sending your communications out.

Collaboration Tools That Will Help Your Organization Thrive in the Future of Work

Workplace from Meta

It's the only one business collaboration platform that enables collaboration through a familiar and easy to use interface. If you've ever had a Facebook account, you can pick up workplace and run with it. With features like chat, video, calls, groups, posts, no matter who you are collaborating with, regardless of the time zone, Workplace has the right features to get your message across in a few clicks of the mouse.

Miro

Miro is an online collaboration whiteboard platform that enables distributed teams to work effectively together by brainstorming with digital sticky notes to planning and managing Android workflows. Miro has all the features and templates you need to go from ideation to execution when it comes to building new products or company initiatives

Jira

The number one software development tool used by agile teams. What's great about Jira is that it is so versatile. It's known for being used by software development teams but it can be used for general project management. So for instance, support teams use Jira to keep track of customer issues, the result, and the operations teams can keep track of project implementations with customers.

Looking Beyond the Tools

In summary, Alexa and Sam showed some great examples of different tools that can support your goals but again, you really have to start with the goals themselves. Starting out, most organizations already use certain tools and may be considering changing them again. It's a process that constantly evolves.

Even if you're already functioning, there's always an opportunity for optimizing your collaboration infrastructure. And usually, there's at least one of the three, whether it's your skills or your processes and norms, or your tools that could use some updating or reevaluation. But you have to start with what your goal is and be really clear about that. Then you begin to understand what tools are needed in order to support this.

For more highlight blogs and recordings of our webinar series focused on the #futureofwork, check out our website to learn more.

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