You manage 10 people. Seven sit in cubes a few feet away. One person is two buildings down and two others work from home or in a remote
Ty Levine BroadVision
office halfway around the world. How can you get everyone to collaborate with one another and feel part of the team? A decade ago, remote collaboration was email, conference calls and FedEx. But today, what was once considered the ends of the earth is now closer than you think—reached by the edge of the enterprise, edge of the cloud and now edge of collaboration all unifying to bring the ends of the earth right to your employee’s front door—or hammock on the beach in Maldives. A former boss, Salem Samhoud, who founded @Samhoud, a leading European consulting firm, once said to me, “I don’t care if you go to the South of France to do your work, I only care that, when you deliver to the client, it’s the best work you have done.” In theory, technology allows us to work from anywhere; however the question lingers: what does it take to make remote collaboration not only work, but thrive?
In an IDC Report , Ray Boggs, vice president of SMB research at IDC notes that “improving productivity is an increasingly important objective independent of firm size or region, setting the stage for increased technology investment to support worker efficiency and effectiveness, especially mobile and remote workers.”
Organizations are realizing the potential business benefits of the remote workforce but are still struggling to manage the components to enable team success. Building successful collaboration among teams requires an amalgamation of mindset and technology. I call this the “chime-in component.”
Marcus Buckingham, leadership and engagement expert, pioneered the theory that organizations consist of many different people and work personalities. Engaging everyone means looking at individual strengths. Forget weaknesses—they aren’t weaknesses at all. Where one person is happy and productive working with laser-like focus on their specific tasks, another person enjoys helping everyone and wants the ability to “chime-in” and vocally contribute to the team. If two heads are better than one, why not leverage everyone’s experiences and knowledge? Imagine a work environment where a team of 10 could communicate and collaborate so efficiently that it did not increase their workload or extend their day? Wouldn’t everyone be more productive? Time would be saved not added and, in the end, time equals money.
Reset Management Mindset
The modern workplace and culture continue to evolve. We have become a 24/7 society with colleagues spanning the globe and more time zones than you can count on two hands—a business condition where teams may struggle to seamlessly collaborate while simultaneously maintaining individuality and human connection.
Companies now have the freedom to hire the best person for the job, not just people close to the office. Leveraging that capability requires discipline and a new mindset to let go of the reins a bit and trust those star employees as well as the technology to enable collaboration and accountability. Management must also be willing to allocate budget to build a flexible, collaborative environment capable of meeting growth requirements, global presence and individual needs.
Take the Burden off Employees
Chime-in component success depends on providing teams with interactive, intuitive tools needed for communicating and collaborating easily—tools inherently social, personalized and customizable which enable team members to effectively receive/deliver information, allow for safe sharing of documents related to their projects and enable productivity despite time zone differences and distractions like email and social media. Companies benefit from the team’s ability to maintain transparency and a high level of organization. And it goes without saying; the IT staff is happier with technology that easily integrates across existing systems and provides enterprise grade security.
Develop Team Success by Defining Roles within the Team
To stimulate “chime-in” collaboration, executive leadership and employee buy-in are required. Set your team up for success as a team as well as individual contributors. Famed basketball coach Phil Jackson once said, “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” Individuals who have clear roles and know their “position” on the team will excel. Rather than focusing on distributing tasks evenly, identify and assign succinct roles for each team member, divvying up tasks based on those roles.
Prioritize Remote Team Meetups and Support Cultural Diversity
Not surprising, humans were pre-wired for interactive relationships. While technology can address collaboration needs of remote employees, management should prioritize regular in-person gatherings. Studies show employee satisfaction, team collaboration, creativity and productivity are affected by peer-to-peer interaction. If in-person meetups are not possible, go “virtual”. Make it a point to not only host business meetings virtually, but set up online meet-and-greets to engage every team member—even invite the family or favorite dog.
Giving employees the support, comfort level, latitude and individuality to thrive in a collaborative environment requires the right mix of mind-set and technology. Organizations that embrace the changing workforce, take advantage of available technology and are willing to reassess the best ways to enable productivity and employee satisfaction will have superior advantage. By fostering the ability to chime in, they will reap the reward of limitless creativity that transpires when people work together across different cultures, countries or even from one city to the next.