How to improve collaboration in the workplace

Date: 14 September 2017 Author: David Webb

If you’re struggling to increase collaboration in the workplace, then you’re not alone. Over the last 20 years, collaborative activities (such as meetings, phone calls and responding to emails) have increased by 50 per cent or more. And yet 20 to 35 per cent of value-added collaborations come from just three to five per cent of employees, according to figure from the Harvard Business Review.

Getting your team members to effectively interact and communicate is an increasing challenge in today’s evolving corporate landscape. Multiple locations, departments, languages, cultures and technologies can leave most businesses wondering how to get each staff member on the same page.

Despite these challenges, your workplace can maintain and even improve team collaboration at work. You just need the right approach in place to boost collaboration across your business.

Connecting your staff and customers the IoT way

The Internet of Things (IoT) has garnered a lot of attention lately as innovators and entrepreneurs devise innovative technologies to connect all our “stuff” together. If we can get our devices talking to one another, then surely, we can improve our own workplace communications?

The Nest smart thermostat and wrist worn fitness trackers are both examples of the IoT at work in our everyday life. But the IoT also promises to revolutionise the way we work. Approximately 202 million wearable devices were handed out by businesses in 2016 and that figure is predicted to reach more than 500m by 2021,  according to marketing group ABI Research.

IoT devices can connect your customers and colleagues using the most appropriate devices. You can connect people to people, and people to the information they need, which allows your staff and customers to act decisively and collaborate.

Let’s look at an example, as described by Cisco’s Richard Townhill in a recent blog post: “A big railroad company is putting sensors on the rails to measure vibration: If it measures over a certain limit, the company sends a repair crew. A retailer implemented digital shelf labelling to be more agile and competitive. If a competitor changes a price for apples or bananas, it takes just minutes to match or beat the price.”

“Connected vehicles, predictive maintenance, adjustable banana margins: It’s incredible what can happen when the virtual world meets the real world.”

A cohesive way to manage your remote workers

Whether you’re collaborating with your team from a remote office or working from home, flexible working is increasing in popularity and it also presents an opportunity to modernise your workforce.

forecast of employment trends by the World Economic Forum called flexible work, including virtual teams, “one of the biggest drivers of transformation” in the workplace, while a Gallup poll found that 37 percent of respondents have already worked virtually.

Yet, this could have an adverse effect on collaboration in the workplace if it is not managed correctly – particularly as innovations such as the IoT and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) schemes bring a range of devices into your workplace.

The disparity of where your workers are based should not be matched with a disparity of ways to connect to your colleagues and systems. You need a single platform with multiple communication methods that allow you to communicate and collaborate effectively – and your staff to work securely from any device.

For example, Cisco Spark connects you from any device to the same space where your meetings, files, and conversations live.  It provides instant video calling with screen sharing and scheduled meetings powered by Webex. If you add a new Cisco Spark cloud-based phone system, you can connect your work spaces. Or connect your existing Cisco phone system to the rest of your Cisco Spark service.

In-house collaboration

With an estimated 95% of meeting rooms viewed as a technology wasteland, it’s not just remote workers that benefit from such a cohesive approach to collaboration – your offices will too as you can clear the clutter and cabling to give your staff a space they want to work in.

And this space does not have to necessarily need to be a traditional meeting room. A recent IACC report Meeting Room of the Future found two-thirds of venue operators anticipate that flexible meeting spaces will become the most important element in venue selection in the next three to five years. As such, you need to provide your workers with a means to collaborate in a range of spaces too.

Collaboration in the workplace

For example, Cisco Spark Board and Spark Meetings are two new hardware and software offerings that make in-person meetings more productive and allow high-quality face-to-face meetings both virtually and in the real world. What’s more, you can fire up your laptops (or whatever device you use) and collaborate in any space using these tools.

Cisco’s Jens Meggers said: “Continuous collaboration means enabling teams to innovate before, during, and after meetings. Collaboration isn’t a series of discrete, unconnected events (like meetings), or one-off conversations (like phone calls), or even string of discussions in email. You must have one continuous, robust workstream.”

It's an important point. The fluidity of the way we work means that you need to be able to connect with your workforce as quickly and as easily as possible – and through whatever means you choose. Technology brings spontaneity and, hence, collaboration on a scale we have never seen before – as long as it is done in the right way.

If you’d like to take your first step to a more collaborative workplace and robust workstream, then click here for a free trial of the Cisco Spark online communication and collaboration tool.

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