Virtual collaboration as a strategy – the mindset, skills and tools needed
Virtual collaboration is all about being strategic on how employees in an organization are spending their time interacting with one another and ultimately, how the entire organization communicates as a whole. Given the current world of remote working, it has never been more critical for organizations to define a clear vision, agree on roles, and set clear goals when it comes to building an environment of collaboration. Research shows that organizations with great collaboration within their workforce are more innovative and productive. At People Matters TechHR SEA 2021, we ran a master class that focused on and provided practical tips on how to decode the mindset, skillset, and toolset needed for driving virtual collaboration and building a connected organization.
The master class was led by Lark, a leading solution provider in the collaboration suite space that helps customers on their digital transformation journey. The session had three distinguished speakers:
- Zac Lin, ASEAN Head of Business Development at Lark - Through working with many small to large organisations and helping them through digitalization journeys, Zac has a wealth of expertise on how new technologies can help transform the way we work.
- Carolyn Chin-Parry, Digital Innovation Leader at PwC Singapore - Carolyn was awarded Woman of the Year from the Women in IT Asia Awards, and has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Women in Tech. Her experience in both PwC and local NGOs has helped her understand the physical to digital transformation and its challenges.
- Dr. William Soo, Head, Group HR & IT at Chasen Holdings - Having deep experience in the F&B and supply chain industries, Dr William has a clear vision and idea of how to enable his organisation and its employees on virtual collaboration that connects the company in the most meaningful and productive manner
Good tools for great collaboration
Opening the session, Zac highlighted that virtual collaboration is not a new term and organizations are aware of its importance, especially given the onset of COVID-19 since 2020. A collaboration tool is to an organization is what the military is to a country; the military needs the right tools and training in order to be an effective deterrent force. In a similar way, organizations need not only the right collaboration tools, but the proper implementation, and training to be prepared for their digital transformation journey and foster a suitable collaborative environment.
However, when it comes to driving a collaborative environment virtually, organizations need to consider enabling factors like associated costs, relevant training, and onboarding of employees into the new virtual environment. For example, many organizations believe that a collaboration tool is an easy fix for driving virtual collaboration but fail to leverage the tools' full potential when they miss out on defining a proper use case, promoting its benefits, and providing adequate training to employees.
Here are two practical tips on how to drive better virtual collaboration in your organization, shared by Zac in the session:
- To ensure efficient and productive virtual meetings, keep the meetings short and focused by using a live collaborative document (a feature of Lark), that is shared with all meeting attendees prior to the meeting, to ensure that participants are prepared for the meeting and feedback is being captured real-time during the call; this is a best practice used internally at Lark. Read more about this methodology, called SamePage Meeting here.
- To reduce participant fatigue, limit the amount of time that each participant can speak during the meeting. For example, Amazon uses 'Pizza Rooms' where only 6 people are allowed to speak within a limited timeframe on a specific topic.
The Virtual Collaboration Mindset at PWC
At PwC, their journey from physical to digital was seamless as they have adopted a digital-first approach, even before the pandemic. Carolyn highlighted that although this transition was easy for PwC, the journey of digital transformation was more challenging for their partners such as Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). For these organisations, the issue is changing the mindset of employees who are resistant to adopting new collaboration tools. Although there isn't a 'one size fits all' approach to changing mindsets, a way that PwC has overcome this is by creating informal opportunities for employees to connect virtually:
- Virtual Pantry: This provides employees with an opportunity to connect informally in the same way they would do at the pantry in the office. An online link is created and made readily available to employees to simulate the physical interaction of catching up with a colleague at the pantry or having a water cooler conversation.
- Lunch Speed Dating: Employees are encouraged to organize online lunch meets with a stranger within the organization to get to know each other better. In smaller teams, this approach can be used to introduce new joiners or increase team collaboration. Conversations are centered around non-work-related topics like family, pets, and hobbies so that the interaction is more personal.
Carolyn concluded that to foster an environment of collaboration, it is essential for leaders to lead with empathy - showing compassion and understanding, especially when it comes to the topic of home for employees. By understanding that the situation at home is very different for each employee, organizations will be able to implement more effective virtual collaboration strategies.
Powering remote teams, the Chasen way
Dr. William Soo shared that at Chasen, the requirements of the company to foster an environment of collaboration include finding the right tool, having good project management, and audio/video communication. A key challenge that organizations face in adopting collaboration tools is poor adoption rates. This is largely due to a lack of buy-in from the end-users as a result of poor communication when implementing a tool which ultimately results in low adoption and resistance from employees. This highlights the importance of finding a tool that resonates with employees and for Chasen, Lark emerged as the correct tool of choice for their employees.
Upon implementing Lark at Chasen, Dr. William highlighted that they have seen significant productivity improvements, having saved '5 man-days with easy follow-ups and time saved on data re-entry.', all because an instant video guide was created and shared with teams on the Lark platform. A key strategy used was to focus on the smaller repetitive tasks that consume a lot of time to achieve quick results - hence the mantra at Chasen to 'start small and start smart'.
Several interesting takeaways
Given the current shift to remote and hybrid workplaces, great collaboration is the cornerstone of building an organization and workforce that's more innovative and productive. As part of this master class, we have learned that building connected and intelligent organizations starts first from having the right mindset, being equipped with the right tools, and training your employees with the necessary skills. Here are some more key takeaways on how your organization can improve virtual collaboration in this new world of work:
- There is no 'one size fits all' approach and leaders need to identify the collaboration tool that suits their organization's needs to get the best results when it comes to virtual collaboration and productivity.
- When leading virtual meetings, time management is key and timelines should be implemented to improve productivity. Virtual meetings should also be kept short; if possible, meetings should be limited to 30-45 minutes.
- Understanding that every employee is different is key to implementing a successful collaboration strategy. For example, employees should be given the option to keep their cameras turned on or off during work meetings depending on their preference and work environment at home.
- Lastly, large company meetings such as town halls need to be engaging and should leverage images and a multi-tone in approach to increase collaboration from employees.
For more information on how to implement a productive and efficient next-gen collaboration tool for your organization, contact Lark here.