Even with the lockdowns now eased and people able to return to the office, many are opting to spend a portion of the week working from home. On these days, a video conference call can replace a face-to-face meeting or a casual chat over a coffee.
However, not all video meetings are equal. The choice of platform, environment and end-user device can have a significant impact on both the quality of the meeting and the results that can be gained from it.
It's important for managers to identify and implement tools and platforms that support all employees regardless of where they are working. There are three key ways video conferencing sessions can be improved and better support employee interactions. They are:
1. Deploy platforms that drive engagement
When selecting the best video collaboration platform, an organisation needs to consider some important factors. The platform needs to be user-friendly and provide excellent video and voice quality. It should also be accessible from a range of devices and over variable connection speeds.
It's also important for the platform to have features that actually encourage interaction and collaboration. Some offer features such as the ability to share images and text messages during a call or conduct real-time votes to check the views of participants. Such features can add additional value during sessions.
Further value can be added by ensuring users can record sessions for later reference. This can be particularly useful when tasks are being assigned, or complex subjects are discussed in detail.
The bottom line is that a selected platform should create a level playing field for all staff. It needs to provide the same quality and functionality for those working at home as it does for those in the office.
2. Match the different working styles within the organisation
Different members of staff will naturally have different working styles, and it is important the selected collaboration platform can cater for all.
For example, a staff member who is more expressive in their work may do well in meetings where visual tools support creativity and free-flowing ideas while displaying data in more colourful mediums. For these staff, an interactive solution such as a mind mapping application can be an effective way to both share and view ideas around a central subject.
Other staff members may like to take a more data-driven collaborative experience. They may want to get their thoughts together before sharing them with a group. In these cases, having a structured meeting agenda and space to prepare and collaborate asynchronously will help them bring their best ideas to the meeting.
Also, it's important to consider those staff who don't immediately take to virtual communication sessions. Here, having options such as breakout rooms where they can participate in smaller group discussions could be helpful.
3. Ensure staff are fully trained on the chosen platform
Once the collaboration platform has been chosen and deployed, it's time for all staff to receive training so they are comfortable with its operation.
This is important as it helps all staff to use the new platform and its features most effectively from day one. This will ensure that no one operates in a silo, and everyone understands the team norms for collaboration.
It can be worth designating one team member as a subject-matter expert for virtual collaboration. They can be a 'go-to' point for other staff members if they are having any difficulty with the platform and its operation.
Virtual collaboration will remain a key ingredient for organisations of all sizes. By ensuring a suitable platform is selected and deployed and staff are fully trained, they can use it to support their ongoing communication needs.
Virtual will never fully replace face-to-face communication, but it can be a valuable second option.