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Productivity, Collaboration, and How the Cloud Drives Both

March 4, 2019

Before we get into this, I have a confession to make. I'm not writing this post from scratch.

We recently put together a comprehensive guide on how recent advancements in cloud technology address some of the biggest trends in the modern workplace. If you haven't checked it out yet, you should. It covers everything from employees' shifting work preferences to how the cloud provides the right infrastructure for effective collaboration.

This post pulls directly from the guide and illustrates some of its' key points - I wanted to share some of the insights that I think apply to most businesses, regardless of size or industry. If you want to check out the full guide, here it is.

P.S. - we're "ungating" our content, so clicking that ^ just brings you straight to the actual guide without asking for your number, email or anything else.

And with that, we're off.

Collaboration in the cloud

Cloud-based technology has helped remove the traditional barriers associated with employee collaboration. If we need to work on projects together today, we just use file-sharing apps to keep things up-to-date, make changes in real-time, and access shared resources regardless of where we are (or what device we're on).

The ability to work together without being face-to-face has been a game-changer. Sure, we've been able to call and/or email each other for a while now, but being able to work on projects together regardless of proximity has opened new doors for workplace productivity.

Cloud technology has also impacted the way companies communicate. Many (if not most) businesses have already done away with traditional premise-based phone systems in favor of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) solutions because of lower ownership costs and improved reliability. Now, cloud communications providers (including yours truly) are looking to provide solutions that fit the way people work today, which means going beyond voice and integrating other modes of communication.

It is increasingly clear that the traditional 'create and push' information approach no longer meets employees' evolving needs.

- The Digital Workplace Report by Deloitte

Work isn't just for the office anymore

Gallup’s “State of the American Workplace” report shows that the percentage of employees who said they spent at least some time working remotely increased from 39 to 43% between 2012 and 2016 alone. Surveyed employees also made their desire for increased flexibility clear – 51% said they would change jobs for more flextime, and 37% would move to a job that gave them the ability to work from outside the office at least part of the time.

It's easy enough to understand the desire for more flexible work arrangements. Giving employees work-from-home options allows them to reduce or eliminate commute times, start work earlier, and have the flexibility to handle family obligations. You also make your company a more appealing place to work, and expand your hiring pool because you're not ruling anyone out based on geography.

If you're a work-from-home skeptic, this is probably the point where you start thinking, "All that sounds great in theory, but how will I know that my employees are actually working when I can't look up and see them staring intently at their computer screens?" Valid question - I'd encourage you to do 2 things:

  1. Make sure that you're hiring grown adults (they're usually pretty good at staying on track whether someone's looking over their shoulder or not)
  2. On a more serious note, consider this:

A study led by Stanford University economics professor Nicholas Bloom found that working from home created a number of business advantages. Over 2 years, Bloom worked with CTrip (China’s largest travel agency) to implement a work-from-home program for its employees.

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While he initially expected the pros and cons to balance each other out, results showed that the remote employees actually increased productivity by 13.5% over those working in the office while also taking fewer sick days and time off. Perhaps most importantly, employees that worked from home showed a 50% lower attrition rate than those who went into the office.

The actual data is bound to vary a bit from company to company, but the underlying reasons give us reason to think that the pros of giving employees the option to work from home outweigh the cons - assuming you have established ways to measure productivity and output. Which brings me to my next big takeaway:

Use data to drive performance

If you're not thinking about how to measure productivity with universally-established metrics, I'd encourage you to start. This will naturally vary across different job functions (a salesperson wouldn’t be measured by the same metrics as a software developer) but the amount of information that managers have access to today allows them to make more informed decisions. Outside of measuring day-to-day employee productivity, leveraging data also allows companies to establish best practices.

Let's use salespeople as an example.

Traditionally, salespeople have been measured based on qualitative attributes such as their tone, persistence, and ability to deliver compelling pitches & presentations. While those qualities are still important indicators of sales performance, sales managers can now create metrics around performance that help measure a rep’s productivity. At Votacall, our sales leaders can measure the team’s daily effort by keeping track of metrics that show activity such as call volume, number of proposals sent, and quoted revenue. Having real-time access to this kind of data allows them to evaluate sales staff in more ways than just revenue, which helps to identify areas that reps can improve.

In the past, it was more difficult to pinpoint the source of a rep’s success or failure – today, managers can leverage data about activity levels and account targeting to help point their sales teams in the right direction. Not only does this impact the bottom line by better arming reps to generate revenue, but because a successful salesperson is less likely to churn, organizations can avoid the costs associated with employee attrition.

Watch out for information overload

This next point is so obvious that I almost feel guilty typing it, but in the modern workplace, productivity requires effective collaboration between employees. A team’s ability to delegate tasks, form established processes and work together to make decisions is important to its success. By creating opportunities for open and frequent communication between employees, companies give their teams a better chance to achieve desired business outcomes.

While the need for workplace collaboration isn’t a new concept, the ways in which we collaborate have changed. While phone and email are still popular, businesses are embracing different modes of communication like instant messaging (IM), video, and cloud-based task management applications. This allows employees to choose the most effective communication channel depending on context. Rather than sending an email to let your team know that you’ll be a few minutes late to a meeting, it’s easy enough to send an IM so they know ahead of time. The need for contextual communication has opened the door for new companies like Slack and Trello to offer software solutions that improve team communication and task management.

This has been a largely positive shift in the way teams collaborate, but it hasn’t come without its own set of side effects. Having access to a variety of communication channels has also led to information overload – because employees can be contacted in numerous ways, it can be difficult to stay on top of everything.

Communications company Dynamic Signal conducted a survey on to dig into this a bit deeper, and found that over half of workers say they’re overwhelmed by the use of multiple platforms. Even more concerning is the fact that two-thirds of employees said they waste between 30-60 minutes per day looking for important information. The result? A negative impact on the bottom line. 52% of surveyed senior level-executives said that ineffective communication had negative financial implications for their businesses.

As important as it is to give employees different ways to communicate based on context, it's equally important to make sure that you're not overwhelming them with too many options. Think about the right mix of real-time channels (IM, video etc.) and more traditional ones, and make sure to establish commonly accepted guidelines for information flow. By keeping everyone on the same page, you create more opportunities for effective team collaboration, which will only help your business.

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