How to Foster Collaboration in a Workplace Without Borders

    The dispersed workforce is one of the most important business trends of the last several decades. Technology now makes it possible for organizations to grow far beyond their local roots and employ workers around the world, each of whom brings a vastly different experience, skill set and perspective to the business.

    This also creates an unprecedented opportunity for businesses to drive innovation across their organizations. Yet, many leaders are finding this challenging. In interviews with more than 800 senior executives around the world, UK firm PA Consulting found that only 24 percent said they had defined the skills and activities they need to be innovative, according to Management Today.

    Some obstacles are obvious, such as culture, language, location and time zone. But many companies also tend to isolate functions into silos, which inhibits the kind of cross-organizational interaction needed to generate new ideas.

    With strategic use of communication technology, however, organizations can break down such barriers. By intentionally creating virtual workspaces, they can cultivate a collaborative environment that invites new perspectives and encourages sharing of ideas.

    In its 2017 Workplace Trends Report, services firm Sodexo points out that “the newest iteration of collaborative work spaces takes co-working to a new level, with organizations not only sharing physical space and resources but also intentionally structuring interactions across boundaries to encourage problem-solving approaches that combine strengths to address complex issues.”

    So what are some of the ways technology can help organizations foster collaboration in the borderless workplace and encourage employees to interact with colleagues outside their usual sphere? Here are four ideas to put into play.

    Video Town Halls

    Sometimes employees need to be nudged to look beyond the walls of their cubicle. Try scheduling monthly video conferences featuring an employee or project team speaking about their work. There’s a good chance other teams will make connections between the featured project and their own work, leading to more innovative ideas. Be sure to encourage employees to ask questions via chat to drive more engagement.

    Special Projects

    Some projects don’t neatly fit into one functional group. For more complex ventures, try to intentionally select team members from different teams, offices and countries. Tools such as video conferencing and screen sharing can pull the group together into a virtual work environment and encourage greater collaboration.

    Work Together, No Matter Your Location or Device

    Today’s collaboration tools empower team members to be productive from anywhere, regardless of time zone. For example, ShoreTel Teamwork™, is a mobile app that provides a virtual place for teams to seamlessly collaborate with tools such as messaging, tasks and file sharing. By combining these tools with ShoreTel Connect CLOUD, users are able to obtain a full-featured unified communications and collaboration solution that can increase productivity.

    Enhance Connections

    It may seem obvious, but clear communications channels are the foundation for collaborative environments. For example, CHERVON, an international manufacturer based in China but with North American operations, struggled with poor quality voice connections.

    “Communication between China and North America is frequent and important,” says Dehui Wu, IT Infrastructure Manager. But after deploying ShoreTel’s unified communications technology, the company has benefitted from very high voice quality.

    In addition, the company rolled out ShoreTel’s mobility solution to travelling staff and executives, extending VoIP functionality to their smartphones and tablets. Thus, they are able to communicate efficiently and cost-effectively wherever they are.

    In its report, Sodexo emphasizes how important it is for organizations to develop an environment where ideas can cross-pollinate. The key to developing an innovation culture is to eliminate silos and foster an environment ripe for collaboration. Technology makes this possible, but strategic management of communications solutions makes it happen.

    Learn more about ShoreTel’s collaboration solutions.

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