Virtual teams are increasing due to technology advances that enable managers to draw from a global pool in hiring top performers, which Forbes magazine has dubbed Talent As A Service (TAAS) . Many are finding that individual high achievers don’t always mesh well as a team. Differences in culture, process and work styles can be compounded by poor communications logistics.
A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words
Examples of virtual team success prove that these hurdles aren’t insurmountable. A new market study conducted by Wainhouse Research in conjunction with Polycom found that 87% of respondents who work from home strongly agreed or agreed that the use of videoconferencing allowed them to work from home without feeling disconnected. Personal use of videoconferencing grew by 8 percent last year in the UK whilst the mobile video audience grew by 262 percent. Employees accustomed to using videoconferencing via their personal devices expect to use this technology in building professional relationships as well.
Videoconferencing can resolve many of the issues that bog down a virtual team’s progress:
- Weak commitment to shared goals. Members of successful teams trust one another. Dispersed teams can find it difficult to build rapport, particularly when cultural differences become barriers to communication. Videoconferencing provides the visual cues people rely on to interpret messages, helping prevent misunderstandings that cause negative perceptions.
- Low engagement. Audio-only meetings can inhibit sharing so groups take longer to make decisions and may overlook relevant information. Videoconferencing participants contribute more and speak more freely, helping solve problems more creatively and collaboratively.
- Lack of ownership. Poor comprehension due to logistical or social barriers, siloed discussions and process variations undermine clear ownership, resulting in uncompleted tasks and hard feelings among team members.
[ Related White Paper: Beyond Enterprise Boundaries - Extending secure, high-performance video collaboration to any user, anywhere ]
The Need for a Cross-Platform Solution
To make videoconferencing a realistic option for daily communication, companies need a cross-platform product that’s easy to use and integrates with different employee work environments. Microsoft Office Lync 2013, part of the Office 365 suite, is a strong (and convenient) choice. Factors in its favour:
- Easy to use. Lync 2013 can replace multiple collaboration tools that hinder rather than help employees’ productivity with integration issues that drive frequent switching between products. Intuitive and easy to use, Lync’s click-to-communicate interface is standard across all devices.
- Natural integration with workflow. Videoconferencing can be initiated from any standard office application. Employees are much more likely to use this option when it is a standard part of their communication toolset along with phone and email.
- Works from any device. The rapid expansion of smartphones and tablets into the enterprise has also broadened the number of platforms that must be accommodated. Employees expect equivalent quality and scope of access from their mobile devices , which Lync delivers. Browser-based access, mobile apps and integration with Skype give employees unprecedented control over how and where to use videoconferencing.
Encourage Coffee Breaks on Camera
The rapid growth of personal videoconferencing is testament to the power of visual communication in building relationships. Videoconferencing shouldn’t be all work and no play in the office. Encourage your dispersed employees’ social use of videoconferencing, both by example and by planning on-camera team-building exercises that bring virtual teams together. Work with human resources and IT to create and communicate videoconferencing policies and standards of use that reward employees for live collaboration. With the right tools and approach, you can help aloof individual contributors build the connections necessary for team success.
[ Related White Paper: Extending the Business Value of Videoconferencing with Microsoft Lync 2013 ]