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How to tell if you need new virtual collaboration tools so your people can do their best work

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The rise of remote and hybrid work models propelled virtual collaboration tools to the forefront of business concerns.

Compared to four years ago, a lot more of your fellow HR pros are familiar with virtual collaboration tools.

But are the virtual collaboration tools you deployed way-back-when still meeting today’s team objectives? The tech marketplace keeps adding new players, and there’s a plethora of options and ever-evolving, AI-enabled features for teams that have limited face-to-face interaction.

Unless your employees are openly complaining about current virtual collaboration tools or expressing a desire for better options, recognizing the need for something new is hard. But there are symptoms HR can watch out for, and report to IT and the C-suite if they’re present in your organization.

Employee disengagement

A “yes” to one or more of these questions is a potential warning sign:

  • Are collaboration limitations contributing to declining team productivity metrics?
  • Do employees struggle to share knowledge and expertise effectively across the team when working remotely?
  • Does the team seem stifled in their ability to brainstorm and generate new ideas?
  • Do hybrid teams seem disconnected, even though they have virtual collaboration tools?

Communication challenges

You know from experience that lines of internal communication are especially critical when team members are working in different locations, time zones and/or at different hours.

If colleagues working from home have a difficult time reaching one another, or if there are so many misunderstandings among team members that frustrations are heating up from a simmer to a boil, the problem is either related to communication guidelines or a communications platform that lacks the robust capabilities that your people need.

Do your current tools meet the current accessibility needs of your diverse hybrid or remote workforce? For example, do you need captioning and screen reader compatibility?

Whenever teams struggle to share information effectively and information silos form, the resulting slow response times and delays hurt the bottom line.

Some platforms that help companies communicate effectively through channels like chat and video conferencing include:

  • Zoom
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Slack
  • Google Workspace
  • Flock, and
  • ClickUp.

Collaboration bottlenecks

Online meeting tools that enable teams to connect, discuss ideas and make real-time decisions are another essential in the post-COVID work world. But any team that’s experiencing virtual meetings that are frequently unproductive or plagued by technical issues might be in need of an upgrade.

For instance, does your current tool enable you to schedule meetings, record them and automatically take notes and generate a meeting summary?

Because everyone’s work may be spread across multiple apps, if the virtual collaboration tools you use for project management don’t allow scheduling or planning, or have adequate visibility on project status tracking or task delegation, it can hurt productivity as well as team accountability.

Among the project management tools with those capabilities:

  • Asana
  • Trello
  • Miro
  • Monday
  • Wrike
  • Teamwork
  • Zoho
  • Podio, and
  • ProofHub.

For even more ideas, click here.

Would any of your teams be more productive with file/document sharing capabilities with sharing and editing features? Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, Zoho WorkDrive and Microsoft OneDrive are just a few leading apps for remote collaboration on files. For even more document management solutions, check out these reviews from BetterBuys.com.

Other issues

  • Do your current virtual collaboration tools have the necessary security features to comply with evolving regulations (e.g., industry regs, data residency and handling, encryption, access controls, compliance certifications, etc.)? Ask IT for assessment help.
  • Are your competitors adopting new virtual collaboration tools that could give them an advantage?
  • Will tool overload be a problem if you add something new?

Ask your employees

HR can gain valuable insights into the effectiveness of virtual collaboration tools, and determine if it’s time to explore new options, by regularly assessing tool usage and gathering employee feedback.

What do your people think could be done better? Perhaps the next employee survey may provide some answers.

Choosing the right virtual collaboration tools

If it’s time to move in a different direction with your virtual collaboration tools, here are some things to consider when weighing your options and requesting product demos:

  • Compatibility with your existing systems to avoid workflow disruptions.
  • Compare the features and pricing model for cost-effectiveness, and consider free trials or “freemium” options for test runs.
  • Virtual collaboration tools must be able to adapt as your company grows or changes workflows. Avoid vendor lock-in by opting for flexible solutions.
  • How much time is involved with the training to ensure everyone knows how to navigate the tools efficiently?
  • What’s the support experience like if there’s a problem?
  • Are these tools compliant with relevant data privacy regulations?

The right tools can enable your people to manage work and work together more productively, driving your team towards success.

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