Collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams can really open up workplace flexibility and make a difference to operations. Unfortunately some leaders aren’t seeing this potential and think that they can achieve better collaboration with small adjustments here and there.
This is understandable when these tools are sold as a ‘chat-based’ or ‘conversation-based’ approach – they really don’t sound very productive! And it may even be that organisations have tried a variation of this approach and it didn’t open up the promised benefits. With our experience, though, we know that clients have to address the surrounding structure and ways of working around a new tool to see all the returns.
So, of course we want more organisations to take on tools to collaborate but, crucially, alongside a root and branch review of their operations. This would really achieve positive change.
Bottom lines aren’t just about the money
If you read Forrester‘s report on the economic impact of Microsoft Teams, it’s a good place to start. It identifies savings in costs and time-to-decision-making.
As to what organisations save though; this is about more than time saved. We know now that big companies and central and local government rely on working from anywhere for some of their team. Flexible working lessens demand on office space and resources (and eases commuter routes). This saves money and resources on offices such as light, heating and other attendant costs.
Now you have to remember that good collaboration gives benefits beyond time saved and productivity.
Well used, collaboration tools can give you happier people, trusted to work with greater freedom and flexibility. And happier people stay with you, grow, and recommend you as a company to work for. Through our client work, we can see that migrating to Microsoft Teams offers huge potential to support this.
Workplace flexibility is number one of the benefits employers want
A recent report on remote working by Harris for Zapier showed the very real impact on flexible working for staff happiness. Workplace flexibility is the number one benefit that employees want now. (We’ve used their data for the images here.)
People outside the Millennial and Gen Z demographic, may not appreciate the financial challenges of living and working in cities – usually expensive, almost prohibitively so. And in non-urban areas, travel costs can add massively to your cost of living. In other words, flexibility may be the break some workers need to give them greater economic freedom, that in turn can lead to greater personal fulfillment.
And for those with responsibilities, like family support, the practical benefits of flexibility are well documented. (Shout out to all the sandwich carers out there!)
Microsoft Teams lets people share ideas and inspiration in central ‘chats’ and access, share and update relevant documents easily. This makes project management easier. With the increasingly sophisticated meeting interface it easily lets people to talk and meet virtually. It’s changing the rules in where people need to be to get their work done.
If you don’t already follow the hashtag flexappeal on LinkedIn, you really should. Anna Whitehouse leads some great campaigning for the right to flexible work in the UK and recognizing it’s not just working parents that need this. As she says: this is a human issue not a HR issue. So it’s useful to know that you can unlock the human benefits of flexible working through collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams.
It’s a pull and a push
What is really striking about the Zapier report is that already a quarter of people have changed jobs for one with greater flexibility. A quarter! Can you imagine the impact of losing those good, enthusiastic, skilled up people from your workforce? Meanwhile, a little more flexibility could have stopped this.
This is a no brainer – be an employer of choice so you retain your good staff and attract top talent for the future. And we believe that soon flexibility will be as standard, not seen as an add on, so the sooner organisations prepare for this, the better.
How to unlock the full potential of collaboration
Many of our clients now are exploring – or are committed to – Microsoft Teams. And of course, we love their enthusiasm for this. Though to really unlock the benefits of Microsoft Teams, we’d like to see more of them undertake a full review of the work that should sit alongside it.
Here are just four specimen questions we encourage our clients to think about:
- Have you updated your employee contracts and job descriptions to support and allow remote working?
- Have you reviewed your bring your own device policy?
- How are you updating your data protection and IT security policies to reflect new sharing opportunities and reduce risk?
- What pastoral support are you providing to remote workers?
Leaders need to realise that effective collaboration comes from updating the tools their organisations use and by reviewing how you implement and underpin them. Because if you do genuinely embrace the potential of collaboration tools like Teams, then positive change will flow.
Trust us, your people will reward you.
This article is based on Samantha Kinstrey’s LinkedIn article of 28 November 2019. You’re welcome to comment on her article and to share your own experience and insight.