Promoting Collaboration Across a Remote Workforce

by Doug Claffey

Communication and collaboration are more important than ever. Many of us are now working from home, sheltering in place, and potentially, using technology in new ways. So, what are some things leadership needs to keep in mind? We sat down with Doug Claffey, Energage founder and Chief Strategy Officer, to find out.

Six things leaders can do to boost collaboration

According to Energage research on communication and collaboration, here are six things leaders can do:

  1. Recreate collaboration with tools and technology.
  2. Be intentional about interdepartmental collaboration.
  3. Show appreciation through communication and collaboration.
  4. Apply company values in decision making.
  5. Ensure employees are clued-in to critical decisions.
  6. Encourage social interaction between employees.

Recreate collaboration with tools and technology

For folks who are accustomed to working together face to face, collaboration includes both verbal and nonverbal body language. The ability to duplicate as much of that as possible using tools like Zoom and GoToMeeting is really important to team collaboration.

When it comes to creative thinking, using sticky notes for intelligent design isn’t an option. Instead, try working in shared documents. Google Docs or Microsoft are examples of applications teams can use to collaborate and get ideas flowing in real-time.

Be intentional about interdepartmental collaboration

We found through our research that cross‑departmental collaboration is really important to aligning organizations. When you’re working remotely, that cross‑departmental collaboration becomes more difficult.

Because you can no longer rely upon impromptu gatherings, establish more formal connections between departments. Be intentional about it. These liaisons will help to ensure, for example, that product development is working with customer success or sales. At a senior leader level, making sure this level of collaboration is occurring is even more important in a remote working environment.

Show appreciation through communication and collaboration

Appreciation is one of the most important Culture Drivers. And we know from our research that it’s best to have a ratio of two or more positive interactions compared to one constructive interaction. Working in a remote environment doesn’t change that.

Find new ways to show appreciation, whether it’s through Microsoft Teams or Slack. Thank people and acknowledge them for their contributions. Demonstrate gratitude in informal ways. Give appreciation for their work, but also for the stress and difficult challenges employees are facing right now.

Apply company values in decision making

Values show up most powerfully in how they influence decision‑making. This is especially true when an organization is under stress, as many are right now. The extent to which values are part of the conversation and the degree to which employees refer to your company values are essential behaviors.

It’s about getting out there and being explicit about your company values. Bring them into decision making through discussion and collaboration. Reinforce your company values when your organization is under stress.

Ensure employees are clued-in to critical decisions

When it comes to engagement, the Energage survey statement we find resonates most is, “I feel well informed about important decisions.” This is especially important right now. Remember: communicate, communicate, communicate! Make sure information is getting out to employees frequently and through multiple channels.

At Energage, our CEO uses video chats, regular email correspondence, and team meetings. Employees want to feel clued-in – but they also don’t want to be completely overwhelmed.

The balance is to use bite‑sized communications more frequently rather than fewer, more comprehensive updates. Things are changing rapidly enough. It’s important that those communications are confident, but they not overly confident. There is a lot still to come and organizations can’t be sure of how it’s going to play out. So, being candid around those topics and sharing what you do know becomes really critical.

Encourage social interaction between employees

Isolation was a problem even before the coronavirus reared its head. But now, this issue is exacerbated. You may have employees who are alone without the opportunity to socialize and have been for some time. That’s a new phenomenon.

The inability to interact with others is a problem for everyone. For extroverts and extreme extroverts, that’s quite a big risk. And for people with mental health challenges such as depression and anxiety, isolation can add a lot of extra stress. This raises the importance of checking in with people on topics outside of work.

Employers and leaders need to be aware of the challenges presented by isolation and a lack of social connection. Offer to your managers best practices to help with establishing new social connections. Zoom happy hours, interest groups, or virtual breakout rooms are some examples. In other words, find creative and engaging ways for people to socialize.

Request a complimentary, 15-minute consultation with a survey specialist.