As a customer experience futurologist at BT Global Services, Millard delved into her experience and gave some tips on how HR could use these tools in the most efficient manner.
“The key is to create ‘common ground’ that everyone can access – whether that is in an office, via digital means, or a combination of both.”
While video conferencing is becoming increasingly popular – as it’s the closest thing to face-to-face communication and everyone has a device with a camera on it – in some instances it can actually be detrimental rather than beneficial.
“If it is four in the morning, you are an introvert (introverts often find video a bit too personal), or you are driving, video is not always a good common ground,” Millard said.
Voice is often a better option, she added, although even this has its drawbacks.
“We have all probably been less than productive on conference calls where there is a heavy breather, someone who is on a train or two people who sound the same.”
To overcome this, a technical setup should be chosen which heightens the quality of the audio to ultimately make the experience better, she said.
Then there are digital tools such as enterprise social media which create weak ties within the workplace. These are the equivalent of serendipitous conversations in the office, she added.
“But weak ties and no purpose means that social media may not fulfil its full potential as a collaboration tool,” she warned.
Instead, HR should put together a reason for these social media networks and encourage staff to use them for this exact purpose.
Then there are other tools such as webjams (moderated discussions), webchats and webinars which can be very effective to engage employees without the need to put everyone online at the same time, she said.
“Of course, it does not stop there, as new tools such as wearable technologies, virtual reality and augmented reality have started to become more mainstream. If you want to see the future of collaboration, just watch a 14-year-old play Minecraft!”
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“There is a bewildering number of collaboration tools out there now,” says Dr Nicola Millard, “And therein lies the problem because more tools can cause fragmentation rather than collaboration.”