By Chuck Cohn
The typical workplace no longer contains a sea of cubicles and conference rooms. Instead, workplace communication software, such as Slack and Basecamp, allows the modern workplace to be an airport, a coffee shop, a home office, or any other location with an Internet connection. From 2005 to 2012, the number of people who worked remotely rose by nearly 80 percent.
This doesn’t mean workplace productivity has decreased. In fact, it’s done nearly the opposite. The explosive growth of cloud software, productivity apps, and mobile devices enables team members to communicate with one another 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from almost anywhere in the world. With this increase in accessibility comes an increased responsibility for leaders to provide a supportive, nurturing, and challenging work environment.
Ultimately, leaders must find ways to provide a sense of autonomy and responsibility for their staff members while still guiding team operations. Paradoxically, the ability to properly strike this balance cannot rely solely on the tool we all frequently turn to for assistance: technology.
1. Typed conversations lack some depth. Management technologies often rely on the written word, but it can be subject to broad interpretation, which may cause communication issues. It’s impossible to read tone or body language through text alone, and without these indicators, individuals can easily misconstrue messages.
If your team is constantly traveling, try investing in a phone system like Grasshopper. While it might take longer to hold a phone conference than shoot a quick email, you won’t leave your words up for interpretation. Your inflections will be crystal-clear, and you can clear up confusion in real time.
2. Poor use of technology can waste time. We spend a lot of time with our noses in our inboxes. On average, executives spend 1.5 hours a day writing emails. Multiply this figure across an entire company, and you may be losing hundreds of hours in productivity.
Cut email time by using task management software. If you’re emailing reminders to your team all day, why not set up recurring tasks? Try software such as Flow, which allows you to create tasks that relay due dates, project details, and more. Nothing beats in-person communication, but task management apps are much better than emailing tasks all day.
3. Mentorship can’t only happen on-screen. Face-to-face mentorship is still a crucial component of workplace success. People who were tutored on a one-on-one basis performed two standard deviations higher than those taught in a traditional classroom setting. Similarly, managers who personalize their mentorship to each staff member will help the company more than if they just assign tasks through a professional development platform.
If someone you’re mentoring is in a different city or country, it might be worth meeting him or her in person. Plane tickets aren’t cheap, but the results from spending a little time together in person will be well worth the effort and money. As one of the most important things you do, mentorship shouldn’t be relegated to Skype or email alone.
4. Technology is only as good as the person piloting it. It’s absolutely essential that you expend the time and energy training your staff on how to use any new technology your business implements. If those on the front lines of your company are fumbling over technology in front of customers, you may lose out on sales.
Jill Mizrachy, a senior director at national consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, knew that both training and communication were key to the rollout of the company’s new cloud-based computer system. First, Mizrachy worked with a communications specialist to develop the right message for her staff, explaining exactly how the new system would ease their workload. Mizrachy also selected senior team members to lend a human touch and any necessary assistance while staff became comfortable with the new software.
Once the software went live, Mizrachy ensured the team had a host of training options, including live demonstrations, online tutorials, and an interactive social media tool. Each staff member could choose the option that worked best for his or her learning style. Mizrachy’s strategy worked because she incorporated a human touch at every milestone on the path to the final goal.
Above all, avoid implementing new technology for technology’s sake alone. The right apps, devices, and software should help you achieve your company’s mission and vision rather than complicate that pursuit. With the right technology in hand, you can ensure all your team members receive the tools and human interaction they need to succeed and help you grow your business.
Image credit: Pixabay
Chuck Cohn is the CEO and founder of Varsity Tutors, the leading curated marketplace for private tutors. The company also builds mobile learning apps, online tutoring environments, and other tutoring and test prep-focused technologies.