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ATD Blog

Tech for Team Building

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Many of the best employee development techniques rely on a combination of team-based and targeted one-on-one communications. As the workforce moves more and more into online spaces, savvy talent development professionals begin to master the tools and technologies available to bring workers from different offices (or even different countries) together and keep everyone on track and updated.

Individual talent development also benefits from these technologies, enabling managers to deliver that one-on-one connection from almost anywhere around the globe. Collaborative tools make it easier to rally the troops behind an organization’s initiatives and values. Effective use of online resources promotes continuous learning and open communication, two essential keys for the modern, competitive global marketplace.

Training can be a significant hurdle for multinational staff. An infographic provided by the University of Alabama at Birmingham points out that only 22 percent of members of these global teams received training to increase virtual team productivity. Almost the same percentage felt that the company failed to make the most of the diversity such groups bring to the organization. This type of disconnect indicates that companies can gain a real strategic advantage by focusing on development of these employees and working toward inclusion as a business strategy.

Cultural conflicts don’t need to cross international lines to hinder creativity or cause unwanted friction in the modern workspace. Multiethnic groups operating in the same office benefit from the tools and techniques that can help organizations fine-tune their teams and increase productivity. In many cases, the tools designed for global contacts and collaboration work exceptionally well for workers located in the same building or even the same office, removing many of the barriers to effective communication that can exist within a company and fostering a sense of teamwork and inclusiveness.

Effective Communication

Effective communication remains one of the keys of success when working with teams of all sizes. A top-down talent development flow should include time spent updating personnel and working to improve productivity by ensuring that everyone can ask questions and provide feedback in real time. Email communications with staff in different offices, common in the past, are quickly being replaced by real-time chats using tools such as Slack and instant messaging via Zapier or similar applications. Efficient communication tools should be easy to learn and provide the ability to share files or images between colleagues as needed.

Intuit, one of the global leaders in the field of connected finance software, points out that technology can improve staff communication and enhance understanding. The company’s “Firm of the Future” blog also notes that 80 percent of remote workers enjoy enhanced morale when working from home. The maker of Quickbooks understands that not everyone on a team shares the same space, but effective communication can help enhance that feeling of connectivity even for employees who work from home and rarely set foot in an office.

Instant messaging can even improve communication between departments. Zapier enables spreadsheets and other systems to send a message to Slack whenever a user updates a file. This ensures that managers stay up to date on developments on ongoing tasks and makes it easier for personnel to stay connected and on the same page as projects advance. Streamlining day-to-day communication delivers enhanced focus on the project throughout the development cycle. Talent developers can also use these updates to track communications between group members and look for coaching or training opportunities.

Top apps for team communication include:

  • Slack — a full-featured instant communication option. Slack creates a searchable archive of all chats and offers multiple private channels for companies as well as individual direct communication between peers. Slack integrates with many project coordination tools.
  • Zapier — an automation app for online communication. Zapier enables users to get instant messages from Slack and other platforms, even on laptops and smartphones. Zapier also is designed for seamless compatibility with many related team-based apps.

Shared Resources

Development professionals put a lot of time and energy into creating the tools that become knowledge bases and informational spaces for their organizations. Online access and searchable, user-friendly formats make these resources easily sharable with members across the globe. As the definition of “office worker” changes, the ability to quickly access and draw from shared resources becomes a crucial aspect of team development. Case in point: Rutgers University reports in a recent workplace trends update that as many as 37 percent of poll responders to a Gallup poll telecommute at some point.

Knowledge bases can be more than collections of shared questions and answers. Technology ensures that processes developed in training and workflow information are just a few clicks away. Thanks to the modern knowledge base, members can follow the same steps and draw from the same resources regardless of location. Processes available online reduce the burden on the training department by allowing real-time access to updates and policy changes without the need for additional uptraining sessions or one-on-one instruction.

Easy access to plans and processes allows a focus on project completion instead of man-hour allocation. Employees may feel motivated to get more done as they can tick off completion on their workflow processes. Online tools that track resource usage enable talent developers to see which workers may require additional assistance or uptraining for continued success and improved productivity or view team interactions with the page to find resources that are not meeting the needs of staff.

Top apps for resource sharing include:

  • Dropbox — Create a searchable database for processes and workflows stored in the cloud. Dropbox simplifies uploading and sharing files across teams. It uses secure socket layer (SSL) encryption for security and offers LAN options for larger networks.
  • Mendeley — Easily access volumes of information or create a customized knowledge base for online reference. Mendeley lets companies secure resources for internal use or open them for sharing with thousands of researchers.

Simplified Collaboration

Communication and easy access to resources results in simplified collaboration for teams across the globe. The same Rutgers update notes that as much as 50 percent of the workplace may telecommute by the year 2020. This makes the G-suite of applications from Google and similar collaborative apps for sharing work in real time invaluable. Trainers can use these tools for analysis and evaluation, monitoring work with every keystroke and providing feedback almost instantly.

Staff can collaborate quickly on projects that may have taken weeks or even months to assemble in the past, and managers can approve completion or make suggestions even while a project is still in process. This type of near-instant feedback provides a real advantage for teams able to capitalize upon it. Companies can gain exceptional insight using these tools and employ archived information to track engagement as well as how cultural diversity factors into specific projects.

This type of simplified collaboration isn’t without its pitfalls. Talent developers working on strengthening teams need to ensure that all members understand their roles and how to minimize conflicts when they arise. Company processes, often found in the knowledge bases created by development personnel, can streamline conflict resolution. Where processes and policies fail, the instant communication afforded by modern management tools makes it easy to address concerns early on and provide additional training or feedback as needed.

Top apps for collaboration include:

  • Asana — A project management app that enables real-time feedback and facilitates collaboration. Asana simplifies managing the workflow of a project from start to finish and lets anyone involved comment on and check the progress of ongoing tasks.
  • Google Docs — Docs is a competitor to the Microsoft Office series of products that enables users to collaborate on many types of creative works. This includes documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Part of the G-suite of free apps from Google.

My next post will explore top apps for remote talent development. Stay tuned!

About the Author

Georgiana Beech is a writer and marketing expert based in Boise, Idaho. Georgiana can be found sipping beer at one of the many popular and expanding breweries in Boise while, more than likely, petting puppies.

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Thanks for such informative insight.
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