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Hyper-Connected but Underproductive?
CTDO Magazine

Hyper-Connected but Underproductive?

Friday, June 15, 2018

Capitalize on the power of collaborative software without killing productivity.

Collaboration has long been hyped as the key to organizational success. A 2017 study of 1,100 companies conducted by the Institute for Corporate Productivity and Rob Cross, professor at Babson College, found that those companies that promoted collaborative working were five times more likely to be high performing. This concurs with a Harvard Business Review report, The Hyper-Connected Workforce, which reveals that the increase in connected work has contributed to greater "business agility, more collaboration, increases in productivity, and greater geographic diversity of teams."

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Not surprising, workplaces are being flooded with new and innovative communications tools—all of which promise to improve collaboration. The good news: Computerworld reports that team collaboration software for the enterprise has matured, as evidenced by the launch of Slack's enterprise edition for large-scale deployments and Microsoft's release of Teams to put group chat in the hands of many Office 365 subscribers. IDC Research Director Wayne Kurtzman tells Computerworld, "Collaboration platforms embody the opportunity of digital disruption. They are people-powered, use new behavioral metrics, and positively affect standard business KPIs [key performance indicators]. And that trend will continue."

Collaboration software has become an increasingly integral part of how work is both organized and carried out. For instance, Deloitte's 2018 Global Human Capital Trends study reports that nearly half of respondents (46 percent) regularly use virtual meeting software, and 30 percent now use location-based videoconferencing.

What's more, data from Deloitte show that the "communications behaviors, habits, and tools that people use in their personal lives are migrating into their work lives." For instance, 74 percent of survey respondents report regular use of text messaging for personal communications, and 32 percent of survey respondents expect its use to increase or become more commonplace at work.

All signs point toward people using these tools even more in the future. Deloitte predicts social media and instant messaging to follow a similar path. More than two in five respondents (44 percent) believe that face-to-face meetings will decrease in the future. In its place, 70 percent think that workers will spend more time on collaboration platforms, 67 percent see growth in "work-based social media," and 62 percent predict an increase in instant messaging. "No single mode of communication will be dominant; instead, the work environment will feature many different ways to communicate," reports Deloitte.

However, recent studies raise an important question: Do tools that support hyper-connectivity help or hinder team and organizational productivity? The answer is a resounding "probably."

Deloitte's research uncovered a high level of anxiety about how—and whether—these new tools align with business goals. And when asked about the productivity, 71 percent of respondents believed that these new tools improve their personal productivity, but 47 percent were concerned about whether the tools are really driving productivity overall. Some employees and managers are feeling that work is "turning into a chaotic, relentless series of messages, emails, conference calls, and chats."

In a [email protected] article, Cross shares that, with hyper-connected collaboration, people can be "emailed to death and meetinged to death." He cites a statistic that most knowledge workers and leaders spend 70-85 percent or more each week on email, meetings (virtual or face-to-face), and on the phone. This suggests there's little time left for them to perform individualized tasks.

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What's the solution? Deloitte advises senior leaders in talent development and human resources to help their organizations create a deliberate strategy for using collaboration and communication tools. To capitalize on the power of these platforms—and to mitigate any negative effect—new policies and practices may include "adjustments to the physical workspace, different management techniques, and rewards or incentives." Managers will need to consider culture, pace of communication, and level of formality. Ultimately, organizations them—including, perhaps, the decision not to use certain tools at all."

will need to "make important decisions about which tools to use and how to use

Expected Communications Channels Usage in 3-5 Years

Source: 2018 Global Human Capital Trends, Deloitte

Read more from CTDO magazine: Essential talent development content for C-suite leaders.

About the Author

Ryann K. Ellis is an editor for the Association of Talent Development (ATD). She has been covering workplace learning and performance for ATD (formerly the American Society for Training & Development) since 1995. She currently sources and authors content for TD Magazine and CTDO, as well as manages ATD's Community of Practice blogs. Contact her at [email protected] 

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