The world has never been more connected than it is today. And yet many business leaders feel that their organizations are more disconnected and out of sync than they were two years ago.
What gives? It’s easy to blame the coronavirus pandemic, which forced countless organizations to shift to an all-remote posture nearly overnight. The sudden and involuntary move to a dispersed work-from-home model was an unwelcome development for firms that thrived on in-person collaboration.
But the pandemic is only a partial explanation. Building a truly connected office, one where all stakeholders row in the same direction, is much more complicated than it first appears. In a professional world that’s increasingly dependent on complex, specialized technologies and rife with distractions — some created by those same technologies — leaders need to rethink how they encourage and support connectivity, collaboration, and cohesiveness in the workplace and beyond.
Each of these strategies represents a partial answer to this question. To realize the full potential of a truly connected workplace, implement them all as you’re able.
1. Use a Smart Connectivity Solution That Allows You to Manage Your Workplace (and Your Business) From Anywhere
Start with a smart connectivity solution that brings your entire organization — every business location and remote endpoint — under the same connected umbrella.
“Smart connectivity” isn’t just another name for enterprise-grade WiFi. These solutions add enterprise-grade network security, staff management tools for remote and onsite staff, customer data collection that drives business insights, and motion detection that provides a layer of physical security. One example is Plume WorkPass for Small Businesses, which uses AI technology to provide seamless WiFi and high-level network security.
Smart connectivity solutions literally connect the people you rely on to get work done. And they lay the foundation for a more productive, collaborative work environment, priming your workplace culture for more difficult connectivity initiatives.
2. Deploy an Enterprise-Grade Workplace Chat Solution
Stop relying on email alone. Your business needs an enterprise-grade workplace chat solution that integrates with your third-party cloud software accounts and enables asynchronous or real-time text and video communication from anywhere, at any time. When fully deployed across the organization and used as intended, this solution should draw team members closer together and support a more collaborative, productive workplace.
The market leaders in this space are Slack and Microsoft Teams. Both are better described as collaboration platforms rather than chat tools. They’re powerful and versatile enough to replace email as the primary means of communication within your organization, even if email remains unavoidable for external communication in the near term.
3. Use a Project Management Suite That’s Agile Enough for Your Needs
A chat-centric collaboration platform can dramatically improve your organization’s productivity, but it’s unlikely to be adequate to manage complicated projects that span quarters or even years and involve multiple stakeholders.
For that, you need a project management solution that’s purpose-built to take initiatives from ideation to completion. Comprehensive solutions like the Monday project management suite build on spreadsheet- and chart-based organization with intuitive, visual tracking tools and workflows that ensure tasks get done on time and milestones pass with meaningful results. Some, including Monday, offer important value-adds like inventory tracking and remote team management tools.
4. Leverage Sponsorship and Mentorship to Support Newer Team Members
Unlike project management, workplace chat, and smart connectivity solutions, sponsorship and mentorship are not fundamentally technological in nature. They’re as old as organizations themselves.
Best practices for sponsorship and mentorship certainly have evolved over time. Today, many organizations lean hard into these models, pairing every new hire with a more experienced mentor to guide them through onboarding and smooth the transition to day-in, day-out work. Likewise, many organizations invest considerable resources in programs to cultivate and advance high-potential employees, pairing each with a senior management sponsor who helps them navigate the workplace and advance through the organization’s ranks.
Despite their focus on individuals and small groups, both sponsorship and mentorship foster connectedness within the workplace by opening up the organization’s culture and breaking down barriers to lateral and vertical communication. They make the organization more welcoming, inclusive, and functional. And by improving recruiting and retention efforts, they build institutional knowledge, reinforcing those gains.
5. Hold Regular “Extracurricular” Team-Building Events
Well-connected organizations often keep outsiders (and even insiders) guessing as to where the enterprise ends and the rest of the world begins. One way they do this is through elective and after-hours programming that engages employees in team- and connection-building activities without direct bottom-line benefit for the organization.
These activities can be whatever stakeholders want them to be: happy hours, volunteer days, interest groups, skill-building modules (like introductory-level coding classes for non-technical team members). It’s important only that they’re voluntary and that they’re not in any way related to performance measurement or management. Keep the stakes low and the “fun factor” high and this extracurricular programming will facilitate new connections that boost morale and improve internal communication when work really does need to get done.
Invest in a More Connected Office Today
Some of these connectivity-boosting solutions are rooted in technological innovation, like the Plume WorkPass for Small Businesses and the myriad of project management platforms available to enterprise users. The value of these solutions is self-evident and their results clear with proper implementation and follow-up.
For many organizations, non-technological solutions that require considerable organization and follow-through are more challenging to implement, manage, and sustain. Holding an isolated volunteer day or happy hour might be better than none at all, but the effort is far likelier to pay dividends as a sustained initiative. That means organizing these events on a weekly or monthly basis over a long enough period of time (multiple quarters, at least) to reliably measure their results.
This challenge might seem more manageable if you’re able to see your efforts to improve workplace connectivity as an investment in the future of your company. That’s what it is, after all: an investment in the morale, well-being, and productivity of your workforce. Frame the campaign this way and you’ll have a much easier time generating buy-in and institutional support for your efforts.