Enterprise Collaboration in 2022: Cracking the Hybrid Collaboration Nut
The role and value of digital communication, particularly through video-enabled meetings or conversations, and enterprise collaboration have been in the spotlight for a while now.
But in recent years we've seen a convergence of the two, with companies like Slack adding video communication and conversations through Huddle, and the addition of collaboration tools to the video platform Zoom.
Zoom provides an interesting example of what may play out in the year to come. Shares in the company dropped by 15% at the end of August. While the exact cause remains unclear, many ascribed it to a combination of video market saturation and the waning demand for video conferencing as workers returned to the physical workplace.
Even Zoom chief financial officer Kelly Steckelberg addressed the speculation. "We have moved beyond the pandemic buying patterns," Steckelberg said during an analyst call following the earnings release. "And as we believe this customer behavior will persist, we have factored it into our outlook."
In spite of this, as we look ahead to 2023, it's clear video communication and conferencing remains a key workplace tool to support the hybrid work model adopted by so many companies.
According to figures in San Mateo, Calif.-based Zippia's 30 Essential Hybrid Work Statistics:
- 74% of U.S. companies are using or plan to implement a permanent hybrid work model.
- 44% of U.S. employees prefer a hybrid work model, compared to 51% of employers.
- 63% of high-growth companies use a “productivity anywhere” hybrid work model.
The “productivity anywhere” figures indicate that organizations appear open to continuing with flexible work models if workers remain productive.
Here it is worth noting a 2022 Gallup poll, which noted the downsides of forcing a full return to office, arguing instead that businesses providing more flexible, hybrid approaches will benefit in the long-term. By default, this implies the continued use of the full breadth of digital workplace technology deployed over the last few years.
Reworked's most popular collaboration articles this year highlighted how these trends drove the enterprise collaboration market — and will likely continue to do so for the near future.
1. Video Meetings Are Here to Stay, Despite Return to Office
At the time the article was written, the number of companies with rigid back-to-the-office mandates was still limited. Most were taking a gradual approach to bringing employees back, affording staff the opportunity to continue working from home one or more days per week.
Under these circumstances, online video meeting platforms remain the glue that brings dispersed employees together. Another factor in favor of the continued popularity of video conferencing tools is the expansion of the workforce in many companies to include remote, contingent workers. Given all this, Zoom and its ilk will remain central tools in the digital workplace.
2. Internal Communications: Email vs. Chat vs. Discussion vs. Meetings
The smorgasbord of digital communication options available today leave employees spoiled for choice. And like any good smorgasbord, we all have our favorite go-to dishes.
The difference in this case is your choice impacts the people you work with. If you choose to work in chat, then your colleagues have to as well. If you choose to work only in email, so will your colleagues. Digital communication use is like one large dating app, and the workplace is being forced to find perfect matches everywhere.
In his article, contributor Laurence Lock Lee suggests we are seeing two distinct worker types: those who prefer using Outlook email/calendar/meetings/chat and those who prefer Yammer/Teams channels/SharePoint/OneDrive. This partitioning is problematic from a collaboration perspective. Only a minority of staff are effectively balancing their activity between the worker types.
Lock Lee finds a cohort of “balanced” workers have optimized their digital behaviors for maximum collaborative performance, providing a model for others to follow.
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3. The End of the Social Collaboration Experiment: The Technology Is the Problem
The days of hoping that a one-size-fits-all technology platform will improve both collaboration and employee engagement are over. The “single hub” for team productivity, internal communications, affinity groups and knowledge sharing is a myth.
From chat to ideation, learning modules, broadcast messages, social networking, pulse-survey bots and even mental wellness integrations, the clutter and confusion from excessive features and the overwhelming information contained within render most broad digital workplace platforms an expensive exercise in futility.
No technology will do the engaging for us at work. No tool can enable both productivity and deep meaning in one go.
Not only are these platforms failing to deliver on their transformative promises today, contributor Carrie Basham Young argues their original value proposition was fundamentally flawed when first introduced, 15 years ago.
4. How to Make Collaboration Work in the Hybrid Workplace
Effective collaboration across dispersed teams is one of the most challenging problems facing organizations today, particularly so in those adopting a hybrid work model.
The problem, according to a paper by McKinsey, is organizations have yet to think through what hybrid means. According to the paper, while many companies have a theoretical notion of the work model, they still have not worked out specifics. As a result, employees are feeling anxious about what comes next and what that will mean for their day to day at the company.
Without clear guidelines on how teams on- and off-premises are expected to operate, the question is whether workers in these two models can really collaborate or if they will operate like two separate organizations.
5. Employee Communications Management Platforms May Be Coming, But They're Not What We Need
The employee communications market is heating up. Appspace acquired digital workplace platform Beezy, employee app Staffbase bagged $115 million investment and became a unicorn in the process.
All of the activity has led some analysts to suggest internal comms should unify under the ‘employee communication management’ umbrella, enabling content to be published once and displayed across multiple channels. Bringing intranet, staff app, display, email into a single workflow offers the prospect of increased efficiency for communications pros.
Contributor Sharon O'Dea argues such an approach foregoes the needs of the majority — those receiving the communications — in an attempt to meet the needs of those producing the communications — internal comms teams. Instead she suggests companies adopt a more considered approach to communications, where the end impact on employees is considered at every step.
About the Author
David is a European-based journalist of 35 years who has spent the last 15 following the development of workplace technologies, from the early days of document management, enterprise content management and content services. Now, with the development of new remote and hybrid work models, he covers the evolution of technologies that enable collaboration, communications and work and has recently spent a great deal of time exploring the far reaches of AI, generative AI and General AI.
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