The rise in virtual teams and advances in technology has enabled businesses to 'crowd-source' employees based on business needs, skills and expertise. However, new research from Siemens Enterprise Communications reveals that while businesses are investing in the most recent technology they are neglecting to spend time understanding the real dynamics, potential and behaviours of staff interaction. The focus is shifting to the user's ecosystem and getting to grips with the new landscape of communications and distributed work lifestyles.
The survey reveals that while technology has enabled 'anywhere workers' to work in a distributed team (79 per cent), however, many respondents anecdotally commented that relying on technology hinders team communication and effectiveness.
Key comments include:
- "I appreciate the contributions of the technology industry for improving teamwork and team effectiveness, but I believe that human interaction is more important for resolving complex conflict resolution"
- "I wish 'technology people' understood that businesses have a huge variance in experience and technology to support the virtual team"
- "It's not always about the process or technologies that will shape a team. The dynamics and behaviours of individuals, regardless of virtual or in-person never change, but management forgets that about virtual members"
Worryingly, 75 per cent find their team members more likely to get distracted during 'virtual' meetings, highlighting a conflict between distributed work lifestyles and effective team collaboration. Without the focus on uncovering employee potential and developing the right team, businesses will be unable to remain productive and competitive.
Supporting comments also include:
- "In my experience, at least 50 per cent of the people on any given call are not necessary, but included to reduce fear of exclusion which seems higher with a distributed workforce"
- "Technology must work like the teams do, not us having to adapt to the technology"
Trevor Connell, managing director, Siemens Enterprise Communications, commented: "More than ever, work is what you do and not where you do it and businesses are operating with an increasingly distributed workforce, but that shouldn't mean that productivity should be affected. While the logistics of working in a team may have changed the fundamentals remain the same – engagement, communication, collaboration and results. Businesses need to focus on building the right team for the task at hand and this requires greater focus on understanding the potential, dynamics and behaviours of individuals."
To provide a productive working environment, Siemens Enterprise Communications recommends that businesses shift their focus "from ports to people". It is clearly no longer sufficient just to deliver a technology platform to staff; the user experience must support increased productivity. Businesses should enable and encourage staff to seamlessly move between devices, locations and teams.
Additional key findings:
- Traditional communications tools such as email (93 per cent) and phone calls (89 per cent) are still the most relied upon to support distributed teams
- Only eight per cent of businesses have a formal team performance management system in place
- Nearly half (43 per cent) of staff feel frustrated and overwhelmed by team collaboration and communication technologies that they work with