Two men and a woman sitting at a table, viewing something on a tablet.

Helping your teammates get to know each other will go a long way toward employee engagement.

The New Year is here, and with it comes a unique opportunity for introspection and resolution. While that gym membership card is still fresh, it’s also a great time to set some employee engagement goals for your own staff. To that end, there’s one area of employee interaction any organization would do well to improve this year: collaboration.

Why collaboration? Well, according to a recent Microsoft survey, employee collaboration is one of the most important skill sets to foster in the workplace. Understanding the importance of collaboration is great and all, but how can you help your team grow in this area?

1. Getting to Know You

When it comes to collaboration in the workplace, the topic really boils down to your team’s ability to engage with one another. Convenient, huh? If you could somehow make it second nature for employees to engage and collaborate throughout the day, regardless of team or project structure, the entire organization would likely experience a greater level of productivity. Fortunately, there’s a little-known secret to breeding employee engagement, and it starts with familiarity.

Be honest with yourself for a minute. Is it easier to confide in your best friend of 20 years or the new guy in Cube 3A? While it’s not always possible to be best friends with your co-workers, just getting to know them on a deeper level will help facilitate easier collaboration. Simply put, your team will be more apt to talk things through with colleagues they know and care for. Inspire these types of connections by promoting open communication and encouraging camaraderie through effective team-building. A word to the wise: Know your audience on this one, and try to avoid any trust-fall snafus.

2. Let’s Talk Tech

Fostering a work environment where people not only feel free to collaborate, but make it a top priority is bar none the best way to increase employee collaboration in 2017. So, what’s the next step? Give your team all the necessary tools to collaborate effectively. In this new year, that means deploying the right technology to make communication a piece of cake regardless of physical location.

Let’s face it — in this age of smartphones and high-speed mobile internet connections, there’s really no excuse for a lack of communication. From document-sharing services to mobile communication platforms, it’s never been easier to enable high-level collaboration. Add a dash of the cloud, and new deployments can be taken care of faster than the Millennium Falcon during the Kessel Run (that’s less than 12 parsecs, for those keeping track).

3. Deliberate Communication

Alright, so you’ve now figured out how to help your team want to collaborate while also enabling them to do so anywhere, at anytime. Now, if only they used their collaboration time effectively. In an effort to train your team in effective communication (the cornerstone of collaboration), taking a page from the playbook of any agile methodology is a good strategy.

For those unaware, these business methodologies thrive on highly functional communication. In particular, the pages you should really pay attention to deal with purpose and focus. Every meeting or collaborative effort should have a well-defined and deliberate goal. This goal would ideally be small enough in scope to be attained within a week or two of actual work. Focusing on bite-sized, purposeful goals will help keep your team’s collaborative genius on the right track.

4. Everybody Plays a Part

Ultimately, it’s just not enough to show people how and why collaboration is integral to the success of any SMB. At some point, each individual has to have a stake in the investment. Without some tangible ownership and responsibility, there just isn’t enough motivation for truly effective collaboration. So, how do you encourage user buy-in and employee engagement?

As cheesy as it sounds, the solution is to make everyone feel important. This is actually easier than it sounds, too, because in most situations, each individual is important — otherwise, why would they be on the team? All you need to do is make it painfully apparent. Catchy metaphors and motivational posters can be useful here — seriously. Going back to the first point, investing in professional relationships will naturally transition into easy illustrations of each team member’s importance.

There you have it! Four ways to embark on the new year with more effective collaboration. As it turns out, a little team building with a dash of technology is all you need.

Find out how Vonage Business can help you get the most out of your phone system to foster effective collaboration.

About Joe Hewitson

With a degree in applied computing technology and over a decade of experience in the IT and software development industries, Joe Hewitson has his finger on the pulse of cloud technology. From developing communication applications for the cloud to deploying VoIP solutions in enterprise environments, he’s seen it all. The one thing Joe loves more than staying on the cutting edge of cloud and VoIP technology? Writing about it.

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Smiling man and woman standing at laptops, in front of chalkboard.

Employee engagement strategies can help reduce job-hopping, so you can retain your team members.

Employee engagement strategies are often met with eye-rolls and hushed groans as people lament the ensuing awkward team-building activities and overused metaphors. However, despite these common stereotypes, employee engagement is vital to a company’s success. Employees who feel valued and invested in their company are more apt to work harder and more likely to stay.

In today’s business world, employees are now more inclined to job-hop than ever before. According to NY Daily News, employees in the 55–64 age range have a median tenure of more than 10 years, while millennials notch a median job tenure of just three years. With 75.4 million millennials now in the workforce, according to Pew Research, organizations are starting to see the growing importance of employee engagement. With that in mind, here are five ways that engagement may be lacking in the workplace and corresponding strategies to right those wrongs:

1. Maintain Effective Communication

Few things in life make a person feel more disconnected than a lack of communication. Unfortunately, in today’s business world of telecommuting, flex hours, and digital correspondence, it’s never been easier to feel like you’re working on a secluded island — without the perks of sand, sun, and sangria. All too often, communication is left at a basic level of email or instant messages. While these methods are surprisingly efficient, they lack the robust, personal touch of a genuine, in-person conversation.

To solve this issue, all that’s needed is a little more planning and some unified communications technology. A move to the cloud introduces a host of collaboration tools to help businesses keep their employees connected. Instead of relying on the typical email chains and chat windows to discuss important group ideas, add a dash of agility and personality with a more full-featured meeting. Schedule regular “catch-all” meetings in which remote users join via video conference and onsite folks pile into the same room for an old-fashioned get-together. Take it a step further and share your screen or desktop to make the in-person experience that much closer to reality. Doing so will boost engagement by bringing a personal touch to the often cold online communication you’re used to.

2. Keep Things Professionally Chill

Want to know why people look forward to clocking out at the end of the day? It’s because they simply have more fun at home than they do in the office. While you may never be able to make the office as enjoyable as a Saturday-night “Game of Thrones” binge, there are a few things that will help reduce the sometimes stark difference.

The idea is to create an office atmosphere that is less “Walking Dead” and more “SpongeBob Squarepants.” Okay, maybe not that bubbly, but you get the picture. When employees know that it’s okay to have fun at the office — be it shooting the breeze over a game of pingpong or simply playing a game of poker at lunch — they’ll instantly feel more at home and, as a result, more deeply engaged.

3. Encourage Feedback

While the first entry in these employee engagement strategies dealt directly with office communication, there’s still some work to be done by taking that communication to the next level. In general, humans feel more engaged with a community — work, in this instance — when they feel like they have a voice. In other words, people want to know they can influence change.

For this reason, feedback should be encouraged and accessible, and the results should be made known to all. We’re not talking about the “Place questions or comments here” sign above the wastebasket, either. Honest, intentional dialogue with employees about their thoughts on the workplace will encourage participation and a sense of ownership.

4. Invest in Relationships

If feeling like you don’t have a voice is a quick way to nurture discontent, feeling like no one is there to listen will surely sink any hopes of engagement. At its core, the need for relationships is one of humankind’s most basic desires. It’s no different in the workplace.

As such, take the time to get to know your employees on a deeper level than their first name and number of kids. There are few things more engaging than knowing the people you work with genuinely care about your well-being both inside and outside the office.

5. Shift Your Focus

It’s surprisingly easy to disengage when the only thing driving your daily office life is the number at the end of the annual budget report. Fortunately, this one’s easy to fix. By simply shifting the focus from project or budget success to people success, employees will stop believing the work they do is the only important thing they bring to the table.

In the end, employee engagement is all about making it easier for an employee to get motivated to come to work every morning. By increasing communication with new technologies or a culture change, injecting a little fun into otherwise mundane aspects of office life, and creating an atmosphere more focused on people than products, you can begin to turn the tide on waning employee engagement.

Contact a Vonage Business representative to learn more about keeping your team engaged.

About Joe Hewitson

With a degree in applied computing technology and over a decade of experience in the IT and software development industries, Joe Hewitson has his finger on the pulse of cloud technology. From developing communication applications for the cloud to deploying VoIP solutions in enterprise environments, he’s seen it all. The one thing Joe loves more than staying on the cutting edge of cloud and VoIP technology? Writing about it.

Linkedin  |  Twitter

A woman using a smartphone.

A company using its own product is a sign of quality in business.

What would you think if your friends invited you over for dinner but didn’t eat the meal they served? It would be weird, right? If it’s not good enough for the chef, then why should you eat it? Is there something wrong with the meal? Unhealthy ingredients? Bread that broke the five-second rule? Milk flirting a bit too much with the expiration date?

Bottom line, it’s a flag redder than the undercooked meat you could be digging your knife into.

The same is true of companies – and employees – that don’t use their own products. If the product isn’t good enough for that business, why should you trust your own with it?

On the flip side, when you purchase products from a company that uses its own goods and services, you know the organization has faith and trust in the quality of its products. It’s such an important concept in the tech world that a few phrases have even been coined for companies that use their own products, such as “drinking your own champagne” and “eating your own dog food” — seriously, it’s really the term. And, of course, a politically correct and nowhere near as fun version has emerged in the term “self-hosting.”

Google employees use their products. And each time you call Vonage, your call is answered on the exact same cloud network, with the same quality of service and business telephone system that is sold to customers. Novell employees organize their own files using products on their shelf.

When you partner with a company that uses its own products, you’ll get the following tangible and intangible benefits:

Ability to Give Customers Insider Tricks

Yes, you can sit in on a training session. Sure, videos are great. But really knowing how to use a product comes from using it all day, every day. And, more importantly, your own career balances on how well you know it. Customer service reps who spend all day actually using the product you are calling about are much more likely to be familiar with common mistakes, shortcuts, and tricks — and are much more preferable to someone who has never used the product in the real world and spent the new employee orientation daydreaming about lunch.

Peace of Mind

Selecting a vendor is hard. You’re putting your business in someone else’s hands, and if they don’t live up to their promises, your own paycheck could be on the line. When a company trusts its own products enough to use them as part of its business model, you have the peace of mind that it’s dependable, reliable, and worth betting on.

More Engaged Customer Service

There’s something fun about running into someone who uses the same exact device as you do. It’s like you both know you were smart enough to use it and have a sense of pride in your choice. Companies whose employees use their own products have that same sense of pride, and everyone knows you do a much better job when you are engaged and proud of the products you represent.

Find Bugs Before Customers Do

Bugs happen. Quality control is great, but there are times when errors in a product are found only during real-life usage. That’s just the way it is — no way around it. When a company uses its own products, you can be assured employees will catch glitches first. And, since they can’t do their own jobs until the problem is corrected, you know fixes will be a high priority.

Remember, if the food isn’t good enough for the chef, you may want to think twice about eating it. And, if the products aren’t good enough for the vendor, you might want to rethink that, too.

Visit Vonage Business to learn more about business communication products.

About Jennifer Goforth Gregory

Jennifer Goforth Gregory is a technology freelance writer specializing in B2B and telecommunications topics. She has written for national brands including IBM, Samsung, ADTRAN, Adobe, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, Verizon, Costco and American Express. One of her superpowers is being able to translate technical speak from the experts that make products work into language everyone else can understand. Jennifer has a master’s degree in technical communication and lives in North Carolina with her husband and two kids.

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