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The right technology can make managing virtual teams easier and more effective.

Few things are less quantifiable, more important, and more difficult to directly influence than a company’s culture. In the modern era, where managing virtual teams and other distributed entities is the rule, a measure of cultural consistency is a written-in-stone necessity. This is something small fish and big players alike must manage for the sake of the name on the awning.

And, despite the challenges a long-distance working relationship can represent, today’s executives can’t just give up on imposing a singular culture because their virtual enterprise operates under more than one roof. Giving your locations the same feel, regardless of geography, can yield productivity benefits and make sure remote employees get a consistent workplace everywhere.

Here are a few takes on making your culture more portable in the mobility era:

Formalize and Centralize

The word “formalize” doesn’t always conjure images of a happy, productive workforce, but according to Recruiter, building a distributed culture gets a lot easier when you know what it is and what you’re trying to get from it. The first step in that process is asking yourself and your team questions about the company’s end goal, core values, and approach to productivity, and coming to thoughtful, collaborative answers.

You may discover that your company puts a lot of stock into communication and collaboration. You could also find that you’re in a laid-back workplace that doesn’t dictate process or strict behavior standards as long as the ethical end results are there. Maybe you’ll discover a more formal, buttoned-down environment. Or, maybe you’ll discover something else entirely.

Whatever that “something” is, write it down. Since this is an attempt to instill or influence culture, you may wish to only include positives to emulate. That said, this could also be an opportunity to identify and eliminate negative factors, which can obviously affect employee engagement and productivity. Either way — and even if you think you have a good grasp of your company’s culture — be sure to put it on paper first. You may be surprised at what you find.

Ears to the Ground

At the risk of sounding cheesy, it also goes without saying that workplace culture — both company-wide and on the individual-location level — is a living, breathing, organically cultivated thing. Keeping every location in cultural lock-step may not be fully possible because of this, especially considering how hard culture is to force.

However, that doesn’t mean it can’t be influenced or nudged in a certain direction. More, the high-level aspects you noted earlier can often be implemented through policy, management behavior, tone of internal communication, and other obvious and not-so-obvious avenues.

When managing virtual teams and other branches, one such not-so-obvious avenue — asking employees directly — can be huge in determining and dictating culture. This is especially pertinent since employees at all levels, from management to HR to ground-level reps, tend to believe their particular roles are the primary cultural influencers within their workplaces. Though you may not be present in every location long enough to get a real feel for their internal culture, and while employees are undoubtedly likely to understate any reservations, pinpointing trustworthy sources within branches and speaking to them regularly can yield real, workable results for individual roles and the company at large.

Translate with Technology

Once you’ve located positive cultural aspects and things worth changing, the next challenge is to replicate them. When you’re managing virtual teams, chances are you’re making heavy use of unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) tools. Just like they enable basic work, these solutions will likely play a key role in replicating your culture across office walls.

The “laid-back” office referenced earlier provides one example to follow. While lax attendance policy may be acceptable when the job’s getting done, there will still be times when productive but MIA employees are desperately needed. This problem is easy enough to handle in single settings but increasingly difficult with a growing number of branches. Presence tools and cloud-based collaboration solutions can make it easier to track these troublesome-yet-productive employees and continue with the get-your-stuff-done atmosphere across locations. This will enable a greater level of collaboration than businesses working without cloud collaboration tools would be able to muster.

The other, more formal office can glean similar benefits from communication and collaboration tools. For example, weekly performance meetings could be held on a company-wide basis despite a growing number of locations, while particularly zealous regional management could use video tools to check on compliance concerns at multiple branches at once.

In both cases — and countless others — the goal is to nudge branch office culture in the same direction as the rest of the business. In some sense, the policy governing these locations should do most of the heavy lifting. Instead of trying to force its hand, company leaders concerned about replicating a successful culture should do what they can to identify the positive aspects, then cultivate them everywhere within the company.

To mangle the old saying, you’ll know you’re doing the right thing when it seems like you haven’t done anything at all. Happy growing!

To learn more about how technology can help you develop your company culture, reach out to a Vonage Business representative.

About Evan Wade

Evan Wade is an author and editor from Carmel, Indiana. As a veteran tech writer and lifelong tech enthusiast, he focuses his writing and research on communication, mobility and security. Alongside work with leading cloud technology providers and industry news sources, Evan has extensive sales and end-user marketing experience, giving him a unique view of the individual’s relationship with technology — and how organizations can realize huge benefits from it.

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Unified communications and collaboration tools let customers and employees connect and save time.

Remember the days when getting in touch with a specific colleague or vendor could be the hardest part of completing a task? If so, you’ve probably been working long enough to remember the world before unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) tools. Now that you have such effective communication tools at your disposal, you must undoubtedly understand, in full detail, how “human latency” is much more than a buzzword.

Of course, people are still the lifeblood of any organization, a fact that will hold true until the last job’s been automated and handed over to the machines. Provided the solution is tailored to the organization’s specific needs, UC&C tools can vastly improve the processes these people carry out by streamlining and automating tasks generally considered to be labor- and time-intensive. Do it right, and working with colleagues, partners, vendors, and customers get a lot easier, even as it becomes faster to carry out. To that end, the following are just a few ways UC&C tools can revolutionize business processes, broken down by relationship:

Internal Communications

As noted by B2B software company Tibco, the insurance industry provides an excellent case study for the benefits of an intelligently applied UC&C solution. It’s a heady line of work that requires labor and expertise from numerous individual skill sets. In addition, even easy customer interactions can require expertise that comes from multiple people in multiple roles, given the complex suite of products and services insurance organizations provide.

If anything, this complexity makes UC&C’s benefits to the industry easy to pinpoint. When an insurance organization unifies its communications — particularly with presence tools, which allow employees to quickly find specific colleagues and discern their availability — it cuts human latency from core processes. This makes underwriting, claims, customer service, and mostly every other aspect of the business more productive and efficient.

For example, say a contact center rep needs to get in touch with an underwriter and then speak to a specific claims specialist working on a customer’s case. By building UC&C capabilities into the systems these professionals use, the insurance company turns basic communication into a unified process. Seeing that a rep is available from the underwriting system, the customer service rep can place a quick Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) call to a general line, then send an urgent-flagged message to the currently unavailable claims expert. The message automatically pings the claims rep’s phone, tablet, laptop, and PC, he responds, and voila! The issue is on its way to resolution, with no need to chase down an employee who could be in the field, at home, or in the office.

Vendor and Business Partner Communications

In some ways, the need for UC&C tools with vendors and business partners rests between internal and customer-focused communications. Though the partnering organizations don’t operate under the same proverbial roof, companies today work closely enough with their partners that near-constant communication can be downright imperative.

As an increasingly common backbone for UC&C tools, cloud technology can help bridge this gap. Indeed, the cloud’s natural strengths (think portability and ease of access) are perfectly aligned with the average business’ communication needs.

Here, collaboration naturally takes the spotlight. If a business is reaching out to a partner, after all, it’s likely to carry out some shared task. Involving the cloud in the collaborative process allows for a consistent workspace across businesses and individual end-user platforms. Compared to the human latency that comes with, say, sharing a document back and forth across email — a process that also invites all sorts of human and technical error to befall the work — being able to invite a specific employee within a partnering organization to view and revise a document from any device or location is a truly attractive alternative.

Customer Communications

If constant collaboration’s the name of the game with businesses and their partners, constant communication is the key to a healthy relationship with clientele. Customer expectations have turned the modern call center into the contact center, and businesses would be well-advised to study the difference between the two.

Turning back to the insurance example, CustomerThink’s take on skill-based presence illustrates the ways UC&C can remove human latency from complex interactions. The contact center rep searching for that elusive claims expert can directly connect a concerned patron to the person he or she needs to talk to. They can just as easily make scheduling callbacks a concrete affair with UC tools, taking the experience from “we’ll call you back soon” to “[insert rep’s name] will call you back at 9:15 a.m. on Wednesday.” Used in conjunction with customer relationship management (CRM) tools, the rep can take things even further by instantly emailing (or texting) a confirmation of the meeting date to the email address on file.

Instead of the customer and organization wasting time, unified communications and collaboration tools create a continuum of contact between an organization’s clientele, initial points of contact, and the employees they’ll eventually need to talk to. The same idea applies anywhere human latency can break the intricate dependencies between communication and productivity, making communication a top priority for modernization in almost any business setting.

Let Vonage Business remove human latency from your critical processes with its suite of unified communications and collaboration tools.

About Evan Wade

Evan Wade is an author and editor from Carmel, Indiana. As a veteran tech writer and lifelong tech enthusiast, he focuses his writing and research on communication, mobility and security. Alongside work with leading cloud technology providers and industry news sources, Evan has extensive sales and end-user marketing experience, giving him a unique view of the individual’s relationship with technology — and how organizations can realize huge benefits from it.

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