The future of work in the digital age
The future of work has changed dramatically over the last couple of years. We are seeing a significant shift in how people interact and collaborate. With online tools and platforms making it possible for people to connect and work together from anywhere, the traditional workplace is no longer the only option.
This post will explore facilitation in the digital age and discuss how you can use these tools to create more engaging and meaningful work experiences.
The Future of Work Has Changed
The future of work has changed and continues to change almost every day. Businesses have to adapt to new ways of thinking, gathering, collaborating, and putting their people in positions for success. The gig economy and an increase in remote working are both on the rise, and many companies have switched to fully remote or partially remote office life.
While this current state of hybrid work isn't a certainty to last long term, most agree that more and more work will become or remain digital in some shape or form for at least the next several years. As these changes happen, employers must adapt and help their employees adapt quickly.
Facilitation in the Digital Age
In the past, work was often physical and required people to be in close proximity to one another. Meetings and gatherings felt more natural because that’s how they had been done in the office for decades. With remote work, many have had to rethink their facilitation and team management. Dynamics have changed, not just across digital screens but in culture, work roles, and interdepartmental communications.
While most of these dynamics aren't necessarily brand new, many have struggled to adjust and still haven't discovered the best way for their people to succeed in the workplace. However, while challenges are associated with this transition, there are also many opportunities. Businesses can facilitate effective collaboration and communication online, even across large geographical distances, with the right tools and processes. In some ways, digital facilitation may even help workers become more productive than they have been in the physical workplace.
How To Use Online Tools For Facilitation
The virtual workplace has caused its fair share of challenges to employers who never had to provide remote-working tools before. Companies now rely on virtual meeting tools like Zoom, Skype, and Microsoft Teams. They have to train their employees to use digital project management tools like Asana, Trello, and countless others. Data security has become a considerable function of business for many employers due to internal servers switching to remote access and employees using personal or public WiFi to accomplish their tasks.
Training employees on new software and processes takes time and effort, yet often succumb to user error, creating bottlenecks, aggravation, and searching for an easier answer. From a physical standpoint, flexible schedules, work-home balance, responsibilities at home, unreliable internet, and differing timezones have also created challenges.
Facilitation, whether for ideation, business development, inter-departmental collaboration, or team-building, has taken a hit through these challenges. Gathering everyone together to create meaningful outputs often seems impossible, so employees and their work begin to feel siloed, isolated, and lacking.
However, there are ways to overcome these challenges to transform workshops and gatherings into more engaging, interactive, and meaningful experiences.
Tips For Successful Facilitation In The Digital Age
Facilitating digital meetings doesn’t have to be awkward and painful. Sure, it’s challenging and different from how facilitation has happened in the past. But, with a few adjustments, you might even start to like and prefer digital meetings over more traditional ones.
Embrace the Change
The first step toward successful facilitation is to embrace the change. Everyone from each level of your business needs to be on the same page and understand what needs to be done. The message needs to be that while change is inevitable, how we respond to that change directly affects the business and, ultimately, everyone's jobs. As a company leader or facilitator, it's your job to help your team see the opportunities and understand what's at stake if a successful outcome doesn't occur. Offering transparency and guidance along the way can help everyone embrace changes.
Effective Communication is Essential
Effective communication is essential. With everyone working remotely, it can be easy for messages to get lost in translation or get no response at all. As a facilitator or team leader, you must ensure that each team member understands the message, role, and next steps. How to replace in-person communications with email, chat, or video calls when notifications can be missed, ignored, or lack necessary follow-ups ?
Communication should be specific, reach multiple mediums, and virtual doors must be left open for questions and follow-ups.
Find the Right Tools and Stick to Them
When new tools and technologies get introduced, you can almost feel the collective eye roll, sigh, and "Here we go again" attitude amongst groups of employees. Inevitably, some will embrace the change and become experts and advocates of new tools, while others will lament switching and hold onto features they prefer from former tools. As employers, it can feel like you're constantly training and dealing with employee refusals to adapt. These changes can quickly drain resources and morale, and before you know it, you're trying another new tool that will hopefully work better.
Facilitators and department leads feel this friction firsthand. Often, it's their jobs to become early adopters of these tools, learn them inside and out, then present them to the team as a solution. When team members refuse to learn or adapt, facilitation suffers, and everyone fails to do their jobs fully.
When considering a new tool, in-depth research must occur to ensure that the tool can solve employee needs. Once a tool or piece of software is chosen, adoption cannot be optional but instead made mandatory. If employees can simply refuse to use it or wait for a new tool tocome along shortly after, frustration will continue perpetually.
Be Flexible, But Adamant
It's important to understand that not all tools are suitable for every team or will provide the best options across the full scope of business. Some tools and technology work well together, and others do not. Facilitators must be flexible in fulfilling the needs of their constituents and understand when the right time is to move on to something else.
Facilitators are champions for the work and the people and must find ways to bring them together fluidly for optimum execution and successful business outputs.
Tools and Skills for Effective Collaboration and Communication
Oh, great… now they’re going to pitch another tool to me.”
Not so fast! Believe it or not, you might already possess the skills or tools for improving collaboration and communication amongst your team members. You just don’t realize it yet.
A Digital Whiteboard or Creative Space
When it comes to collaboration or developing new ideas, it’s hard to beat the good ol’ whiteboard. Unfortunately, this may no longer seem viable option with remote work. But it is! There are lots of tools and software available now that offer some form of creative space or digital whiteboard that multiple users can collaborate on at the same time.
In some ways, digital boards are better than physical ones:
- The size of the digital space isn’t limited to the size of a physical wall or frame;
- Participants don’t have to jump around each other to get their ideas on the board;
- No one has to worry about trying to decipher messy handwriting.
Whiteboard ideation happens quicker, it’s cleaner, and if facilitated well, it can provide even more ideas than you could expect with traditional brainstorming.
Anonymous or Low-Key Participation Opportunities
Whether in-person or through a digital screen,some people are not comfortable sharing ideas openly or verbally participating in meetings. Fortunately, with digital tools, there are ways to work around this and ensure that everyone gets involved. Some tools and programs offer quizzes, polls, and other “clickable” options to help less outgoing employees still feel heard. This is a massive opportunity to gain support or new ideas from those that otherwise you might not ever hear thoughts from.
Non-verbal communication accounts for more than half our language with one another. This means face-to-face discussions, especially during ideation meetings, are still essential for collaboration. Seeing others can lead to better results and a better-flowing meeting. While one of the benefits of working online is staying hidden from the world, encourage face-to-face, turning camera on, whenever you can to help people use social cues in building ideas off of each other.
Aids for Group Dynamics
One of the misconceptions about meetings is that a big group can’t work together successfully. We think that’s absolutely untrue. However, we admit that it can be challenging. Whether it’s in the tools, software, or the meeting facilitator, handling big groups properly is vital. You could break into smaller subgroups, assign different tasks to different groups, or combine big group activities with smaller group activities.
Embrace the Awkwardness
When meeting in person, hosts and facilitators naturally learn to read body language and can use that information to assess how a meeting is going or when they should let others take the floor. When speaking to groups over a video call, especially if they don’t have their videos on, it can be very difficult to know when someone else wants to chime in or participate in the meeting. The silence can feel awkward and trigger our insecurities. Instead of allowing space and opportunity, we fill that awkwardness with more words and any kind of collaboration falls by the wayside.
When hosting a meeting, you have to learn to embrace the awkwardness and the moments of silence, if you want to encourage others to participate.
Designate a Facilitator
Having a host of a meeting is not the same as having a facilitator running your workshop, meeting, or brainstorming session. Facilitators handle all aspects of working with groups and know when to pivot or change the meeting to ensure they are engaging, interactive, and meaningful.
As a company, you could offer training to different department leaders or hire experts to run essential meetings and workshops for you.
As the current state and future of work in the digital age change, understanding how people can better work together is paramount to your business success. While there often is no perfect tool that can solve all your problems, there are companies and software out there that can help you overcome technology challenges and fuel growth within your company.
After all, the companies that adapt the best and quickest are the ones that reap the most benefits from change.
Are you up for the challenge?
Klaxoon is a platform that empowers organizations to run effective and productive meetings and workshops in a hybrid work environment. If you’d like to learn more about our organization, visit our site and try out some of our fantastic collaboration tools for free.
Discover more articles: