Wanna be in my Team? Employee Communication and Modern Conferencing Apps

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2020 edition of Business Insider (page 95).

Wanna be in my Team?

By Mark Gibson, Managing Director of Capito Ltd

Our MD Mark Gibson discusses how employee communication is changing through modern conferencing apps, such as Microsoft Teams, and warns against the pitfalls of easy Accepts - we would love to hear your feedback.

I recently sat in on a Microsoft Teams call – the brilliant hub for teamwork in Microsoft Office 365.  Bringing everyone you work with to work together, Teams allows you to chat, meet, call, and collaborate, seamlessly and effortlessly. I have to confess to being almost evangelical in my love for this application and use it throughout the day to organise my life on multiple devices.

In this instance, it was a pre-scheduled meeting with a technology partner which involved 9 members of my team dialling in from 5 separate remote locations, together with an obligatory PowerPoint presentation and some back and forth dialogue.

The call lasted 50 minutes and left me frustrated. Not that as an ‘Update’ exercise it failed, but following the call, which didn’t have any pre-agreed agenda or actionable follow-ups (sigh), I circled the team and asked them if they understood the purpose of the call and why had they accepted – a couple of people admitted, ‘because I was asked and I was free’.  

There are many ways in which conference calls and virtual meetings fail, often to do with poor planning, unrealistic scope or when key participants fail to turn up. My current favourite bugbears are when the wrong people are included and there is no follow-up. Inclusivity at all costs is folly, particularly when people who have little to contribute are asked to participate.

It struck me though that the ease with which modern conferencing apps such as Teams, Skype and their like allow us to instantly ‘Accept’ and ‘Attend’ virtual meetings is also breeding or re-enforcing a culture which can be described as lazy at best, or worse, foolish.

How often do you automatically ‘Accept’ a meeting request because you have a free slot or because the Artificial intelligence engine which underpins the application does it for you?

As they become part of the DNA of how the modern organisation works, these technologies deliver amazing benefits and enhancements, however, what’s actually needed is coaching and training. I am encouraging my team to question or reject any meeting invitation with an unclear purpose or relevance.

Employee communication is changing.  Where once we filled our day with face-to-face meetings, then ‘conf’ calls, it is now Teams meetings in the modern, efficient workplace.  Mobile apps are how leading organisations are connecting and reinforcing company values.

It’s easy to get carried away by the excitement of all the possibilities but, to get the expected business value, we still need to remind ourselves and our co-workers to give ourselves time to think, plan and question.  

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