You’ve just been told to Work from Home. You have Workplace. Are you home free?

Under the above scenario it’s clearly better to have Workplace from Facebook in place than not. But I suspect few of us would see all our anxieties from the COVID-19-enforced change to our working environments overcome that simply. Most of us have had the experience of working from home (WFH) occasionally, but what about when your whole team has to WFH? 

When we published our latest Workplace benchmarking report, we did not envisage digital teams would be put to the test to the extent they are now. In the report we analysed the collaboration habits of more than 2,000 groups across 68 organisations to identify what “good” looks like for digital groups. While few of those groups would have been fully WFH groups, a good proportion of the highest performing groups were fully digital; just like a WFH team.  

What can a WFH team learn from our group benchmarking? 

Communications 

The report shares the stories from our benchmarked collaboration leaders. This Flight Centre case study tells how Workplace was used to source an emergency blood supply for a critically ill client marooned in South America. The Australian Catholic University’s COO identifies how he used SWOOP to monitor the effectiveness of a critical communications campaign. US Real Estate company Compass tells how it created a Workplace “champions network” to help engage and communicate with its broad network of external agents. All of these cases have an affinity with the current COVID-19 emergency, where “best practice” shared learning is available. 

We have recently written about how SWOOP topic tagging can be used to monitor corporate initiatives like sustainability and climate change. The same techniques described here are also relevant for monitoring COVID-19 across your organisation. 

Teams 

As you may be aware, when one starts a group in Workplace you are asked to nominate what type of group you are creating. We found the “Team” was the most common group type nominated, making up 57% of groups formed. While much of the Workplace focus has been on corporate communications and keeping staff updated on the latest situation regarding COVID-19, the WFH directive will likely raise the profile of Workplace even more within the organisation, especially for those relying on Workplace for their Teaming support. 

Once a team starts WFH they will most likely identify the following changes: 

  • Your team interactions will now become majorly asynchronous, more so than synchronous. While video meetings will always be possible, you will find it will never substitute for ‘in office’ synchronous interactions. 
  • The volume of your digital interactions will grow by necessity. While activity analytics might have been useful for assessing Workplace adoption, they will quickly become insufficient for a highly active digital team. The important analytics will need to inform on how team members are relating to each other online.  
  • Your manager/team leader will not be able to ‘manage’ the remote team to the same extent as the ‘in office’ team. 
  • If you are a ‘line manager’ you will find your responsibilities as a ‘communications hub’ will increase and your time for hands-on team management will reduce. 
  • Given the above, you will find that that your team will likely need to rely less on a single leader and more on self-direction. 
  • You will spend a lot more time in front of your keyboard. You will find yourself doing more online chatting and discussing and less meeting and emailing. 
  • While the majority of your remote interactions will be with your local team, you and your team will need to participate in other company online forums and communities, to ensure your work remains aligned in a more dynamically changing business environment. 

A key finding from our benchmarking of Workplace teams was the majority of these teams were not teams in a conventional WFH context. With an average size of 297 members, only around 5% of self-nominated teams had less than 10 members; the maximum team size that academic research identifies as the limit for high productivity teams.  

Therefore, the first task for a WFH team using Workplace is to create a digital team with only those members that you would normally interact with on a day to day basis. Treat any existing digital teams larger than this as “stakeholder groups”; separating them from the day to day interactions required of a WFH team. 

Self-directed or Single leader team 

Your WFH team will need to decide its mode of operation i.e. agree on a collaboration protocol for your online work. Where will you store shared resources? Where will discussions be held? When will you connect via video? When is one-to-one chat enough? When do you use email? If you decide to be a Single leader team, your leader will need to by highly digitally present for the team. 

For many, the “self-directed” team is the aspirational team form and a preferred form for a WFH team. Our benchmarking identified teams that were performing best as self-directed teams.  

What do high performing teams do better? 

We can find what factors appear to separate those higher performing teams from the rest by calculating a standardised variance for each collaboration indicator and then ranking them. The higher the variance, the bigger the gap between the best and worst; and, therefore, the greatest scope for improvement: 

We see from the analysis that responsiveness is the most dominant factor (Replies/Post and Threads/User). This was followed be inclusiveness (Active Users) and a low %Broadcasters (members that talk more and listen less).  

Using SWOOP to monitor your COVID-19 communications effectiveness 

Hash tags are a common way for tagging content for monitoring over time. We have previously written about how hash tags can be used to track employee engagement around an important topic like COVID-19. Our research identified the traditional social media activity can be a poor indicator of engagement around a key topic: 

In the above case, employee engagement was sustained well beyond when the content messaging had died down. How staff engage around important messaging like COVID-19 is the real measure of communication effectiveness.  

The SWOOP dashboard under the Topics tab provides several “engagement” indicators around corporate communications. For example, the Cross Departmental engagement map identifies how broadly a communication is engaging across the formal lines of business.  

The “Influential People” list identifies who the conversation leaders are on the topic. Which roles in your organisation would you anticipate should be leading the conversation around COVID-19? Are there staff members that should be influential that aren’t? 

We would anticipate that staff will be anxious about COVID-19. To understand the degree to which anxiety might be surfacing, we can look the number of questions staff are asking (SWOOP Curiosity Index) or look at the sentiment of the messages being posted over time: 

In summary, communicating important corporate messages is about how staff engage with the message. A broadcasted message with little engagement is ineffective; something we can’t afford in these disruptive times. 

Using SWOOP to monitor your WFH team performance 

The largest disruption of COVID-19 for organisations is likely to be the direction for staff to WFH. For those with access to SWOOP, we suggest the following indicators be used to monitor your WFH team by going to the Group tab: 

  • Start to monitor your Team activity and behaviour as you start to build your digital profile: 

The User Activity widget will provide a quick overview of your shared team space activity. The Persona breakdown provides an overview of team behaviours. As a WFH team you should have no “Observers” or “Broadcasters”. “Engagers” and “Responders” are the preferred behavioural personas for a high productivity team

  • Ensure that team members are connecting and contributing equitably. 

The Influential People widget provides a quantitative assessment of how well the load is being shared amongst team members. A Single leader team would appropriately see a dominant most active leader at the top. An effective Self-directed team would see the scores more evenly spread amongst the team members. 

  • Be aware of team silo building. 

As much as we value a highly cohesive team, there can be too much of a “good thing” when teams become “silos”; something that not only individuals, but whole teams can be susceptible to in the WFH environment. 

The Diversity Index widget is designed to identify the degree to which your team members might be active in other Groups e.g. communities or forumsAgree on certain team members participating in different Corporate forums and communities and reporting back to the team. It will be your main channel for connecting to the enterprise at large from home. 

too low diversity score indicates a tendency toward siloed behaviours. Too high a score, however, might indicate a diminished focus on the local team activity. A score of around 50-60 is a good target. 

  • Finally, don’t forget those Workplace social groups. Our benchmarking showed these groups were the most successful at providing those serendipitous connections that underpin radical innovation. You will no doubt be spending more time with the family pets, so why not show them off! 

We are in challenging times and no doubt you will experience times when you become frustrated by an inability to meet more face to face. You are not alone. We have identified many teams who have been in fully digital working mode by necessity; and therefore, their practices and experiences are available to learn from.  

To find out more about how high performing digital teams connect interact and perform on Workplace, download our free Workplace Benchmarking report. 

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