The BroadVision Blog

5 Steps to Improving Workplace Communication through Transparency and Accountability

Improving communication in the workplace is impossible without first building a culture of transparency and accountability. Trust is an essential prerequisite for effective workplace communication, and there can be no trust without a feeling of authenticity, cooperation and responsibility among your employees, managers, partners and customers. This feeling is created through transparent and accountable behavior consistently displayed by all members of the organization.

To achieve this type of behavior, your organization first must understand what a transparent and accountable culture looks like, what benefits are possible as a result, and finally, what steps you can take to create such a culture of your own.

What does a culture of transparency and accountability look like?

A transparent and accountable culture is characterized by a feeling of trust at all levels.  Management trusts employees with great amounts of responsibility and opportunity. Employees not only trust one another, but they also trust that management has their best interests at heart. Customers and partners trust the company, its people, and its products and services to perform as expected.

In a transparent and accountable organization, work is driven by collaboration, not competition. Employees freely share knowledge with each other for the benefit of the team, rather than hoarding information for personal advancement or gain. As a result, the organization is comprised of dependable, empowered employees who take initiative, propose new ideas without fear, support one another, respect management, own their mistakes, and take pride in their successes.

What are the benefits of this type of work environment?

A positive work environment is a nice idea, but does it pay the bills or keep shareholders happy? Actually, according to Forbes, creating a workplace that places a high value on transparency and accountability does, in fact, positively impact business results. The benefits are evident in many ways, most notably in:

Improved workplace communication. Transparency begets trust, and that trust creates an environment in which people are more likely to be honest, share ideas and knowledge, and collaborate towards common goals. In turn, countless benefits are realized, as improved communication is a factor in all of the results below.

The ability to attract and retain the best employees. When employees are given ownership and responsibility through inclusion and involvement in business processes, they tend to feel properly recognized and justly rewarded. As a result, they respond with loyalty—to the company and to each other.

Improved products and services. When your people are encouraged to speak up, concerns are addressed more easily, ideas flow more freely, and solutions are reached more quickly. In turn, products and services are made better and customers are kept happy.

Reduced exposure to risk. In a transparent and accountable environment, employees aren’t afraid of retaliation or punishment. As a result, they are willing to point out problems they discover before the problems escalate into major issues.

A satisfied and loyal customer base. Authenticity is evident in all public-facing aspects of the company, from strong customer service to products and policies customers can depend on.  When customers know your company can be trusted, they remain loyal—and everyone wins.

Five Steps to Improving Workplace Communication through Transparency and Accountability

1. Hire well. Fast Company suggests that building an environment of transparency begins with hiring. Hire employees comfortable with giving and receiving honest feedback. Ensure new managers are willing to put in the necessary time and effort to coach new hires in knowledge sharing and team collaboration. If long-time employees are hoarding information for personal advancement rather than sharing knowledge with each other, be willing to replace them for the benefit of the team.

2. Eliminate ambiguity. Remove any potential for confusion from all workplace communication, including company guidelines, roles, responsibilities and processes. Accountability begins with a clear understanding of who is responsible for which parts of the business, and employees struggle when management leaves important information open for interpretation. To avoid potential problems, follow up often and be firm about your expectations for open communication at all levels in the future.

3. Prioritize inclusivity. An environment of transparency and accountability is one based on inclusion. Although not everyone can be included in every decision, management should explain clearly why upper-level decisions were made when lower-level employees can’t be involved. Sharing as much information as possible with employees about how and why certain decisions are made helps ensure employees’ future decisions are in line with the company’s values and guidelines.

4. Focus on ownership. Results—both the failures and the successes—tell a story from which everyone in the company can learn. Forbes says that trusting your employees and giving them ownership over their work is key to creating a culture of accountability. However, that doesn’t mean that managers become silent observers. Continue to play an active role by providing guidance when necessary, celebrating team accomplishments, and providing support after failures.

5. Lead by example. Change happens from the top down, so management must be diligent about transparency and accountability at all times. Share freely, communicate often, and implement company-wide systems that are built to support and encourage a transparent and accountable workplace.

Conversely, what you do not do is equally important. Don’t reward teams or promote individuals who achieve their goals at their colleagues’ expense. In a culture of true transparency and accountability, how a success is earned is just as important as the success itself, so make it clear certain tactics won’t be tolerated. Celebrate true collaboration and knowledge sharing, and promote achievements that were earned the right way.

Taking even small steps toward building this type of culture will improve workplace communication and lead to a host of other benefits that will strengthen your organization. At BroadVision, we are infusing more transparency and accountability into our organization with Vmoso. Learn more about Vmoso here, and let us know the steps you’re taking in your own organization in the comments below.

Work more efficiently by turning off your notifications

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Two ubiquitous cliches of modern business communication:

We all complain of information overload and its impact on our ability to work efficiently.

and

We all love our mobile devices and the way they allow us to work any time, anywhere.

A quick bit of googling will find countless articles on each of these subjects. But what is discussed rather less often is the fairly obvious contradiction between these two. We bring a lot of this information overload upon ourselves by failing to manage our information consumption carefully. One of the prime offenders here is the seemingly endless list of mobile apps that want to send you pop-up notifications. As a result, we end up with a constant stream of unimportant messages distracting us from what we’re meant to be doing.

A study by University of California suggests that it takes an average of 23 minutes for a worker to return to their original task after an interruption; other studies present findings, and the phenomenon is sufficiently well-recognised to have its own Wikipedia page.

So anyone who is serious about working efficiently needs to take action to mitigate the damage caused by these interruptions. Both Android and iOS give you the ability to turn off notifications from each app. Neither is perfect, but both can significantly reduce the number of notifications you receive.

On iOS, go to the Settings app, and pick Notifications from the left-hand menu. Here you can decide which apps are allowed to send you notifications.

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For each app, you can turn off notifications but still get the “badge” indicating the number of new items on the app. This is nothing like as intrusive as a pop-up banner.

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Android is a little harder. Android 5.0 has an equivalent to iOS’s notification center which can be reached by going to Settings -> Sounds and notification -> App notifications. Here you can turn off notifications for each app.



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But if you, like the majority of Android users, are still on Android 4.x, you need to go to Settings -> Apps, then go to each app individually to uncheck the “Show notifications” box.

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The problem with iOS and Android is the lack of granularity in controlling which notifications you receive. At the operating system level, it’s all or nothing – notifications from an app are either on or off. So it’s up to each app to decide how much control is given over different types of notification. For example, BroadVision’s Vmoso app gives very precise control over which activities will trigger a notification, and which will not. Unfortunately, relatively few apps offer this level of sophistication.

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Of course, this problem is not confined to mobile. Windows and OS X both have apps that are constantly trying to tell you things, such as Outlook telling you about every new email message it receives and iTunes announcing each new song it plays. But top of my own “most despised notifications” list has to be Skype’s default behaviour of telling you every time a contact comes online or goes offline. Yes, there are a few times times when I do urgently need to know when a specific person is available – but I can’t get it to tell me that, it tells me about everyone or no one.

On the other hand, I do find this notification a very useful shorthand for seeing whether somebody is serious about managing their distractions or not. You only need to see one of these pop up to know that the user of the computer you’re looking at really hasn’t taken the time to manage their distractions. If you haven’t, go on, do it now. Go to the notifications section of Skype preferences and disable all the “contact becomes available” and “contact becomes unavailable” events.

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The good news is that both Windows and OS X are finally taking this problem seriously now. OS X added Notification Center in 2012, and the newly-released Windows 10 has the similar Action Center.

So if you are serious about the need to work more efficiently, take the time to address the distractions caused by notifications, and learn how to manage these with the notification features of your chosen devices.

How Communication Tools Can Improve Your Business Productivity

The following guest article was written by Bilal Ahmad, founder of Tech Maish.

In business, your focus should always be on getting the best results and increasing productivity to achieve the highest revenue margin. A crucial factor in this regard is that your teams work seamlessly and in a cohesive manner, so communication is key. In this article, we will focus on some of the benefits communication tools can bring to your business.

Communication tools

Sharing content

One of the most important communication tools relates to file sharing. Sharing content is crucial. For example, content sharing is how each member of a team can work on small portions of a project and be able to share progress, ideas and so on with the rest of the team. Content sharing is easy to perform via communication tools such as email, FTP sites and more.

Messaging

Instant messaging applications allow employees to chat with one another, something that provides a massive productivity boost. Thanks to communication tools, everything is performed in a faster, more reliable and cohesive manner; you are bound to appreciate the consequences.

Knowledge sharing

Not all team members have the same experience and skills, so with the help of communication tools, they are able to share what they know with other employees to bring about the best results for the business. Knowledge sharing can be done via a wide variety of communication tools, including email, instant messaging and video conferencing.

Skip the travel expenses

Communication tools allow companies to connect teams from multiple locations in a single place, removing the need for expensive and exhausting travel costs. By conducting webinars, online meetings or similar endeavors, all while sitting in front of a computer or tablet, individuals and teams are able to increase productivity while saving money.

Increased connectivity with your customers thanks to mobile apps

A major problem nowadays comes from the fact that many businesses fall into the corporate tunnel and fail to focus on the customers’ needs. Offering a mobile app can bring immediate access to any service to the customer, which he or she can access very quickly. Not only does this allow the company to increase productivity, but it helps to lower costs!

Idea management

Coming up with ideas can be tough. Communication software allows team members to talk and brainstorm, all in an effort to obtain the highest quality results as quickly as possible.

Encourages innovation

Through communication, innovation happens; while using communication tools and continuing a dialogue with others, you can create or come up with new technologies and ideas that will help your company become more productive.

In summary, using communication tools can bring a great benefit to your company; all you have to do is implement the ideas above and see how much they improve your business productivity. With these types of tools, you can gain a major increase in the revenue margin, too, so there’s an added bonus!

What kinds of communication tools do you use to increase your productivity? Share your experience in the comments section below. Then, download the white paper or listen to the webinar recording to learn more about reclaiming control of your business communication.

6 Tips for Improving Your Business Communication Skills

You know that good communication skills are essential to rise to the top in business. Communications skills can endear you among your peers, raise your value among your superiors, and cause you to be admired among those subordinate to you. So, how can you develop them to meet your true potential? Here are some helpful tips for improving your business communication skills.

1. Practice Your Listening Skills (and Your Paying Attention Skills Too)

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Listening requires a bit more than not talking while someone talks.

When others are speaking, are you really listening? We often confuse ‘listening’ with ‘being quiet’ but just because you aren’t talking while others are talking doesn’t mean you’re really listening. Learn to turn off your own internal dialogue and truly tune into what others are saying. It often helps to repeat what you’ve heard so that you know you’re paying attention and they know it too.

2. Collaborate, Don’t Dictate

Lectures, monologues, and ramblings don’t belong in business communications. If you find you’re speaking more than a few moments (except when giving a presentation or leading a demonstration), stop. Simplify what you’re trying to say as much as possible. Allow others to offer their input on the issue. Communication is about give and take, not dictating how things are going to be or how you think they should be.Vmoso Mobile Collaboration ad

3. Pay Attention to How You Spend Your Leisure Time

You probably didn’t expect this to be on the list. What do the TV shows you watch, the things you read, and your hobbies have to do with business communications? Well, the answer is twofold. First, they have the potential to expose you to new perspectives and important current events that help you grow your business intelligence. Odds are people who watch an hour of reality television daily aren’t going to be as capable of carrying a business-oriented conversation as well as those who spend their free time reading business journals and networking with successful mentors. Second, you will glean tremendously useful ideas and insights from more intellectual pursuits than from watching or reading less helpful material during your off time.

4. Invest in the Right Communication and Collaboration Tools

If you’re depending on email and social media for your communications, you’re probably receiving a lot of useless and redundant information and perhaps missing out on the most important conversations. A collaborative tool like Vmoso is the ideal way to streamline communications, collaborate on important projects, and build meaningful business relationships.

5. Don’t Wait Too Long to Bring Up Sensitive Issues

Allowing a situation to build and fester is a recipe for a breakdown in communications. It’s much easier, effective, and more professional to address an issue as soon as it pops up, while it’s still in its infancy, than to wait until it grows into a big, ugly, angry monster. Most of the time, a quick, direct discussion can resolve any interpersonal or professional issues without negatively affecting the relationship.

6. Learn to Have and Use a Good People Memory

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Dedicating time and energy toward remembering important bits and pieces of your coworkers’ lives can pay off big time.

Is Sheila a morning person, or is it better to approach her with a problem later in the afternoon? Does Samuel prefer a bagel when you swing by to pick up breakfast, or is he more of a sausage biscuit kind of guy? Is it Tuesdays or Thursdays that Becky has to leave as soon as possible to get her child to his orthodontist appointment? Do these little details seem meaningless to you? People are important. When you can remember details about their personal lives, it shows that you care for them beyond their work. This fosters a deeper, more meaningful relationship that will spill easily into a better, more rewarding business relationship.

As you can see, becoming a better communicator sounds a lot like becoming a better person. Any personal improvements you make in your own life flow readily and steadily into your work life. Now, take your skills to the next level with an audit of your communications tools in 10 Ways Your Current Communication Tools Are Wasting Your Time.

Come on Jeb, Working Longer Hours Doesn’t Mean Higher Productivity

It’s not about working longer hours.  Republican Presidential candidate Jeb Bush just doesn’t get it. Speaking recently about his plans for growing the economy he said –

“My aspiration for the country and I believe we can achieve it, is 4 percent growth as far as the eye can see. Which means we have to be a lot more productive, workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows. It means that people need to work longer hours” and, through their productivity, gain more income for their families. That’s the only way we’re going to get out of this rut that we’re in.”

Unfortunately, technological advancements have made completing tasks faster. However, productivity does not come from working longer hours or just by adding a new piece of technology.  Becoming more efficient can increase productivity. A microwave has reduced cooking time.  Power yard equipment makes it easier and faster to trim a tree. Tasks get done faster, but does less time mean more productive? The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco echoed this in February 2015 when it published a paper saying that the productivity boost that technology provided between the late 1990’s and early 2000’s has all but vanished.  Advances still provide benefits, but not at the same level.

Jeb Bush would have you think that working longer hours makes you and the economy more productive.  I have known plenty of workers who work long hours only to produce nothing or substandard results. Productivity is about getting the most out of maximum effort.

Studies have shown that the average worker wastes up to three hours a day.  If a person works five actual hours and wastes three, yet gets their work done, does this mean they are productive? No one can work 60 full minutes for eight hours.  We all need mental breaks and diversions to recharge, but if we reduced the waste from three hours to one, what else could we accomplish? More thinking about how to move the company, product or team forward would boost productivity.  Spending time with colleagues brainstorming or ideating about problems and opportunities would drive the organization forward.

More productive = increased productivity.

Today, most workers use disconnected tools at work to be more productive.  While they are more productive than if they didn’t have these tools, are we as productive as we could be? Hunting for documents or trying to engage a peer in an office halfway around the world is a frustrating experience.  Is spending hours upon hours every day in meetings or creating PowerPoint decks 50 slides long an efficient use of time? Jeb Bush would have companies hire PowerPoint creators for every team just to have more employed workers.  Sure, that’s a solution.

Increase workplace communication and collaboration and productivity will follow.  During the early days of Yahoo!’s turnaround, then CEO Carol Bartz said at an all-hands meeting.  “Stop with the meetings and PowerPoint presentations.  Take a few hours a week to think.”  Well said!

 

About Ty

Ty is BroadVision’s Vice President of Marketing and Business Development. BroadVision’s latest advancement is Vmoso; the enterprise grade, secure platform addressing modern communication and collaboration challenges. In today’s mobile centric and interconnected world, Vmoso increases engagement and productivity through improved teamwork amongst colleagues, partners and customers – wherever, whenever and on whatever device you are using.

BroadVision at IDC’s ‘Workplace of the Future’ Conference

This is a guest post by Michael Drescher, BroadVision’s Director of Business Operations in Germany, Austria and Switzerland

On 18th June, around 100 of the top Swiss enterprises joined IDC’s “Workplace of the Future” conference to listen, discuss, learn and enjoy a full day on what the workplace of the future may look like.

Future_CH2015_19The keynote address from IDC identified four essential drivers for the workplace of the future

  • Social Business
  • Mobility
  • Cloud Services
  • Big Data

A key area of the information exchange focused around the subject, that the way we communicate, despite all our best intention, is still broken and ways to fix it. (IDC’s numbers – email usage as main communication tool will drop from today of 73% to under 45% within the next 12 months).

Swisscom presented a key initiative within the company, “WorkSmart”, concerning the ways the younger generation within Swisscom supports the change of working and what is important for them. Key factors for the young generation were identified as work at any place, with any device, sharing knowledge, spontaneously, direct and across an open network.

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Other presentations focused more on hardware related topics or document centric approaches on how to address the future workplace.

Most of the questions from the audience and the forum panel discussion did focus around the points:

  • Where to start and how to drive adoption of new selected approaches?
  • Is it secure and how can I manage the information across the different devices?
  • Is consolidation of all the already existing channels possible and how?
  • Do we need more tools or just better manage what we have?

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Agreement was reached among the participants:

  • E-Mail handling needs to change
  • BYOD and flexible work places are more and more an expectation for all organisations, not an option.
  • We still need to get work done – chat, blogs, forum are all nice but we all do have workload to manage
  • More independent tools will not do it – integrated communication and collaboration suites are required.
  • The individual needs to drive/control the communication

We focused on presenting our approach on how to fix broken business communication, address the essential drivers of the future development and address work place change. We have brought this all together into our new product, we call Vmoso. You can try it out right away – just go to www.vmoso.com.

Photos reproduced with kind permission of IDC

Business Communication Is (Still) Broken

Business Communication Is (Still) Broken : Events in Paris and London, June/July 2015

For some 25 years, organisations have used email to communicate. Much communication is simple – let’s have a meeting, someone called you, etc. But much is more complex, involves more than a few people, requires dialogue, and requires sharing content such as a note, document, photo, etc. We usually refer to this as collaboration. As communications networks have extended and improved with wifi and broadband, business people have become more and more dependent on email for such collaborative communications.

With the increased use of mobile devices, the situation has developed even more. We collaborate “anytime, any place” now. Employees increasingly expect to be kept informed of, and respond to, the latest developments on their work activities. Equally customers expect companies to provide easy access to information, and answer questions in an engaging, timely and covenient manner.

Yet still people in business cling to email. We send a spreadsheet to 10 people, and suddenly we have 11 copies. Five update and re-distribute it, and immediately there is confusion. Which is the latest version? Why did the other five not respond? Should they have? Were there others who could have contributed but were not in the email to: list? Was the spreadsheet forward on to others without the knowledge of the author? And so on.

With mobile, people have become used to communicating and sharing information in a variety of consumer apps for chat, social networking and file sharing. But when those apps are used for business, collaboration problems get worse still. Now the communication may be fragmented across several places, and we lose any cohesion in the discussion on a given topic.

In our events in Paris (29th June) and London (1st July), we shall be looking at this issue, and addressing these questions :

  • Why is email such a problem for business collaboration?
  • Is it right to ban email in the workplace? Or do we try to improve it?
  • If Enterprise Social Networks should be the answer, why are there few examples of success?
  • How do mobile apps help and hinder?
  • What is the connection between good employee collaboration and customer engagement?
  • Broadband, Cloud and Mobile have encouraged more frequent and richer communication, yet added new challenges. What are the effects of those challenges?
  • What do we need to do to address all these issues, and in particular what can BroadVision offer to help?

Speakers in both Paris and London will include Dr Pehong Chen, Founder and CEO, and Richard Hughes, Director of Social Strategy. In London, the speakers will also include Alan Patrick of Agile Elephant, one of our consultant partners and specialist in the dig ital enterprise. As well as presenting, all of the speakers will join in a question and answer panel session.

We want to provide attendees at these events time to ask questions, and discuss these issues, so spaces are limited. If you are interested in attending, please contact us.

If you’re not able to join us in London or Paris, join us for a webinar on Wednesday 24th June where we’ll be presenting a shorter session on the same topic.