This week on NVTC’s blog, Marlise Streitmatter, an LMI Human Capital senior consultant, suggests looking beyond cost cutting to make sure that virtual collaboration is being utilized correctly.
Organizations are increasingly deploying virtual collaboration tools, but are they doing it effectively? To gain the most from these investments, it’s essential to look beyond cost cutting and develop strategies that maximize virtual collaboration’s many benefits.
As people across the organization gain instant access to each other, regardless of geography or job title, collaborating virtually reduces the amount of time and effort needed to perform tasks and answer questions. Research shows that when Alcoa made compliance oversight virtual, it reduced time spent on that function by 61 percent.
In another example, a Ford executive developing a new social media tool used an internal collaborative platform to seek input. His request reached the entire company, and an ambitious employee at a remote site developed a solution over the weekend. No time or money was wasted with procurement, contracting, or longer-paced development.
Virtual collaboration reduces barriers to learning, allowing organizations to become self-teaching. Often, organizational learning is top down. Virtual collaboration facilitates a democratization of learning as employees share knowledge and information across silos. At Ford, employees on the production line use virtual collaboration to share processes and best practices, allowing employees at other plants to learn new skills on the spot without having to travel.
Research reveals connected employees are engaged employees. Collaborating virtually facilitates relationship building by overcoming geographic and organizational boundaries, ultimately driving engagement and productivity. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) engages more than 500 senior executives across the country on agency-wide initiatives through virtual executive summits. Leaders connect, pose questions, share ideas, and interact with senior leadership, saving the agency $750,000 in travel costs.
Probably the best understood benefit of working virtually is cost reduction. Well-executed virtual collaboration correlates with reduced travel and facilities costs, as noted in the NASA example above. Research shows organizations lower costs by an average of 15 to 20 percent as collaboration matures.
But it’s not only organizations that benefit, employees save money too. Commuting costs, lunch expenses, clothing, and cleaning expenditures all lower for employees working in virtual environments. There’s also a reduction in social costs—the chance of accident and illness are lower. Employee health improves, stress levels drop, and the workforce is happier.
Many organizations use virtual collaboration simply to cut costs. Before choosing specific virtual solutions, it is wise to explore not only how virtual collaboration will help you slim down your budget, but also how working virtually increases your organization’s efficiency, learning, and productivity.
Marlise Streitmatter works in the Organizational and Human Capital Solutions Group at LMI. Previously, Streitmatter was the deputy chief of staff at the U.S Department of Transportation. She has a bachelors in international policy and administration from the University of Illinois Springfield.