The workplace is evolving. Whether your employees are fully remote or in a hybrid workplace environment, how people work and collaborate has fundamentally changed. But there are tools available to ensure your workforce can work productively from anywhere, on any device.
By implementing productivity technology, you could see major benefits to your bottom-line. These tools can be used by any member of your organization, allowing for your entire workforce to improve their effectiveness and output, enhance their work-life balance, and achieve business growth and profitability.
Join us for this webcast where you will learn how you can optimize the way your business works, by using productivity tools from any location. You will learn about:
- The digital tools used by business/ team leaders to track and increase the productivity of their employees and themselves, from anywhere.
- Implementing and managing productivity tools that allow for effective collaboration, regardless of location.
- How an SME identified their productivity problem, found solutions, and achieved greater business results.
Leigh Smout: (silence)
As a result of COVID, businesses are realizing that they actually have to manage their workforce virtually. They need to find new customers without being able to go to a trade show. They need to manage disrupted supply chains.
RAP has been designed by the Toronto Region Board of Trade to help companies improve their digital maturity during these challenging times.
A participant in the program will have their Digital Needs Assessment done, their DNA. Once we have their DNA, we are able to direct them into the programs that help educate companies, help them create a plan, help them get it in touch with the resources that are going to support them as they manage through these challenges.
The program is about long-term improvement for businesses, about running your business more efficiently. Even after the pandemic, that is going to be a critical thing for any business. And in this case, it's going to make all of those businesses strong.
A business can sign up for the program simply by registering at our website, and then we'll get them into that Digital Needs Assessment.
I want to thank you all for being here today. It's great to have you with us. My name's Leigh Smout, and I'm president of the World Trade Centre, Toronto, and I want to welcome you to the latest installment of our Cisco Innovation Series. This series wouldn't be possible without the support of our Scale-Up Institute Toronto sponsor, Innovate Cities, our RAP program sponsors, Cisco and Rogers for Business, and of course funding from the government of Canada. And also, we have partnerships with the board's principal sponsors, The Globe and Mail and Scotiabank.
I just want to give you a couple of brief housekeeping notes if you're new to our webcast series. If your video is lagging or freezes, there's another stream that can be accessed by clicking the "switch stream" button on the right side of your screen. For any other technical issues, you can click "request help", it's on the bottom right corner of your screen, and someone will be in touch with you.
To submit questions at any point, please click on the questions tab. And you can do that at any point. Don't wait for the Q&A period. One of our team will be pulling those together and passing them on to Erin to get out to our team today here on the webcast.
And to answer our polling questions, please click on the polling tab. The poll is really helpful in terms of getting the conversation going.
And finally, a recording of this webcast will be available on supportbusiness.bot.com afterwards.
Now, just before we dive into today's important discussion, I would like to tell you all about the Toronto Region Board of Trade's Recovery Activation Program, otherwise known as RAP. You saw a bit of it on the video there, but there's a number of reasons why you should really get on this and participate.
RAP is an intensive program for Ontario businesses who are not only looking to weather the pandemic, but to emerge from it even stronger than ever, learn, adapt, thrive, as we've been saying. Through online workshops and personalized mentorship sessions with industry experts, RAP has helped over 1500 Ontario businesses in over 30 industries adapt to digitally stay in business and build a reliable path towards future growth.
So if you're wondering how to get started, it's really easy. All you have to do is visit rap.bot.com and take what we call the Digital Needs Assessment, or your DNA. It takes about 20 minutes to complete and it assesses the digital maturity of your business and how it ranks against a benchmark for what would be considered digitally mature for your industry.
It'll give you the knowledge of where you should place your resources and efforts against eight operational indicators. And then we have many programs to help you address those areas, and there are lots of other folks that can help with that too. So the best thing to do is figure out where your challenges are and then together we can address them.
The best part of all of this, thanks to the support of our business and government partners, there is no cost whatsoever to participate in any of our RAP programming for businesses in Ontario. So rap.bot com.
Now, onto today's program, I'm really excited to introduce our brilliant moderator once again, Erin Bury, the CEO and co-founder of Willful. She'll be leading us today with our panel of experts through the discussion.
Named one of Marketing Magazine's Top 30 Under 30, Erin Bury is an entrepreneur, marketer, startup advisor and investor. Erin is also a frequent speaker for Speakers' Spotlight, a monthly columnist for the Financial Post, a tech commentator on CTV News, and has been published in The New York Times, Forbes, and CNN. And if that's not enough, she's here with us working on Scale-Up Institute programming. As always, it's great to have you here with us today, Erin.
Erin Bury: Thank you so much, Leigh, and welcome everyone this morning. Hope you're all enjoying these last few days of summer. I can't believe it's September already.
And I'm really excited to be moderating a discussion on one of my personal favorite topics, productivity. With working from home and being distracted by children and pets and colleagues, with virtual messages coming in from every source, it can feel like we're less productive than we've ever been, but I think it's also caused us to look at how we can adopt tools that make us more productive with our teams and in our personal lives.
So we have some great experts here today who are going to be tackling that subject, and I'm also going to be sharing some of my tips from running my own startup company over the last 18 months as well.
So before we dive in, I did want to get your opinion and make this a bit interactive. So we have a poll question. What is your biggest challenge to being productive? Is it lack of tools and training, is it ineffective performance management, disengagement from work, excessive meetings, been there, personal challenges, all of the above or other? So you can actually answer the poll on the right-hand side of your screen and tell me what is your biggest challenge to being productive. I noticed that kids and pets are not on this list. So if those are your biggest distraction, you may have to put other.
So it looks like we're starting to see some answers coming through. We have some folks who are saying lack of tools and training, and again, the dreaded excessive meetings, which I think everyone can identify with. Those are the only two options right now. So make sure you get your answers in. All of the above, so some folks on the call struggle with each of these things.
So it looks like a good mix, but the leader of productivity blockers are lack of tools and training and excessive meetings. So the bad news is I can't necessarily help you get out of meetings at work, although maybe you're missing one right now to attend this. The good news is that we have some experts on the call who are going to be able to share a bunch of tips on tools and training and productivity hacks that will hopefully help address how you can become more productive.
So with those results in mind, let's move on to that panel discussion to dive deeper into these responses and more. I'm excited to introduce our two experts today. With us today, we have Kevin Janke, who is the Canada regional manager of collaboration at Cisco Canada. He's a passionate advocate for collaboration and creating new workplaces to adapt to different work styles. He has a great understanding of end users' expectations, whether they be at home or remote. And he also articulates technology in everyday terms. Thank you, Kevin, for not using jargon today, and can map information and communications technology so customers easily understand how these solutions will drive business outcomes. It's great to have you with us, Kevin.
Kevin Janke: Yeah, no, I'm thrill to be here. Thanks very much.
Erin Bury: Wonderful. Also joining us today is Dirk Propfe, the CEO of ET Group. An entrepreneur passionate about reinventing the way we work, Dirk believes we need happier, healthier, and more meaningful places to work. His areas of interest include structures, practices, and technology that allow us to work better together, and he's a strong believer of strategic, sustainable development and advancing collaboration to support organizational and social transformation.
He has also, fun fact, lived in Mexico, Germany, the United States and Sweden. And I believe he's joining us today from the West Coast while we're based on the East Coast. And he's leading ET Group, a leading collaboration integrator working with Canada's most dynamic enterprises to enable delightful hybrid work experiences. So if your hybrid work experience isn't delightful, maybe ET Group can help. He was also recently the recipient of the Tony Hsieh Award, which celebrates organizational reinvention, which is a huge honor. So it's great to have you with us as well, Dirk.
Dirk Propfe: Thank you so much, Erin, and great to be here.
Erin Bury: So, Kevin, let's begin with you. As a sales leader, which digital tools are you currently using to increase your team's productivity as well as your own, and what results have you seen so far?
Kevin Janke: Sure. Yeah, so that's a great question, and just to throw in a little bit of background or context for where I'm coming from, it's true I've been at Cisco for a number of years. I actually joined a long time ago through the Tanberg video conferencing acquisition. So some of those comments around meetings break my heart a little bit. I definitely know where you're coming from.
But less than a year ago, I switched roles, and indeed I have a team of brand new sellers to the product, brand new sellers to Cisco that have joined our organization, and I've taken on a new role as their manager.
So through COVID, I've taken on a brand new role that I've never done before with a brand new team of people who have never even seen our office, just to put that out there, and then I've had these challenges around how do I bring them on board? How do I get them into company culture? How do I make sure that they're not sitting at home in their condo or a basement and just floundering around in the deep end, right? So how can I bring them on board, help them embrace culture, as well as make them feel excited to be working at a new place, even though they're working in their little box wherever it might be, and then make them successful, right?
So it's been really, really interesting for me so far to try and figure this out. And the one thing that I appreciate about this opportunity that we have is the whole world has been turned upside down. So the old way of doing it just doesn't exist and I've had this freedom, to a certain extent, to try new things out.
One of the things I really... apart from seeing my team in real life and finding out are they bigger or taller or smaller than me, is you can imagine in that office environment, you can really kind of get the pulse of what's going on. What's mood of the team? Are they feeling motivated? Are they feeling demotivated? And you can react to that immediately and adjust, right? And this would've been what they maybe would've called managed by walking around a while ago.
So I've had to kind of figure out how do I manage by walking around without managing by walking around? And a common tool that you guys are probably using that I've just really adopted has been this instant messaging feature, right? The tool that we use here inside of Cisco, it allows me to communicate both with people outside of my organization just like I'm communicating with people inside of this organization, and this has allowed me to do some of this virtual walking around.
I'm able to check in with many of my team members by sending them just a quick message. If they have a problem, we can jump on top of it. If I can't solve the problem myself and I need to work with a larger or a more extended team, then I'll just spin up a new space and add all these people into it and we can kind of jump on that problem and solve it at once.
And it's been a little bit of time management on my part, but I'm able to do what I call plate spinning, right? Where I can get a conversation going over here and get the ball rolling, I can get another one going and I can get another one going. So I can almost have three Kevins, if you will, addressing three different problems or three different team members across the country all at once. And then the fact that if I needed Erin's input and she doesn't work inside of my organization, with the tool that we use, I can actually just add her as an external participant and get that third party perspective or that third party input. And then if I didn't like what she said, I could actually carve her out of the conversation and we can talk about her outside of it.
But that's probably been my number one tool, not email. Calling has been great to a certain extent. Video, face-to-face communication has been something that I've been doing forever, but what you guys called out, those challenges of distractions, dogs, internet connectivity, kids, sometimes actually make that a little bit challenging, but being able to see that message come in, have them see that I've actually read the message just like you would see on Facebook or WhatsApp, and then have the ability to immediately say, "Let's jump into a call and solve that problem right now," or, "Look, I'm tied up for 30 minutes, but I'll get right back to you," it's really helped these folks feel like they are part of a greater team, they are not working alone, they are surrounded by smart people that can be added into these conversations to help them more quickly solve the problem.
So I know it sounds kind of basic and simple, instant messaging, but that has been, for the past 12 months, my most indispensable tool. And again, especially because I'm dealing with a team that covers three and a half different time zones, I do like to have a little bit of family time, but post 5:00, I could certainly have something pop up out in Victoria where Dirk is that needs to be addressed. And the fact that I can just grab that message on this device, whether I'd be standing at the pool or at a soccer game maybe, eventually, and solve that problem, like I said, it's been indispensable. So like I said, nothing too earth-shattering there.
Now the other tool that I will mention, or in fact, I found about 10 similar type of tools, is that tool that allows for this ability to manage by walking around. And if you guys look online, I think it was a tool called Team... I'll have to dig it up, but I searched CRM and I searched like these virtual tools. And that's the next thing I think I'm going to implement into my team, are these tools where we can have these informal conversations, right? It feels like every single interaction we have to have right now has to be scheduled. And that's not how we worked when we were back in the office and you miss that kind of office ambience.
So I found these tools online where you can create almost an avatar and it creates almost like a video games sound bubble around that avatar, that if I'm within a certain virtual distance of somebody else inside of this organization, we can actually just have an informal conversation. So it's like you can drag your avatar over to somebody else's avatar and it opens up an audio channel, not a video channel, because again, maybe I didn't have a shower, maybe I don't want to have to have a shower just to have this quick interaction with somebody, especially if it's just a short question.
So I really love this, another tool that we have to virtually walk around and have some of these informal conversations that build more of that company culture and that team building. So that's something I haven't tried out, but it's the next thing on my list for FY22 because I don't know when I'm going to be back in the office with these guys and I really want to have a closer personal relationship with them, but that's about it for me for now.
Erin Bury: Well, thank you, Kevin. I think that's a great set of tips there and I especially resonated with the meeting colleagues in person for the first time and not knowing if they're taller or shorter than you. I had a remote employee message me on Slack and say, "This is weird question, but..." Or sorry, on a communications tool, and they said, "You seem like a tall person, are you tall?" And it was a very odd question, but it was one of those, "Yes, actually I am, and you'll find out hopefully one day when we meet in person." So thank you very much, Kevin, for those thoughts.
Dirk, moving on to you, how do you identify both your productivity problem and the solutions to it? We saw in the poll that folks struggle with the tools to use, with excessive meetings. How have you approached that? What results have you seen and what advice can you offer to the small business owners who are watching today on how they might be able to implement and manage those productivity tools?
Dirk Propfe: Totally. Thank you, Erin. Well, first, how to identify that challenge, and that one's I think pretty straightforward, it's asking people. So one great way of doing that could be call someone on video, ask them about their experience working in a hybrid place, and take some notes down, what's working, what's not, and try and talk to a whole bunch of different people energizing different roles in the organization. You'll get a really good sense as to what are some of the challenges that people are facing with, and that then allows you to do some prototypes and see, okay, what are some small prototypes that may make a big difference?
I think learning how to prototype effectively is actually one of the things that we need to really do at scale. And once you learn that, it's amazing. You start a prototype, you reflect on it two weeks later, then you can say that prototype worked, it didn't, we can enhance it and go to the next one.
In terms of some suggestions or how I like to see when we work with our clients on helping them create this delightful hybrid work experience, I really like to zoom out a bit before we get into the technology conversation, and that's because, and you'll see in the next slide, there's a ton of different technologies that are available. And we've tried to map them out to help people out to sort out which technologies make sense when, but before that, one key thing that I've experienced at ET Group, and we've been growing quite rapidly over the past few years, is technology only enables whatever already is. So if you've got a great culture, technology's going to make it even bigger. If you have a culture that's not so great, technology will help that continue not being so great.
So step one, I really like to start with people and culture. Actually, this new context that we're working with invite us to recontract with each other. What does it look like to be a great team? And let's have some new agreements on what that means in a hybrid environment. There's a beautiful opportunity to start having those conversations.
Then I've also noticed, and actually, there's a few organizations that do a phenomenal job helping companies co-elevate. One of my favorites is Keith Ferrazzi, Ferrazzi Greenlight. They've got a amazing amount of resources and have these attributes for co-elevation in teams. And I feel like if you start living those in a synchronous and hybrid way, it really, really helps and you start getting this incredible productivity gains because people are showing up differently and having each other's back and speaking with candor. Anyways, it transforms the whole hybrid work experience.
The second one is learning to facilitate. When we have a whole bunch of different people joining conversations, it's important to know how to host a meaningful conversation so that people don't disengage halfway throughout. So that I think is a key skillset that we all need to learn and/or you can always bring in people. There's expert facilitators out there who facilitate a great organization. You can bring them in and they can help you host this beautiful conversations.
The other one, and Kevin alluded to this, is how do you create these authentic connections with people? And unfortunately this collision spaces that we used to have in the office no longer happen or it's harder to make them happen in a virtual manner, but they can happen. It just takes a little bit more effort. And yes, you need to schedule time for it and need to figure out how to do that, but you can just drop in a few meaningful conversations, break people out into breakouts, and people want to connect with each other. The way I say it is work is an excuse for people to connect with each other. So naturally we want to relate to one another.
Okay, I'm going to try and run through a couple more things here. From a technology perspective, here's I guess some of the tips. There's a lot of technologies out there and many of them are absolutely incredible and many of them can replace each other in a way.
So here's my tips around that. One would be to design your collaboration stack having different points of view or allowing for different use cases, because if you truly do that, for example, the needs of a facilitator are very different for the needs of someone that's in sales, and they're very different for the needs of an installer for example. So really understanding those different points of view and making sure your collaboration stack can support all of those types of collaborations is absolutely critical.
The other one is usually we end up with a whole ton of tools, and the key there is, okay, how do you meaningfully integrate those tools so that the workflow is more seamless and effective? And I think this is the next frontier, because we've gotten pretty good at using video and at using a synchronous communication and let's say project management tools like Asana and Trello, great, how do you then link those to each other so that workflows can truly be more productive and visible for everyone? Otherwise you risk having these like islands of technology and it's hard to make sense of this whole thing.
Great. And then just lastly on the space piece, I think this isn't such a massive need just yet for everyone because not a lot of people have gone back to working from the office, but it will happen because I feel like we're all craving to at least be at the office one or two days a week, or whenever we feel like it, and I think it's going to be really important to re-look at our spaces.
So a few things to consider. One is we don't know what the future look like, so you might as well create a space to just prototype and try out different technologies, try out different cameras, different video endpoints, just so that you can figure out what makes sense for you and the different use cases that you have.
The other one is I think very few people are really going to be co-located all the time, so making sure you're enabling as many workspaces as you can with the right technology. It doesn't mean that video needs to be everywhere, but make sure that there's incredibly good connectivity everywhere. So at least if someone wants to grab their laptop and start a video call, they can do it.
So enabling every workspace is huge, and then the other piece is, and we work a lot with interior designers as well and this is so critical, it's like how design the experience so that it's amazing for the people that are in that particular interaction space and the people that are joining remotely? Really taking both of those into account is going to be massive and is going to lead to incredible productivity gains if we get it right. If you don't get it right, it's actually going to lead to productivity losses.
So yeah, those are a few of my tips. And the next slide, maybe for folks that want to take a quick screenshot, here, we're trying to define hybrid a little bit. The way we see it, we've got two accesses axes, the space axis and the time axis. So for example, being in the office, you're in the office at the same time on site, so that's the bottom left quadrant, and the bottom right is you're separate from each other physically, but also you're in different time zones. And here, what we've tried to do is map out, okay, where do the different tools fit and what can they help enable?
And that's it and happy to chat more about this whenever you want.
Erin Bury: Thanks, Dirk. I think the comments there about the hybrid workspace were really relevant. I know for myself, we have permanent remote employees in other cities now thanks to the pandemic and thanks to the fact that we have become much more remote first, but we still do have a physical space that I'm sitting in right now where we will have employees gather in person. So this idea of designing home work spaces and in-person workspaces to manage that hybrid environment I think will be really crucial and probably something that a lot of viewers are struggling with right now. So thank you for that.
Now, I'm actually going to cover which digital tools I use to track and increase my own productivity and that of my teams from anywhere. I'm usually based in Prince Edward County, in Toronto today, hopefully I'll get to go work from the beaches of Italy one day and be equally as productive as here, and also the advice that I have for other folks who are thinking about expanding their suites.
So the first tool that I really use is project and task management software, and I use this both individually and with my team. Individually I use this as a rolling to-do list. And there are so many project management platforms out there. You've probably tried a bunch. And I don't think it's as much about the tool as it is being pretty stringent about adopting it and making sure that your team is actually adopting it as well.
I use this for my daily task management so I can really divide tasks into what I need to get done urgently, today, this week, next week, and an ice box of things that aren't as time sensitive. And our teams also use them to assign tasks to each other, to attach files and other contexts to those tasks and to easily track what's being completed, what's in progress, and what's been done.
So I think this is our biggest way to avoid micromanagement, right? If you use a task management or project management platform, it should save you from having to say, "Hey, so-and-so, what's the status of X project?" because nobody wants to be the person who's looking over their team's shoulder.
For day-to-day team communication, I really echo what Kevin said, which is email is actually almost nonexistent at Willful internally. We exclusively, for internal communication at least, use an instant messaging platform, and really emails are reserved for external stakeholders and parties. And that's such a shift from even two years ago or five years ago where email was really the default.
Managing files and documents, I mean, cloud file storage seems like an obvious one, but I think we're also still in the habit of saving things to our desktop, saving things on our computers. And when you have a distributed workforce and individual device sitting potentially all over Canada or the world, it's even more important to have not only a platform that you use to store these files, but also an organizational system.
We have a numbered set of kind of master folders for teams like engineering, product, marketing, and within those folders, we have a really clear naming convention for folders and files. We do bi-annual folder cleanouts and cleanups of those file storage systems so that we're only keeping the relevant files and so that each team is only shared what's relevant to them, which also helps from a security perspective. So putting a bit of time into some organization around that file storage is as important as choosing a tool to store your files in.
From a knowledge base standpoint, we use an all-in-one knowledge sharing platform, kind of like a Wiki, where we actually store our employee handbook. So instead of burying this deep in a server somewhere or emailing it out to employees, it's a live link that we can adjust anytime. And we also use that platform as a knowledge base for other things outside of just HR and policies and things like that. So it's where we store project briefs and customer interview downloads and a whole bunch of meeting agendas and things that we just want to collaborate on easily as a team.
And that's a really, really great way to make sure that the ultimate goal is at any time, any of your team members know where to find something. And that's really the goal when you're a distributed workforce, when you can't just walk over or to Dirk's desk or to Kevin's desk, it really gives you the ability to empower your employees to be able to find the answers to their own questions.
If you could go to the next slide, that would be great.
For meetings and company events, obviously a video conferencing platform such as the one we are using right now is really key. We are a fan at Willful of video on meetings. Obviously there are exceptions to that. We're big promoters of walking meetings and getting outside, and obviously people have childcare needs and things like that we obviously respect, but I think having video on just kind of helps to replicate some of that in-office feel and to create more of those authentic connections. And let's be honest, as leaders, it also helps us to make sure that our team is paying attention, although I could definitely say I've been productive on meetings while also putting a load of laundry in the dryer or unloading the dishwasher.
For coordinating internal and external meetings, I'm a huge fan of calendar software. If you've ever been in that email chain of 12 emails when you're trying to schedule a meeting with someone, one of these scheduling tools allows you to set your own availability and then to send the link to someone and they can automatically book a time in your calendar, no email back and forth, and you can set the windows that work for you.
So I only have a couple hours on certain days where I want to be doing external meetings and I'm not heads down or in flow time with the rest of our team on internal projects. So that's been really a game-changer for me outside of COVID. Within COVID, it's been a huge time saver.
I also really believe in productivity tools to streamline people management. When you're a founder of an early stage company, so much of that is done by you because you don't have an HR person often and you kind of by default become that person who's taking vacation requests and looking at sick days and answering questions about benefits and things like that.
So we use an HR platform that actually takes care of all of that. It helps with onboarding new employees, offboarding employees, collecting payroll details for our external accountant, and all of the time off bookings. We can set policies on which employees get which time off policies, all of the requests are submitted and managed there. And most importantly, our accountant has access to it. So if she's ever calculating vacation pay or things like that, there's a really clear up to date version instead of scrolling back through your calendar for a year, which is how I did it in the early days.
Same with things like payroll software, which just automates all of that. And if you're using an external accountant, they probably would bring you on board to one of those anyways.
And then finally, just really keeping things secure. I think one of the biggest concerns that I hear from small business owners is how to make sure that things are staying secure with a remote workforce and with devices being distributed around people's individual homes. And the biggest tool that we use internally is a password management platform. I have to say this has also been life-changing in my personal life. I have not had to do the dreaded password reset or remembering of a million different passwords since we implemented this password management platform.
It allows you to set one master password and then it auto-generates passwords for all of your accounts, but you just need to remember that one master password. It also allows you to create vaults for specific teams or employees so that you're not sharing every password to every tool with the entire team. You can actually control access, which is really important from a security perspective.
If you could move to the next slide please.
Very quickly before we get into Q&A, just a couple tips if you're thinking about building your own productivity suite. First, look for tools that multitask ask or work together. Look for that instant messaging tool that also has the ability to turn it into a video call or a video conference. Look for an HR tool that also has the capacity to manage your benefits or payroll. There are so many multitasking tools that reduce the number of software platforms you have to use, and more importantly, pay for.
Record the best practices in terms of reference. We have feedback from a new employee who said, "I don't really know what you use all of these tools for and how I'm supposed to engage and what all these different channels are in this instant messaging platform," which was a good reminder to us that we can't assume that new employees know those things and it helped us to take the time to write those things down in our employee handbook.
Building onboarding and offboarding checklist was also something that helped to save us time. When someone new joins, what are all the tools that you have to add them to? When someone leaves, what do you need to remove them from? Can you create a central checklist that will save you time next time that you actually onboard or offboard someone, and then assess on an ongoing basis. Are you still using these platforms or are they just showing up on your credit card bill and you're paying for them without thinking? And also review the users to make sure they're up to date because that's definitely a security concern.
I mentioned the ongoing cleanups, and really just kind of look at these tools also as culture builders. Kevin and Dirk both spoke about how what we're trying to do is to enforce that human connection and to kind of replicate that in-office environment. So we don't just use these things for work productivity. We use them for games nights. We use them for virtual lunches. We use them for all of these other fun things like virtual escape rooms, which I didn't even know were a thing, and that really helps with building that team dynamic.
So thank you for taking the time to listen to me. I'm usually just the host and moderator, but I appreciate being able to share my tips with you today. And now I'd love to invite Dirk or Kevin, any comments on what I've shared? Anything that you're seeing that really resonates? I saw a couple thumbs up while I was talking.
So, Dirk, I'll go to you. Anything that really stuck out to you in your work at ET Group?
Dirk Propfe: I really loved when you talk about the escape rooms and how can we use these tools in a creative way to have fun at work? And we do bingo nights or we have escape room days and things like that or just times where we have lunch together. And it's incredible to see just how these tools allow you to have sense of connection, right?
Yeah, anyways, so that just really, really resonated. And that password tool you mentioned sounds pretty awesome, so if you don't mind sending me that link, that'd be great.
Erin Bury: There you go. I imagine there was some password reset nightmares in your past, Dirk. Kevin?
Kevin Janke: Yeah, I was going to ask her that a password management tool as well.
So the two other things that I would maybe want to bring up that I think are fairly important... Well, maybe three things. The first thing I'll start with is if you're panicking because hybrid work is now a thing and you think you're behind everybody else because you don't have this figured out, I've talked to a lot of small business customers in Canada across the country over the past nine months and they are all in the same boat. I.
Talk to a lot of folks in IT and I ask them, "Hey, what are you doing for hybrid work?" and they're like, "I don't know, but everybody's talking about it. HR wants to have a meeting about it, the owner wants to have a meeting about it, and I don't know what to say, this was something that just happened overnight."
So actually, I did have a slide with kind of our four top tips or four major considerations that we have to think about, which we can throw that up, but I can probably speak to them as well.
So the first thing that I would quickly call out is if people are going to be working from home permanently, let's get them set up to work from home properly, right? I remember a couple months ago I was on a call with that big distributor here in Toronto, Tech Data. It was actually the afternoon that Doug Ford sent everyone home on Friday to go into lockdown for a couple months. And of course it was a video call, and the last thing that I noticed was this guy was sitting around arguably thousands of dollars of peripheral equipment that was designed to make him as productive as possible inside of the office.
I can think of my neighbor who works for a small software company in downtown Toronto that have gone completely officeless. They're one of these companies that everybody works from a virtual office, and if they need to have a meeting, they'll rent something. This guy worked for a software company that tested software. He was absolutely surrounded with thousands of dollars of tools that would make his job better and now he's working in his kitchen sharing wifi with Netflix and Roblox and the Minecraft RFP that's being answered and all that good stuff.
So I do believe that it is worth looking at your organization and who is going to be working from home for a long time and let's get them set up with the right tools for the job, whether that be noise canceling headphones that are not having me distracted by the Roblox RFP that's being addressed on the couch over here, that's allowing me to be more focused on what you folks are asking and need from me, which makes for a more effective, productive meeting, whether it be a a high def webcam, whether it be a dedicated device that is kind of we'll say mission critical and always on for your video calls. These things will absolutely improve employee experience as well as productivity and the ability to work from home. Just think about the fact if you've got people working from home properly, it's probably worth investing in a couple additional tools to allow them to be as productive as possible.
I also agree with the simplicity. Let's not overload these folks with too many tools, right? And I'm kind of managing that within my team. I got ZoomInfo, I've got Outreach, I've got Quip, I've got [CLAIRE 00:41:31], I've got Salesforce. it's kind of overwhelming. So if we're giving them tools to work with, let's try and reduce the amount of tools that sit on that desktop.
And also, we want to be thinking about that simplicity or that single pane of glass that will be providing a great, we'll say Eye of Sauron for The Lord of the Rings fans, view of what's going on inside of that environment, whether it be messaging, calling, internet connectivity. If there's somebody that's in charge of that, let's give them a really good and simple way to have a view of what's going on so that they can more quickly address problems.
And then other side of that is all of these new kind of AI tools that are being built into these platforms that exist today, right? So I have a virtual assistant inside of WebEx that we're using right now that I can turn on that would take meeting notes for me and record my action items for me. I'm a regional manager at Cisco, Canada, but let's not inflate myself here, I don't have an admin following me around. So the fact that I have these virtual admins inside of these meetings helping me stay focused on what's important or helping me meet new people or meet new teams and remember what I need to take away from those meetings has been hugely beneficial.
But on the other side of that equation is we are getting really unique data insights into how we are working and how we can more effectively work. So, again, I mean, I'm a WebEx guy, so this is a tool I know that exists inside of our world, it's called our personal insights. And I can actually go and look at when am I scheduling my meetings, am I on time for my meetings, am I being respectful of my customers' and my coworkers' time? And I can see am I scheduling these meetings during people's quiet time or people's flow time? And this now allows me to be a better manager for these folks and schedule these meetings.
If someone is going to be making cold calls to customers which is generating revenue for our organization, which is very important for what we do, I probably don't want to schedule a team call during that time. If I can find that my team kind of wind down by 3:30 and maybe that's a great time to set up a team call, right?
So it's giving me this insight into how am I working and am I maximizing my time, but even more than that, I can get a bit of a pulse check as to how well I'm organizing my work week for my extended team. Am I always scheduling a meeting when Erin's got to be taking her kid to school? That's going to cause stress and she's going to miss meetings and I'm going to have to have a second meeting with Erin about the meeting that I had with the rest of the team. Let's just do it right the first time and streamline this.
And then the other thing that I'm just going to throw out there is in a lot of these customers I've talked to, understandably because their own places and people are probably the top two things on that organization's balance sheet, they are getting the bulk of the attention, but what I have to call out is as much as you're thinking about that, you need to be thinking about outside of your organization. Who are your important partners, suppliers, customers, consultants, third parties that you work with? And I'm calling this out because, again, when we get back to business brass tacks, that is where your revenue gets generated from.
So I don't believe there should be two different levels of collaboration and communication. Whatever you can do with your coworkers, you should be able to interact with your customers in that same way. And again, I remembered a conversation I had with two very big competitors that exist on either end of the country and they all used the same collaboration productivity tools.
And this was a little while ago, so I challenged them because I like to do that. I asked the question, "So if you guys are both using email and phone and what have you, what is your differentiator? How do you show your value?" And they were like... I mean, I'm talking to sales guys, so of course there's some in the room, and the answer was, "Me, I am the differentiator. My relationship building is what keeps this customer with our organization and I make them happy."
Well, there's no more trade shows. There's no more dinners. There's no more demos. There's no more lunches. So that ability to make you or your personality that key differentiator, those tools that allowed you to do that don't exist anymore.
So this is again why as much as you're thinking about your own internal employees and how to keep them productive, why do we want them to be productive? Because they're probably generating revenue for us somehow. And I don't generate any revenue talking to people inside of Cisco, I generate all my revenue talking to people outside of Cisco. So don't think inside of your own organization's bubble, think about bursting that bubble and how can we make this inclusive to the people that are important to our business, whatever that business might be.
Erin Bury: Thank you so much, Kevin. Some great additional tips there and you can tell you're very passionate about this topic and it's always great to see that passion shine through.
So we don't have too much time for questions unfortunately, but I did want to pose one to Dirk, which comes from Jada. She asks about whether there are specific strategies for addressing Zoom fatigue and I'd love your thoughts on this. When do you determine whether something should be a video call versus not, and any strategies that you've experienced with your team on the fatigue for video calls?
Dirk Propfe: Absolutely. That's a fantastic question. I think just such a relevant one, because as we saw, everyone meeting fatigue, especially as we virtualized things because we somehow ended up having more meetings than beforehand.
So a couple of things. One is, okay, when do you really need a meeting? And being quite strict with that. If you're not going to be discussing something on working something that really requires people to share their different points of view, like let's say if you're doing a report out, you probably can do that in a synchronous manner. You no longer need a meeting, you just need to learn how to do report outs in an synchronous way, leveraging tools like WebEx, Teams or Slack.
It's easy enough to have an agreement that says instead of doing a report out, at that time or sometime during this day, share, "Here's what I completed last week. Here's what I'm focused for next week. Here are my challenges." And that way, you can avoid a whole bunch of the time we spend in meetings just reporting to each other what we worked on. If we work out loud or if we share more in synchronous channels, we're actually able to focus the precious video time that we have on working on real challenges, right?
And this is where being very mindful... Did that meeting feel good? Did it feel productive? If not, there's something you can do there. It's maybe like, okay, you used a meeting when you could've used an alternative mode of collaboration, or maybe the meeting wasn't facilitated in a way that really got everything out, all the juice that could've been had with all those people attending.
So those are just some quick tips and I'm very happy to chat more about that because this is an area that I'm super, super passionate about.
Erin Bury: Thanks, Dirk, great tips. And sorry, Kevin, did you want to briefly add something?
Kevin Janke: Yeah, well, I was just going to maybe throw some pictures to it. If you want to throw up my mansplaining slide, again, whether it be our meeting company or the others, we are listening to you guys. And I'm a video conferencing passionate advocate, and on Friday night when my friend sends me a link that's like, "Hey, you guys want to get together over video and have a couple beers tonight?" I'm like, "Oh my God, I've been on like 40 hours of video this week, I don't know if I want to do that."
But like I said, we are listening and I'm sure others are as well. And just as a quick example here, we're implementing things like timers into our meetings. So if I call a round table meeting with my team, there will actually be a template that I can use for that meeting and there will be a little timer built into that meeting that says, "Everybody only gets five minutes to talk." So yeah, Erin, you're right, I'm verbose, I get excited, and then maybe my extrovert personality takes over and I talk over the introverts who maybe have great ideas and they just don't get an opportunity to share it.
So as much as you all are looking at solving problems in different ways and breaking some glass, which you absolutely should do because there's never been a better time to try something out, especially when it's software and you can probably get a free trial of it, but look at how can these tools solve different problems, right? If we're thinking about a meetings tool, challenge your vendor or your reseller or whatever that, "What else can this do for me apart from have a great meeting?" and you're going to find that there's, again, these AI tools or these different features that are popping up that exist that can help for reducing Zoom fatigue. And at that point, I'm going to stop talking, right? Because my timer's up. I've been mansplaining too much.
Erin Bury: I love that, Kevin. I think even in person, to be honest, I've struggled with how to get people to have equal share of voice at meetings. So I love the idea that you can track how much you've been talking and also just to be self-aware because I tend to also be quite verbose and it's something that I am also working on. So I appreciate those tips.
I feel like we could talk about this all day, but unfortunately we are already past our time. So time flies when you're having fun.
Before we end things off today, I did want to you say thank you so much to Kevin and Dirk for such an insightful conversation and also for taking a question from our audience.
Before we sign off, I want to remind everyone about the Digital Needs Assessment that Leigh spoke about at the beginning. The DNA is a really helpful tool. It took me about 15 minutes to go through it for Willful and it really identified some areas that we should be paying attention to, and more importantly, resources we can leverage to help. It takes, again, about 15, 20 minutes to complete, assesses the core competencies and gaps in the digital capacity of your business and how it ranks relative to your industry.
To take the DNA today, simply click on the graphic to the right of your screen in the info tab or visit rap.bot com.
And lastly, the next Digital Certificate Program will take place on September 8th at 9:00 AM. Tailored to the tourism and hospitality sector, this workshop will help business owners take steps in identifying what they need to become a digital first business. So if you're in one of those sectors, definitely sign up and join by taking your DNA today.
To register for any of our upcoming webcasts, please visit supportbusiness.bot.com and select webinars and videos.
So again, thank you, everyone. I hope you have a great week as we head into the last long weekend of the summer, and thanks for joining us. Have a great day.