Effective collaboration in a virtual world

26 October 2020

Earlier this year we held a series of virtual round-table sessions with brokers. We discussed the key challenges and successes brokers have experienced during COVID-19.

woman at desk hosting online meeting on computer screen

The impact of COVID-19 has led to the reduction of face-to-face engagement, seeing communication and collaboration become reliant on virtual platforms. Collaboration is a key day-to-day broker activity across both internal teams and with clients, the lack of being able to physically meet has often felt like a barrier to effective collaboration. Whilst we have all adapted to using technology like Zoom and Microsoft Teams to improve communications and collaboration, the opportunity is out there to increase the impact of our virtual approach to communication.

Nic Hartley, Ecclesiastical’s Head of Business Improvement and Innovation, talks us through how you can be collaborative in a virtual world.

What do you do if you can’t meet face-to-face?

With the current challenges, we can’t ignore the fact that there will be very few, if any face-to-face meetings taking place at the moment, so it is vital that brokers find ways to continue to communicate and collaborate. This is an opportunity to establish a new approach to working that can be applied and continued when we emerge from this pandemic. Online platforms and video conferencing can allow for the replication of face-to-face meetings, conversations and workshops. But how do we solve problems, identify opportunities, collaborate effectively and increase impact along with better outcomes in a virtual world?

Meeting fatigue

We all have experienced it, virtual meetings that lack the sources of energy that we get when we meet face-to-face making them tiring, challenging us all on how we can remain present and engaged. We have lost the informal catch ups whilst making a coffee, instead relying on scheduling meetings that inevitably take up more time. To compound this we experience offline meeting agendas and structures simply being moved online without any changes to reflect this virtual delivery. Often we end up with a day of back to back meetings with limited time away from the desk or screen. What if you could replace these meetings with a structured process that leads to more ideas, clearer decisions and better outcomes?

Collaboration is a process

A lot can be achieved by putting in place a good process where you have a clear path that makes it easier to come up with ideas, make decisions and solve problems. Good collaboration isn’t dependant on being in the same room, it is a mind-set that can be assisted by effective facilitation.

Pros and cons of virtual collaboration

  • You can quickly develop facilitation skills in your staff by giving everyone experience in running meetings.
  • Dominant personalities can still take over and steer a virtual meeting.
  • More focus leads to quicker meetings allowing you to achieve more in less time.
  • The HiPPO or highest paid person’s opinion means that everyone has to defer to those ideas put forward by the highest authority and this can result in groupthink or conformity.
  • Contributing ideas can be quick and easier as participants can be anonymous which means everyone can contribute.
  • Quiet or more introverted people can hide or feel like their thoughts are not being heard.
  • You don’t have distractions from attendees having side conversations.
  • It’s harder to maintain energy levels remotely.
  • Expand your reach and invite other parts of the business to attend. This will help to be inclusive, build new relationships and provide a different viewpoint.
  • Attendees can be online but this doesn’t guarantee they are ‘present’ in the meeting.
  • It’s a more efficient approach as you don’t have to spend time writing up the session notes. You can capture everything digitally. This makes it easier to share the output.
  • As everyone is already on a computer, the opportunity to disengage and answer a few emails is always there.
  • You can save energy and support your sustainability programme by generating less waste – no need to use post-it notes or paper.
  • There’s always a risk that the technology or Wi-Fi signal might let you down.
  • You don’t have to travel to attend – the barrier of location is removed and as a result you contribute to reducing your carbon footprint.
  • You no longer have to hunt around to find an available meeting room.

There are some really good reasons to try a different approach to virtual collaboration. To do this all you need to do is give it a go…

Introducing the Collaboration Sprint

The Collaboration Sprint is a tool that has been adapted from an original concept created by AJ & Smart, a Berlin based design agency. You can use the Collaboration Sprint whenever a group of people in your organisation need to identify challenges, solve problems and make decisions. It’s a tried and tested tool that’s been used to great effect by companies and teams around the world. It’s also been successfully used by Ecclesiastical on a number of occasions.

What are the benefits?

  • Improving internal or external processes
  • Keeping up with the competition
  • Identifying a new sales tactic or prospecting method
  • Improving the work environment
  • Improving sales or conversion
  • Teams feel engaged and listened to, which can be quite motivating
  • … List goes on …

Time to try and run a Collaboration Sprint?

Getting started, is more important than waiting for the right moment and it’s better to have 10 good ideas than 0 perfect ones. Rather than having endless, circular discussions about finding that ‘perfect’ solution, could it be time to embrace an action-orientated and experimental mindset?

Collaboration Sprint

Download our step by step guide to making a start

Download now

This guidance is provided for information purposes and is general and educational in nature and does not constitute legal advice. You are free to choose whether or not to use it and it should not be considered a substitute for seeking professional help in specific circumstances. Accordingly, Ecclesiastical Insurance Office plc and its subsidiaries shall not be liable for any losses, damages, charges or expenses, whether direct, indirect, or consequential and howsoever arising, that you suffer or incur as a result of or in connection with your use or reliance on the information provided in this guidance except for those which cannot be excluded by law. Where links are provided to other sites and resources of third parties, these links are provided for your information only. Ecclesiastical is not responsible for the contents of those sites or resources. You acknowledge that over time the information provided in this guidance may become out of date and may not constitute best market practice.

an online video call between several colleagues