This piece is part of our series on sessions presented at Compference19. You can register or learn more about Compference20 here.
We’ve all experienced the dreaded conference call. Dropped connections, indiscernible audio and unexpected background noise are just some of the unintended joys we’ve come to expect.
Despite all the technological advances we have at our fingertips, conference calls, either by phone or video, leave much to be desired. Many workers have an experience that is at best underwhelming, or at worst simply frustrating.
However, we’re living in an increasingly global marketplace. As organizations scale locally, domestically or internationally, it’s important to have tools that can facilitate communication and cohesion.
When PayScale gained remote employees and satellite offices, it was an overnight shift. We knew that we needed some tools to better connect with all employees, regardless of physical location.
Until teleportation becomes a real thing, teleconferencing tools provide the next best solution. However, even these tools have limitations and challenges.
There are various video conferencing tools available on the market. The one we use is Zoom. We are still learning today that habits can be difficult to rewire – like mindfulness around time zones. Educating employees on best practices/etiquette online is a constant thing we need to do.
Here is a very practical list of lessons we have learned. We strive to remind our in-office employees of these tips in order to create an optimal experience for our remote employees.
Tips for Successful Videoconferencing
ADVOCATE FOR THOSE ON THE PHONE
- Is the room getting really noisy because someone cracked a side joke?
- Can you see on chat that the volume has cut out for those on the phone?
- Do you notice someone on video trying to chime in but not getting the chance? It’s important to lead by example and speak up for those online.
REPEAT QUESTIONS IN THE ROOM BEFORE ANSWERING THEM
- Occasionally someone in the back of the room will ask a question. Be sure to repeat the question on the microphone for those not in the room.
INTRODUCE YOURSELF IN THE ROOM (AND WHEN YOU LEAVE)
- If you’re in a meeting format where you can have your laptop, join the video chat. If you can’t be on video, introduce that you’ve entered the room or before you interject with a comment.
SHOW YOUR FACE ON VIDEO AT EVERY OPPORTUNITY
- Listening to someone talking on the phone without knowing who they are can feel disorienting. On the other hand, being able to make eye contact and seeing body language and facial cues can make a huge difference.
- Set the expectation that employees should bring their laptops to meetings and log into the video conferencing tool. It’s important to establish this expectation with your leaders first. That way, you can hold each other accountable to building it as a practice.
DISCOURAGE SIDE CONVERSATIONS
- Not only do side conversations distract from the intent of a meeting, they create a sense of distance and exclusion that are harmful to connection.
AVOID “MEETINGS AFTER THE MEETINGS”
- You know how it goes. You turn off the phone, some people leave the room, and two or three people keep chatting, sometimes even arriving at a decision. This creates a risk of excluding people from a decision that could potentially affect them. It also short changes remote employees that can’t linger in the room and engage in that conversation.
TAKE PICTURES OF WHITE BOARDING
- Those on the phone can’t see white boarding. Be sure to designate someone to take pictures and send to the group afterwards.
PRACTICE GOOD MEETING HYGIENE
- High quality meetings should always start on time, with a stated objective, and role clarity. These factors become even more important with remote people on the line.
- Set expectations with your team that ‘starting on time’ means that the ZOOM is on and live at the start of the meeting. State objectives at the start of the meeting, and establish who in the room is responsible for speed, input and quality.
LAST, BUT NOT LEAST, SPEAK UP!
- By encouraging employees to share ideas or roadblocks, you can create a working culture where all employees – regardless of location – feel connected in a way that motivates them to bring their best and be their best at work.
Integrating remote employees come with many challenges. In addition, some old habits can be hard to change. However, with some practice and concentrated effort, videoconferencing can be a way to bridge the gap.
Erika Levitsis is the PayScale Employee Experience Lead
Jacqueline Vonk is the PayScale Sr. Manager, Employee Experience