Now is the time for businesses to look beyond email

Businesses have made great strides in adopting new technologies as part of their digital transformation efforts. However, as companies have turned to new tools to increase their productivity, they continue to rely on email and other ageing technologies to communicate. Collaboration platforms have grown in popularity recently as they allow teams to work together more easily and help facilitate communication between employees.

To better understand the role collaboration platforms will play in the future of workplace communication, TechRadar Pro spoke with Workplace by Facebook’s Director EMEA, Julien Lesaicherre.

Is email dead?


It isn't dead, but email is becoming increasingly outdated. When was the last time you sent an email to a friend to one of your relative? Across the Atlantic, the average US office worker has nearly 200 unread or unopened emails. Yet surprisingly, it is somehow still the default communication option businesses use today, with an estimated 124.5 billion business emails sent and received each day. Instead of being complacent, businesses need to take brave new steps and look beyond email as the base of their internal communications. Particularly if they are to remain competitive.

Take collaboration platforms for example. Whether it's something as simple as providing space where ideas can be shared and polls created, or a chat group where decisions can be made in a fraction of the time they did before – these platforms can be quickly implemented to allow employees to share their thoughts and work together in ways which feel more agile and intuitive than other competitors who are still stuck with email chains. 


What kind of impact are video functions having on internal communications in the workplace?


A major challenge for many senior business leaders, particularly those in the C-Suite, has been working out how to strengthen and maintain relationships with other colleagues in the business. Especially with workers from departments in their business which aren't always working on-site. To combat this, C-level execs are using video and it is playing an integral role in effective internal communications – especially in regards to how leaders engage with their employees on a more personal and intuitive level. 

In an effort to solve their relationships challenge and boost company culture, we're starting to see more business leaders using video tools as the preferred method to communicate with their employees. And it's working. Being able to see one another fosters more honesty and transparency because it allows them to communicate visual body language cues which would otherwise be lost from email or phone conversations. It also immediately demonstrates to employees that they're passionate about speaking to them more directly, and aren't willing to remain comfortable leaving discussions to a personal assistant or what can feel like more formal written notes. 

For example, World Wildlife Fund's (WWF) annual conference, which historically was only attended by senior stakeholders and C-level executives, is now broadcast to the charity’s entire worldwide staff via Workplace live (HD video streaming within Workplace). At their 2018 conference, this saw event engagement increase by more than 200% and helped the charity quickly gather valuable insight and suggestions from their employees, who were able to share their thoughts via comments on the live sessions. We're seeing this kind of engagement across organizations of every size, in every part of the world. 

Video has also become what we like to refer to as a 'gateway feature'. Once businesses become comfortable using broadcast features of collaboration technology, they start using the platform as a hub for further innovation to customise their communications - using the likes automation to solve their business communication challenges.

Sounds intriguing. How does automation work in the collaboration space?


Businesses are using collaboration platforms as the base to develop new automated processes which can make their internal processes much faster. Intelligent bots have become particularly useful; when they're built in the right way, they can proactively automate and create valuable areas of responsibility, which can have a huge effect on a workforce’s productivity. 

AirAsia, for example, has created a number of their own intelligent bots on the Workplace platform, which have since helped to improve productivity and efficiency throughout their business. Their ID90 bot helps staff look at seat availabilities of any flight they want to book with staff discount 48 hours before departure. Their Flight Scheduler bot automatically creates a chat group for every AirAsia flight with all teams involved (cabin crew, pilots, ground ops and guest services) to work together efficiently from airport to airport. 

What role might collaboration technology play with attracting future talent?


Ernst & Young estimates that millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025. What does this mean for businesses? That they simply can't afford to misstep with finding ways to attract the best of this future talent. But that's easier said then done, requiring a potent mix of strong company culture and the latest technology that makes working life feel both fluid and effortless.

Businesses can kick-start this by fostering a team-orientated environment physically in the workplace, and digitally with the tools and software they choose to use. Given how far technology has evolved in the last 20 years, it would be fair to say that people stepping into the world of work for the first time have grown up with different technology needs in their personal lives to older generations, and their expectations on working life will therefore be very different to those already earning their keep. Social media platforms were practically unheard of 15 years ago, but are now a fundamental part of how most of us form and maintain personal relationships. 

With these platforms now firmly established in the public consciousness, especially for younger generations, it's of little surprise that their features are quickly trickling through into our working lives. Businesses need to be conscious of this when deciding what their internal digital environment looks like. They're simpler to use, and they reflect what communication has now become. To that effect, collaboration platforms like Workplace which are based on this now familiar way of sharing information and building relationships will be paramount to attracting future talent. After all, why should they settle for anything different?