Innovate or perish is the mantra as organisations race to adjust to the new imperative of engaging virtually.

Early signs of success in flattening the curve, hopefully, will enable a relaxation of social isolation restrictions in some countries.  But victory over COVID19 is a long way off. 

The best available health advice is that a vaccine is at least 12-18 months away and that it will take two to three years for the virus to invade all pockets of the planet.

Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said this week, “we don’t know if and when a vaccine will come with this virus”. Says, David Speers of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, this “was a wake-up call to those who think this will all be over once the miracle-workers in lab coats hurry up and find the answer. A vaccine may never come”.

The Director General of the International Vaccine Institute, Dr Jerome Kim, has warned that the world will likely need to manage two or three waves of the virus.

How we work is changing and will change forever. New ways of engaging with employees, customers, and communities are certain to become commonplace.

The health and economic crisis caused by the COVID 19 pandemic is a human tragedy on multiple levels. 

Those organisations who meet the COVID 19 crisis by redesigning their business model and embracing smart tools for working virtually will be the ones best placed to survive; they will also be  the ones that steal a march on their competition through lifting productivity.

Tens of millions of people are now working from home. Many of these workers may never return to the same office-based jobs, especially as businesses discover how to make virtual work effective and efficient and explore opportunities to cut overheads by having smaller head offices.

Yet the successful transition to virtual-working will be heavily dependent on ensuring a sense of “connected-ness” amongst virtual workers and enabling them to collaborate on projects and co-create solutions.

No one virtual tool can be expected to meet every virtual engagement need. Businesses will need to build a toolkit with different tools for different tasks; just like a carpenter’s toolkit will comprise a saw, drill and screwdriver and not just a hammer.

Different online tools present different opportunities as well as limitations.

Video conferencing is one tool that’s taken off exponentially in recent weeks. As a straight-forward communication medium, video conferencing is a fine option. But it doesn’t cut mustard if your goal is to support teams of people to work collaboratively.

Tools like BaseCamp can be used to enable collaboration between employees on projects and Loomio provides an online forum to support group decision-making.

For dynamic online conversations Synthetron is the cutting-edge platform.   Developed in Europe, Synthetron is quite unique in the market because it enables employees to engage in an interactive moderated dialogue at virtually any scale.

With Synthetron, participants can work together in real time to problem-solve and co-create solutions. They can share their ideas and comment on and score other’s ideas in an interactive conversation, and because Synthetron is a text-based tool, at the end of the discussion, a written report detailing the outcomes and areas of agreement is automatically generated – written in the words of the participants themselves.

Synthetron is also valuable tool for providing management with insights. Sometimes it’s not easy to find out what employees think, particularly if the topic is sensitive or related to changes in business processes. The normal way to achieve this can be time consuming, subjective, unreliable and – if employees are working remotely – potentially near impossible.

Synthetron jumps this hurdle because its dialogues are anonymous. This means participants can speak their mind and engage with the ideas rather than worry about how their views may be received or interpreted by management. So, Synthetron enables decision-makers to find out what employees really think and value, and builds trust amongst staff that the organisation values their opinions.

As we head into a world of virtual working, organisations need to be very mindful that every person has different work preferences and that it’s critical to develop the “linking” skills of people working remotely.

A virtual world makes it more important than ever for managers to ensure that they are really in touch with their team members’ work preferences so that the organisation can consider the best way to share and organise work.

A great option here is Team Management System, a leading edge tool developed in Australia. TMS enables organisations to work smarter by:

  • assessing the effectiveness of how work gets done,
  • identifying the change that’s needed to build teams and productivity, and
  • developing individual, team and organisational capabilities.

TMS is grounded in the belief that:

  • different types of skills sets are essential to every successful business
  • different people prefer different types of work, and tend to be better at tasks they prefer doing
  • teams will be more effective where there is a good balance between the types of work the team does and team members’ work preferences.

It’s imperative to support team members working remotely if organisations are to realise the cost-benefit opportunities that virtual working offers.

Synthetron and TMS are key additions to the toolkit of any organisation seriously interested in setting up and managing highly effective virtual teams.