Leveraging Collaboration Technology

These are certainly extraordinary times. With the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Labor both saying that the forest products industry is an "essential critical infrastructure workforce in the nation's response to the coronavirus pandemic, we are doing everything we can to keep our employees safe and our factories functional. To do that we have had to leverage collaboration tools more than ever.

In these challenging times of increased remote workforces,  employees are charged with keeping operations afloat working from home or some other remote setting, and the benefits of leveraging these business collaboration tools are greater than ever!collab

Just like you probably are, we at Baillie Lumber are working hard to protect our employees and to meet the ever-changing demands of our customers during these difficult times. Internally, we rely more than ever on collaboration resources that enable us to continue operating and serving our valuable customers. 

In the spirit of sharing, here are some thoughts we have had on how best to leverage collaboration technologies during this pandemic:

Research your employee’s needs. What type of communication tools do they need to be successful? What types of projects are they working on and how will your business initiate and complete them on a regular basis? Look at all the different types of collaboration software that are available and use the ones best suited to your workflow processes and the skill level of your workforce. 

Invest in software that’s user-friendly. It would seem that all collaboration technology should be intuitive and/or easy to use. But that’s not always the case. Resources that are overly complex or hard to quickly understand aren’t the best choices, particularly in these urgent and challenging times. Find an interface that at least some of your staff is comfortable with and go from there.

Ensure mobile and multi-platform compatibility. Given that so many of us work and communicate via mobile devices, it’s essential that collaborative technology be compatible with the most popular systems, such as Apple IOS and Android phones.  

At the same time, have your IT team review and ensure that proposed collaborative software can be integrated within your own company’s operating platform (PCs, Macs, etc.). This is necessary to guarantee long-term scalability and the ability to support OS updates in the months and years to come. 

Clearly Communicate your policies and procedures for the use of collaborative technology. Productivity and collaboration are enhanced when certain guidelines are created by which employees can operate. These may include: 

· Which online work discussions are appropriate and which are best handled in face-to-face encounters

· Set a standard for appropriate response times to inquiries

· Share best practices on how best to follow-up if and when a co-worker doesn’t reply as requested

We've also found it to be very beneficial to have team leaders conduct “check-in” times for everyone on their teams. It helps strengthen a sense of teamwork and solidarity for the group which is more important than ever before!

One other area of focus we found helpful recently was helping new remote workers understand how best to participate in sessions using video.  We focused on things such as this to help enhance their video communications with others.

  • Lighting. It is better to have more front light than backlight. Sitting with your back to a window can make you appear dark on the screen.
  • Movement. Sitting still is sometimes better. Walking, rocking in a chair, etc. can cause poor video.
  • Camera placement. The more aligned your camera is to your face the better. Low cameras emphasize a person’s chin, nostrils, and ceiling tiles.
  • Mute. Master the mute button. Remember how to quickly access it and turn it on or off.
  • Connectivity. WIFI vs. Cellphone data plan. If you have a choice, WIFI usually provides a better experience
  • Background. Know what is in your background. Be sure you are ok with everyone seeing it. 

Communication with team members ensures that goals are met and important information is shared regularly and doesn’t fall through the cracks. Using these newer collaboration tools, we have found we can continue to keep hardwood lumber moving to our customers when and where they need it. Whether it be checking with our sawmill and yard managers to discuss current inventory levels or shipment scheduled, the obtain the latest news on a hardwood ripping production run, or a price on a new bundle of imported tropical lumber like Sapele.  We hope you can do the same!

What ways have you leveraged collaboration technology to help your business? We would love to hear your thoughts!  

Brett Del Prince
Baillie Lumber
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