3 scary things holding back collaboration at your company

Hair-raising horror movies, spookily decorated storefronts and ghoulish disguises galore: Halloween is nearly upon us, bringing its spine-tingling chills and thrills our way.

The frights of the holiday are all in good fun, but do you know what's truly terrifying? A company culture that stifles team work. That's because employees who put their heads together drive success. A recent study by the Institute for Corporate Productivity and Rob Cross, a global business professor at Babson College, found that companies that encouraged collaboration were five times as likely to be high performing, according to Forbes. 

Don't miss your opportunity to be a top-performing company. Here are five scary things holding back collaboration at your organization: 

1. A lack of trust 

As executive development expert Michael Bunting noted in an article for CEO Magazine, trust is the heart of collaboration. Employees need to feel that they can share their thoughts, opinions and feedback with each other and their managers without fear of negative repercussions. If workers feel there is no sense of trust, they are more likely to be afraid to share unconventional ideas or suggest new ways of doing things that could prove to be incredibly beneficial. If your workplace is tainted by the poison apples of defensiveness and an "every man for himself" mentality, there's no way fruitful collaboration will ever happen.

2. A culture of fear

Fear belongs in haunted houses – not in the office. Productive collaboration depends on people being able to admit that they may not have the specific skill sets needed for a project and then reaching out to others who do possess these abilities. However, employees who are scared to look weak will never ask for help, according to a Medium article written by Ant Cousins, director of customer success at ProFinda. To create a culture of collaboration, management can reward employees who ask for help. 

3. Outdated technology 

Clunky TV monitors and landlines may have looked cool in "Poltergeist," but in a modern workplace, they're collaboration killers. Unified communications, hosted voice and video conferencing make holding meetings and sharing ideas across a workforce seamless and stress-free, no matter where its employees are located.

A lack of trust, a culture of fear and outdated technology: These three factors are downright scary in the way they prevent collaboration at your company. But by recognizing and then taking steps to change these factors, you can face your fears and create a more connected and productive workforce. 

Potential sticking points to unified communications

Unified communications has turned the workplace on its head, making home sweet home the new office place. Workers are kissing traffic jams good-bye, and the "daily grind," if you can even call it that, is measured in feet, not miles. To what extent? Well, In 2015, roughly 25 percent of employees worked from home on any given day, based on the latest estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And over the past decade, telecommuting has risen a whopping 115 percent, according to Global Workplace Analytics.

Unified communications has brought convenience back to the modern workplace. It streamlines the interaction process so individuals near and far can talk work through a single server, whether via the cloud, IP telephony or the numerous other channels that fall under the UC umbrella.

Afraid of the cloud? Don't be

Here's the sticking point, though: Businesses aren't exactly flocking to the cloud in droves. In fact, while 70 percent of business owners have at least considered using one communication provider rather than several, according to statistics compiled by Inc., only 19 percent have actually pulled the trigger, this according to computer security services firm Bird Rock Systems.

Why the slow transition? For one, change is always hard, especially for those who prefer face-to-face interaction. Cybersecurity is never far from business owners' minds, either, and unfamiliarity with the cloud can bring those thoughts to the fore. 

Just remember that being unacquainted with cloud computing security shouldn't suggest that it lacks in protection. In fact, According to Clutch, 90 percent of companies who use the cloud for data storage find it to be as good or better than an on-site servers at protecting their information!

New technology doesn't always cause headaches 

Because UC systems makes their bones by facilitating multiple communications systems, your mind may associate UC with technical problems. That's why selecting the right partner is so critical – wink, wink. But really, great customer service and a best-in-class network can go a long way.

Plus, companies are already planning ahead for these types of adjustments, as 21 percent of CIOs say they'll add full-time tech professionals to their staff this year, according to a poll from Robert Half. Why? Twenty-four percent said it had to do with cloud migration or big data.

From efficiency to productivity, increased engagement to cost containment, the return on investment makes unified communications the business solution that simply gets the job done – both inside and outside the office.

CloudTalk: Partnerships NOT Vendorships

Sean Flynn’s autumn beard is growing as fast as his wife’s disdain for it. He’s jumped on the Movember men’s health initiative and, frankly, doesn’t give a whisker. The three-year-long ReadyTalker begins and ends each day with a focus on customer connections — before, during, and after every sale. As an Account Director, Sean loves to give his clients the tools they need to succeed on every call and presentation.

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

Making a customer laugh on the other end of the line. Seriously, it’s about establishing trust and a relationship with prospects and long-timers. Beyond just getting them to buy ReadyTalk — I like being one of the company faces that represents who we are. It’s rewarding when our customers have the feeling that they can call me for anything and never hesitating. I would way rather build partnerships than vendorships. There’s so much more to it than the sale.   

Q: Do you get to work with any local Colorado companies?

Yes! That’s one of the cool parts about having a recognizable brand in the Denver community. Over the years we’ve put a lot of effort into public outreach and volunteering. That has definitely given us a strong footprint in Colorado. That said, as an account director I get to meet face to face with some of our local customers to talk webinars and web conferencing. This is especially helpful when we’re onboarding new customers. Sometimes I’ll meet up for drinks with the companies we work with just to get a pulse on their level of understanding. It’s always great to find out the creative ways that people are using our products and how we might be able to improve their results.  

Q: Can you think of a time you ‘saved the day’ for a customer?

Once in awhile we’ll have to arrange a fast turnaround on a high stakes event. I consider 24 hours to be fairly quick. A few weeks ago I had a call with a customer that needed an operator-assisted, all-hands webinar for their entire company. This call came in at 3:00 p.m., and the event had to take place at 9:00 a.m. the next morning. They basically said, “we need x, y, and z tomorrow, can you make this happen?” Well, (haha) I don’t think we had another choice. That afternoon I worked directly with our customer care and events department to get the ball rolling quickly — sent out invitations, coordinated the event moderation, and built all registration pages. In spite of the tight deadline, the webinar went off flawlessly. Like I said, we didn’t really have any other choice but to deliver on their request. However, it was so gratifying getting their praise and thanks after the fact — they realized we moved a mountain in a pretty short amount of time. That was a great day at work. HUGE kudos to customer care on their efforts. Teamwork is everything.

Q: When you’re not at work, what’s your jam?

Spend a lot of time with my wife and kids. We go camping as a family. I bike a lot. Love to go skiing in the winter.

4 tips for planning holiday office parties

The company holiday party isn't just a chance to decorate the office and eat one too many cookies; it's an important opportunity to recognize employees for the hard work they've done all year.

As you head into the fourth quarter, it's a smart idea to start planning your office's holiday party. The earlier you begin hammering out the details, the better, as a little prep work nows saves headaches later and helps ensure the festivities are a hit. 

Here are four tips for planning your holiday office party:

1. Pick a fun theme 

Giving the holiday party a creative theme keeps the atmosphere from being too stuffy and, as online invitations company Punchbowl noted, provides a focus for the event that can simplify planning. An ugly sweater party is a classic theme, but there are lots of other fun ideas you could try, such as:

  • North Pole: Transform the space into a winter wonderland complete with Santa's workshop. 
  • Holidays in Paradise: Decorate with a tropical island theme. 
  • Roaring 20s: Have a classy, old-fashioned holiday celebration with 1920s-inspired decor and music. 

2. Choose a convenient time

Schedule the holiday party for a convenient time to boost attendance rates; the Friday right before many employees head off for holiday travel may not be the best day for the party. 

Some companies hold their holiday parties in the evening, after a workday or on the weekend. However, the event doesn't have to be after hours; luncheons are a popular alternative, according to HR consulting firm ERC. They can be held during the workweek, making them likely more convenient for a greater number of employees, and these gatherings can be less expensive than evening parties, offering a great option for smaller budgets. 

3. Consider your booze policy 

Give some thought to whether you'll serve alcohol at your party. If you do, it's important to follow safe practices. The Balance has a helpful list of tips for serving alcohol at company events; it includes serving solely beer and wine instead of liquor and limiting the number of hours the bar is open. Only professional bartenders should serve alcohol, too, never employees. 

4. Include remote workers 

Remote workers shouldn't be left out of the festivities! With the simple-to-use video conferencing solutions available today, companies can get creative with including their remote staff in the party. As The Atlantic explained in an article on the increasing popularity of remote-work holiday parties, telecommuting staff can call into in-office parties via video conference. 

With these tips, you can throw a fun and successful holiday party at your company this year. 

CloudTalk: Shred the WebiGnar

Carving through the epic trees at Vail you’ll find Connor McKeown — a self-proclaimed weekend warrior with a yen for the Colorado outdoors. On any given powder day, skiing is his full-time job. However, between snowstorms we have him and his team to thank for their steadfast engineering and infrastructural support of ReadyTalk. Here are his reflections on reaching a company milestone, plus the stand-out stories of the office we know and love.   

Q: Looking back at your time here, what was the most impressive moment for your team?

A: There are many that come to mind but one in particular I will never forget. Throughout 2015, we had a company goal of hitting 60,000 active ReadyTalk access codes in a rolling 30-day period. In other words, 60,000 individuals with ReadyTalk login credentials were using their accounts within a 30-day window. In November of that year, we hit our goal. It was exciting — both for the new guys like me and for the ReadyTalkers that worked so hard to achieve it. So, as you’d expect, we ended up at our favorite local spot to celebrate. The party fell on my first day at ReadyTalk — talk about a warm welcome.

Q: Can you think of a time when you had to react quickly to a technical problem?

A: Not long ago our engineering team had a scheduled boot drive upgrade for a subset of our production system infrastructure. That’s tech speak for “new hardware.” Even though it was on the calendar with plenty of attention and preparation beforehand, it did not go smoothly. A handful of us were up all night working though our contingency plans — several of which failed as a result of a third-party installation. Although this caused an overnight snafu at the time, it brought out the best in everyone from our team. When all hands were on deck during this unforeseen event, it definitely made me proud of my colleagues. We work with vendors that supply some of our infrastructure services; which are essential for ReadyTalk to run at full capacity. Sometimes the glitch is out of your control, but our engineers know how to pull through in a tough situation to keep our services operating at the level our customers expect.

Q: What makes ReadyTalk such a great place to work?

A: It’s true that we have a lot of fun while at the office, but we also like to do off-site events. Several teams find their way to Top Golf for team outings. One of my teams made 150 sack lunches to give out to homeless people and then we followed up the good deed with a Rockies game that afternoon. A common thread that ties our company together is the idea of getting to know each other. Not just someone’s “working self” but building actual friendships that strengthen our professional identities. It works very well and transcends our daily work responsibilities. On the engineering side, our systems that support ReadyTalk products are quite complicated, but my peers are great at explaining things clearly so that anyone in the business can understand. I truly love being associated with some of the smartest people I’ve ever known. Hopefully one of these days it rubs off on me haha.