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Virtual technology is improving personal and professional relationships in many ways. Now, with just the touch of a screen, workers can hop on a virtual conference call with a coworkers or clients halfway across the globe. On a smaller scale, virtual tools can help small businesses connect and personalize for their client base better.

Virtual tools are not only disrupting habits in the workplace, but also what we thought was possible in professional collaborations.The Millennial generation, in particular, is utilizing tools like virtual assistants, video conferencing, or Google documents which gives them more flexible, productive, and innovative roles. In fact, the most productive virtual teams are smaller ones, so small business may have the upper-hand.

How can small businesses leverage virtual business tools to help new team members collaborate at work?

1. Co-create team rules and norms

Small businesses generally have close-knit, working communities. All collaborative teams need to understand and stay dedicated to standards and expectations for the virtual communication process. Decision-making, conflict resolution, and meetings are equally important to your staff. Virtual tools like Basecamp or Dropbox can help define assignments and roles. Shared virtual tools that allow real-time collaboration can offer a variety of brainstorming ideas.

Example: Virtual tools like Basecamp, Dropbox, and GoogleDocs offer real-time collaboration. According to a Harvard Business Review article, productive collaboration increases when roles are clearly defined, but when workers are unclear about how to achieve a goal. In some projects, small businesses may want to leverage experts in different departments to create the most genuine services targeted to their local client base.

2. Create virtual trust

Work relationships are deeply embedded in the successful collaborations of small business teams. Teams need to trust each other and nurture engagement. Normally, workers bond over time, but virtual tools can offer teams personal interactions and mutual work experiences in dynamic ways. Some virtual tools include virtual settings like room maps and seating charts, member pictures, and short bios of their professional backgrounds. Small businesses can leverage this strategy, by offering customers short bios that include both professional and personal information so that they seem more personable.

Example: Virtual chat rooms, like Skype and other chatbots, can help team members bond. In addition, AR and VR can allow workers to collaborate on product design and show how the consumer would purchase items. Now that small boutique retailers are offering to enhance experiences for users to allow customers to see how products may be used, VR and AR is a great way for small business teams to collaborate and virtually test how products are implemented.

3. Utilize mixed communication platforms

Virtual tools can help small business owners, their workers, and their clients or customers connect with each other on deeper levels. Email, texting, and chatting are lean mediums that are efficient for straightforward messages, but don’t always offer emotion, humor, or other social signals. Videoconferencing can allow messages between workers to be more complex. Human elements make communication channels richer. Telephone calls, teleconferences allow participants to read facial expressions and tone of voice. As business create online virtual worlds, like 3D environments, where coworkers can interact via avatars or video, they can communicate social norms that help personalize services.

Example: Videoconferences like Google Hangouts and Skype are essential ways for face to face meetings and sharing. Since small businesses have smaller teams, it’s essential for most team members to be available for key directions or developments. Recording videos for future playback or learning is quickly emerging as IT leaders can also use multipurpose video platforms or integrated options from vendors like Polycom. Verizon is even offering content management and sharing as hosted services.

4. Offer and Connect Physical and Virtual Learning Spaces

 

Part of gaining more expertise in your field is learning something new every day. Using collaborative virtual tools as partial learning hubs can help employees learn and develop new trades and techniques from other coworkers. Virtual tools to help employees learn specific skills can help create a hub of innovation.

Example: Small business can implement collaboration stations and mirror devices during project discussions. Plus, physical space can be connected with creativity and productivity apps like Padlet, Google Drive, Periscope, or Nearpod in remote collaborations and projects. It has the power to develop the way workers are productive at work by connecting to others in meaningful, engaging ways.

New virtual tools can help stimulate worker productivity and satisfaction. As small businesses implement these tools, they can redefine their work flow to cater to real-time events for hyperlocal audiences or widen their scope to engage specific niches.