3 tips for effective collaboration (without putting employers at risk)

3 tips for effective collaboration (without putting employers at risk)

“Two heads are better than one.” That old idiom certainly holds true in the modern workplace, where employees are encouraged to harness the power of collaboration to produce the best possible results.

By working together, employees can help develop better products and services, connect strategy with execution, make more effective business decisions and increase revenue.

But in the extended enterprise in which we now work, collaboration involves team members, contractors, partners, suppliers and vendors distributed around the world.

Content must be able to flow easily, but securely, between all parties. What’s more, millennials — who are now one-third of the workforce — opt for quick, casual and efficient interactions, preferring digital collaboration. And while there are numerous technologies available to help facilitate this, most collaboration tools that companies are providing aren’t meeting employees’ needs.

According to a recent survey from Alfresco Software, an enterprise content management and business process management solution provider, 94 percent of knowledge workers recognize the importance of collaboration. While 83 percent use technology to collaborate, 59 percent are not satisfied with the tools that they have. This is particularly true among millennials, 71 percent of whom expressed challenges with workplace collaboration tools.

This disconnect is causing workers to knowingly turn to unapproved consumer-grade tools with little concern about the security issues involved. So what can employees do to effectively collaborate without putting their employers at risk?

1. Don’t use personal email for work

Whether it is due to fewer file size restrictions, preference for using their own devices, or no access to corporate networks at home, employees often prefer using their personal email. In fact, according to Alfresco’s survey, 51 percent of workers admitted to using personal email accounts for work email.

Enterprise security can be put at risk when employees use personal email for work purposes. Stick to your work email, especially when exchanging information and documents with people outside your immediate organization, or when dealing with sensitive information.

2. Use company-approved collaboration tools

As consumer file-sharing apps become even more intuitive and readily available at no or low cost, employees regularly turn to these convenient platforms when their enterprise collaboration tools don’t measure up. The Alfresco survey found that 51 percent of workers use public document-sharing tools, including Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud and Instagram. That number is even higher for millennials and Gen X.

Enterprise IT organizations are starting to catch up by adopting the tools that employees want to use or supporting the tools employees are already using. Check with your IT department to see what’s available and let them know what tools you want to use. There may be more tools available than you think. Or you could influence the new solutions that get purchased down the road.

3. Think about security

According to the Alfresco survey, only 38 percent of workers said that they always think about data security or privacy when sharing work content with clients, vendors, and other external stakeholders. The percentage is even less for Gen X and millennials.

If you are going to use unapproved tools, at least understand the security risks involved and try to minimize them. The first rule: Do not use unsecure tools for sharing sensitive information. Each app has specific and varying degrees of security vulnerabilities that you should know about. And when using them, be sure to follow advice on password creation and storage.

Employers are beginning to recognize that today’s workplace collaboration solutions do not fit the ebb and flow of today’s extended enterprise and the digital preferences of our increasingly tech-savvy workforce. Businesses are starting to adopt solutions that can work effortlessly on the most popular computing systems and devices, provide user-friendly capabilities for wide adoption and, most importantly, safeguard critical content.

In the meantime, however, employees must understand and appreciate their role in safeguarding their enterprise. Workers would be wise to stick to their work email and company-provided tools for work-related tasks.