As a small-business owner, you understand how important your employees are to your company’s success. That is why it’s pertinent your staff have all the tools necessary to work as a team and get the job done, especially if they are communicating with your customers. If you’re searching for collaboration tools to help your employees succeed and keep your clients involved, here are 10 options that may work well for you.
Collaboration Tools for Messaging
While there are many instant messaging apps available online, HipChat was created with businesses in mind. Long gone are the days of email chains and “reply all” threads. HipChat takes security seriously, using the same security protocol as online banks. One of its biggest perks is allowing guest access that is completely controlled, but there are so many other features, such as file and screen sharing.
If you’re trying to decrease the amount of time your staff spend in meetings, Slack is your go-to option for instant messaging applications. Create channels to organize conversations, track information and then archive the history. For example, a catering company could create a new channel for every onboarded client. Then, when any of the staff—be it the receptionist, chef or event planner—has any contact with the client, it can be updated in the channel. Any notes on meal choices, updates on arrival times and more can be quickly accessed as needed, and archived as soon as the contract is completed.
Collaboration Tools for Conferencing
Decisions for small businesses are often based on finances, so adopting a tool such as Skype should be an easy choice, as it’s free. Skype gives users the option to connect via audio or video conferences, and attendees can access the conference from different types of devices or locations. For example, team members living overseas can “dial in” using their laptop, another can call in via a tablet and you can access the call on your phone if necessary.
With over three million users monthly, GoToMeeting is a force to be reckoned with. This is a smart tool for collaborations both with your employees and clients, as it can be launched from anywhere, such as emails, a messaging system or even a project management app. Similarly, GoToMeeting can be used for external presentations and sales demonstrations. One of the best features is the screen-sharing function. Simply hand over control of your screen to another participant, and let them take control of your computer.
Collaboration Tools for Project Management
With almost 2.2 million accounts signed up for Basecamp, the online project-management system has to be doing something correctly. Project-management apps are perfect for companies with employees that are working on different facets of a project. Basecamp has a minimal learning curve, which makes it the perfect tool to use with clients and employees of all digital backgrounds.
Similar to Basecamp, Trello is a collaborative project-management system. Think of it as an online cork board that your employees can “pin” to-dos and notes, or cards, for projects. Trello allows users to move cards into different columns. Checklists, comments and attachments can be added to every card created. Besides client management, you can use Trello as a way to take notes during any office meetings and assign tasks to whichever employee volunteered to work on them.
Collaboration Tools for Access
Don’t mistake Dropbox as simply a storage system; there are many ways it can be used with a team. Unlike files stored on a computer, work uploaded to Dropbox can be accessed from anywhere on any device. So, any pictures, documents or videos can be uploaded by the creator, and then teammates share their opinions via comments. This way, designers, for example, can share various stages of a graphic, which can be tweaked based on the team’s suggestions.
If your business accepts submissions of any form, Submittable is a powerful tool for your team to rate and judge any work. This app can be personalized to work for various small businesses, too. HR departments can review resumes, cover letters and supplementary forms that candidates submit via the system. Small magazines can receive submissions of artwork, essays and more. The system can be customized and sorted by category, list and many other options.
Non-Tech Collaboration Tools
While this list mainly contains tech options for teamwork, don’t think your staff can only coordinate online. For successful ideation and problem solving, get your employees in the same space at the same time. Paper and pen aren’t always the most productive tools as the person taking notes may miss something or write it incorrectly. Plus, the note taker should be involved! Paint a conference room wall with dry-erase paint or purchase an oversized whiteboard to hang on the walls. Then, give your staff all the tools to use it to their advantage, such as tape, dry-erase markers and sticky notes!
If you sell a product that has peak sales times (think back-to-school or Black Friday), the quickest way to go from an order form to a happy customer is to work together in an assembly line. Give each employee a task for each phase. One employee can pull the inventory, another can package it, a third can wrap it, a fourth can box it and the fifth can prepare it with postage. If everyone works together, the task will take much less time than one or two employees doing the entire process on their own.
Regardless of how you approach collaboration, remember to let your employees know you have their best interests at heart. Ask them if there are any particular tools they’d like to try out, and give it a shot!