Learning & Development, Technology

Don’t Forget the Chat Feature on Videoconferencing Tools

Teams engaged in external calls with customers, vendors, business partners, or others should leverage the built-in chat features present in most videoconferencing tools to help recreate some of the in-person conversation from the pre-COVID days.

Sidebar Conversations in a COVID World

While many are enjoying the freedom and flexibility that come with working remotely, when it comes to collaboration, there are certainly drawbacks. Consider, for example, an internal team working on a deal to purchase an important software application from a vendor. Pre-COVID, the sales, finance, legal, and IT teams might have quick offline chats while muting the phone—an easy way to make sure everyone is on the same page without divulging internal strategy or potential internal divisions to the external team.

Now, with so much of the workforce remote, these sidebars are far more difficult. If all internal team members are dialing in separately from home offices, they no longer have the advantage of a united front on one end of the phone line. Instead, they’re fragmented and have the same level of transparency with internal colleagues as external team members.

Where Private Chat Can Come into Play

While not a perfect substitute for being in the same conference room as colleagues, leveraging a videoconference tool’s chat feature can help reestablish some of that in-room collaboration. Rather than throwing a potentially unprepared colleague under the bus by volunteering him or her to answer an external question or provide more detail, a coworker can quickly ping the person on the chat feature to make sure he or she is prepared to answer.

Similarly, group members can confirm whether the company decision is to accept a proposal from the other side, reject it, or make a counteroffer, all without having to engage in internal negotiations in front of the external group.

Despite increasingly advanced technology, it’s hard to replicate an internal team’s in-person dynamic when talking over the phone with an external team. Nevertheless, leveraging built-in chat features can help reestablish some of those internal sidebars that have been made more difficult in the age of remote work.

Lin Grensing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.