Business today is in a perpetual state of transformation and evolution, including the business of Human Resources. Collaboration technology is playing a major role in this evolution, these platforms are taking the people part of business to new levels. Are you ready to move up? In this show, host Shelly Kramer and her guest, Broadsuite Media Group’s Eric Vidal, talk about collaboration platforms and the ways technology transforming how HR pros attract, train, and engage employees.


Before delving into how collaboration platforms help transform HR departments, Shelly and Eric talk about how collaboration platforms have helped them in business at Broadsuite Media Group. The BMG team was recruited by the team at Cisco to test Spark, a powerful new collaboration platform that allows users to make calls, message, and video conference, hold meetings, and share files all within a central, virtual environment. During the show, Shelly and Eric share their insights and experiences as a result of their immersion in the Spark platform, and provide real-world examples of how collaboration technology enhances productivity, streamlines operations, better connects virtual teams, and more.

Shelly shares that after using Spark for a few weeks she began thinking about other industries that would benefit from these tools. Specifically, she considered the plethora of possibilities that Spark and other collaboration platforms like it present to Human Resource departments. For example, there are many different feelings and emotions when starting new job—feeling intimidated as you’re setting about learning new processes, feeling stress from managing a lot of new information, and even feeling impatient waiting for training on specific functions. Our hosts explain that this is where collaboration platforms like Spark save the day. These tools assist with interviewing, hiring, and many onboarding process functions that are time-consuming, but still have to get done when a company brings on a new employee. Other benefits of collaboration platforms covered in the show include the ability to connect new hires immediately to departments and individuals, as well as the ability of the company to connect their subject matter experts with their new hires to bring them to speed quickly about specific company functions, processes, or culture.

Shelly and Eric explore the role collaboration platforms can play in the interviewing process, enabling video interviews that can be recorded for later viewing, and which provide a much deeper connection to a prospective candidate than the tradition phone interview that many are accustomed to. The ability to go virtual gives companies a further reach—and allows them to appeal to a wider variety of potential new hires, especially Millennials, who are drawn to technology and innovation.

One other point of interest that Eric and Shelly touched on is the element of accountability that working within a collaboration platform affords. For instance, how many times have you been on a conference call and spaced out, checking email or text messages and getting distracted from the conversation? If we’re honest, most of us can see ourselves in that example from time to time. That changes completely when video conferencing is part of your communication mix. The face-to-face connection that collaboration technology platforms provide can help keep participants focused, on track, and quite likely exponentially more productive.

Watch this episode now, or read the transcript below. Don’t miss a single episode by subscribing to the podcast.


Shelly Kramer: Hi, this is Shelly Kramer. Welcome to this week’s episode of Future of Work Talk. This week we are going to cover the topic of Collaboration Platforms and the impact they can have on your HR Operations. Joining me today, to dive into this topic is my colleague and business partner Eric Vidal from Broadsuite Media Group. Eric, welcome.

Eric Vidal: Thank you Shelly.

Shelly Kramer: Always a pleasure to have you on the show.

Eric Vidal: Great to be here.

Shelly Kramer: So we are going to dive into collaboration platforms and how they can be used specific to an HR environment. We talk about transformation in general in the workplace a lot. And one of the things that is really enabling transformation is better collaboration. I know, Eric, you have been working the collaboration space for, well, you are so old you have been working in the collaboration space before it was even called collaboration. I don’t know.

Eric Vidal: Thank you Shelly. It’s been a while, but thank you.

Shelly Kramer: Anyway, what we wanted to talk about today is we have been working with a team at Cisco and their new collaboration platform called Spark. What this platform enables you to do is make calls, have video calls, have video conferences, video meetings, training, messaging, shared documents in files, create separate rooms where events or communication can happen so it’s really a robust platform. One of the disclaimers I always make when we are talking about it is that we have long been a Slack company, and have used Slack for collaboration internally for a long time now, and so for us to make a move away from Slack to an entirely different platform was a little bit like pulling people by their fingernails. We are a few weeks in now and have really had a great experience with the Cisco Spark platform so we want to talk about how we are learning the platform. We are thinking about our customers and prospects, many who are in the HR space, and some of the best ways that they could utilize a platform like this throughout the candidate hiring process: Such as interviewing, screening, internal meetings on potential hires, making hiring decisions—and then how you might be able to use a collaboration platform, and really whether its Spark or any other platform throughout the process. So Eric, do you want to talk about that a little bit?

Eric Vidal: Yeah, so when I jumped in and started using Spark it was mainly for meetings, team meetings, collaboration, and some marketing type of applications. It wasn’t until about a week into it when you and I started talking and starting figuring out what the possibilities are. You talked about even interviewing or management meetings. But what about creating training modules? You came up with that the other day and I loved it so now we are looking at leveraging their video meeting platform or component and just doing one two-minute or twenty-minute training module for all the different things we have to train our staff on. And that’s big because it’s quick and easy and you can organize it in the various spaces. So now if you want to IM someone and ask questions, great. There’s PDF’s and documents and PowerPoints and there’s also these how-to videos that are all organized around topics or around certain content. So already these applications are coming through and it’s impacting what we are doing over here.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely. We started thinking about that because we do training videos for members of our team all the time, and what we have to do in order to use that training is go to a different platform other than our internal collaboration platform, we record a video, we put it in DropBox so it is available. There are all these different steps on all these different platforms. So let’s step back and look at how you might use a collaboration platform like Spark for onboarding. You’ve got your new hire. They have started their first day and they are getting all of their email set up, their messaging set up, all that sort of thing. We all know those first couple of weeks are filled with lots of learning, lots of forms, lots of decisions you have to make, lots of questions that you need answered. So what you can do with a platform like Spark is you can create a room where all of this material lives and you can invite your new hires, whether it’s one person or a group of people, and here are all these different assets that they can use. You can also invite teams in. Say you have a group of five new hires and you have a group of three or four people who are mentoring them through the process so you include those people into that room. Your new hires have the ability to get to know one another, to get to talk to their mentors, to ask any questions. You might access a training video when you are in the first few weeks of work but then you might want to go back and refer to it later in the evening when you are home and not stressed. Let’s be honest, being a new employee in any organization is always a little stressful. So being able to access those kinds of things on demand is kind of a benefit to your team. And then when you go back even further a cool application of a collaboration platform in the hiring process is that Eric and I could be using Spark and we could be talking about a pool of five or six candidates that we are interested in and thinking about interviewing. In this collaboration platform Eric could pop in the résumé that he has of the people that he is interested in and I could add the résumé of the people that I am interested in and we could go through those together on video and screen share and talk about, oh look at this, or this is interesting. He’s in Phoenix and I’m in Kansas City so we can’t sit in the same room and drink coffee and do this but we can sit at our desks and drink coffee and go through these things. From a collaboration standpoint, whether your team is spread out throughout the enterprise, or spread out throughout a big HR Department, or spread out geographically like we are, it really can make a big difference.

Eric Vidal: Yeah, I think the other big difference is when we start to narrow down those candidates we can actually have video meetings instead of just a conference call, and then figure that out and set up the next appointment. But for a lot of companies that are interviewing people that are not in the same town or city, or in the same area so it just helps throughout the whole process. You know, one of the things when you are talking about these rooms for new hires, it’s great because you have all the things in a room, but you can also organize your rooms around certain topics for the company or certain departments. Let’s say the person is in Marketing but they are going to be working with Sales a lot or they are going to be working with HR and Training as well, so they can go into those various rooms and access that content as well. They can look at some of the IM’s and chats over the last few weeks and get brought up to speed. And the other thing here is this is solving so many problems from an informal learning perspective because informal learning is huge inside the enterprise. Most of the knowledge transfer from employee to employee or from the organization to an employee is informal. A platform like this just builds on that and helps facilitate that greatly. If you talk about these rooms, you can attach one or more subject matter experts to each room. So, if I am a new employee and I have some questions or want to learn a little more in depth about a topic there could be one or two or more subject matter experts attached to that room, somebody that has been with the organization for a few years or somebody that is a product expert or technical expert so that’s powerful. And that can be at someone’s fingertips quick and easy.

Shelly Kramer: Think about it from a culture standpoint as well. I honestly can’t think of anything worse, as exciting as it is to start a new job, but that first month is just so sucky. You don’t know anybody and you are trying to learn a new job and you are trying to make friends. It’s just hard. When you look back at that after you have been there for a while it seems like it went fast. Sometimes the bigger the organization the harder it is to assimilate. When you think about how a collaboration platform can help from a cultural standpoint you could set up teams and rooms that are specific to things like marathoning, cycling, CrossFit, softball, all the different kinds of things that people within your organization like to do. Maybe it’s non-profit or being involved in the community. And then you start thinking about the appeal of that to your millennial group. I’m a marathoner and when I start working for a new organization if there is a collaboration platform that allows me to instantly connect with other people within the organization who are maybe marathoners or triathletes, I have an instant group of people who like the same things that I like. So, I think it can break down those barriers to assimilation. I think that technology can help in many ways can help to break down the barriers to assimilation that exist, especially when you start looking at enterprise level organizations. And I think it can go a long way toward really enhancing your culture in some meaningful ways.

Eric Vidal: Yeah, great example Shelly. You and I had a conversation a few days ago, about all of the knowledge that you have gained over the years and trying to find an easy way to transfer that to the employees, not just new ones but employees in general. So, I am going to be hitting you up and we are going to be creating even more of these modules then we already have on the road map because I want more of you to be able to spread out and educate the staff. I am looking forward to that.

Shelly Kramer: Oh, as I am Eric. Our team is really focused on making sure that we are an agile organization. When it comes to how we structure the work that we do for our clients, there is never just one point person who is working on any piece of a client’s business. There are always multiple team members involved and everyone is always up to speed on what is happening for which client and at what stage we are in the process and what needs to be done. Part of that is as much for our clients protection as it is for our own protection. If there is ever an instance where somebody gets sick or gets married and goes on a month-long honeymoon or has to leave to take care of a child or a parent or something unexpected happens, all of our resources are shared across teams and are easy to access. We never have to worry about information just being locked inside somebody’s head or laptop and that is where a collaboration platform can really make a huge difference. It can be somewhat of an insurance policy as well as a way to keep your teams agile. I think that is a really important part of your business and day-to-day operations, whether your company is a small one like ours or a very big one.

Eric Vidal: I think the applications are limitless and these are just a few of the many that are possible. What about career fairs? As this platform grows and the amount of people it can support, you can actually have career fairs on a platform like this. A virtual career fair, there you go.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, I didn’t think about that but that is awesome. You know, the thing about a collaboration platform, especially one that features video front and center, is that having a conference call with somebody is one thing, having an email exchange or text message exchange is another thing. But being able to look eye to eye does so many different things. It shows you how somebody performs, how they are at sharing their thoughts and ideas. Are they nervous? Are they fidgety? Are they able to string together a coherent thought or sentence? These are things that are all important to know. I think they are an important part of the hiring process and an important part of the learning process. We talked about this the other day, the other thing about video is that it keeps you accountable. I can’t be involved in this video exchange with you and be checking my email without you knowing it. It forces people to not check out of a situation, or to not be distracted and again to comport themselves in a way that is professional. I think it goes a long way toward really enhancing internal communications.

Eric Vidal: Those are good points. I agree.

Shelly Kramer: I like it when you agree with me Eric. Well you know, I think that we have talked a lot and hopefully have given you an overview of Cisco Spark platform. It’s certainly not the only collaboration platform out there. We are going to see this space explode in the coming months because I think that this is something all of the major organizations, well, it’s a given that collaboration is an important part of business operations. These tools are going to be table stakes moving forward. There are a lot of players in this space and we are going to see a lot of great functionality in this space. Microsoft is out there with its Microsoft Teams. There are also Skype meetings which we’ve used. We are using Skype now. So Microsoft is in the space and Cisco is in the space and I think Adobe is in the space so you are going to see lots and lots of choices when it comes to these kind of collaboration platforms so I think really the challenge for any of these vendors is really just to have a product that is easy to use, intuitive, and that really delivers clear benefits to the users. Whether we are talking about HR applications which we covered in this show or other collaboration applications within your company, hopefully we have given you some things to think about because it is definitely worth your time exploring.

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