The evolution of the modern workforce is driven by necessity (fast-paced, global competition and change) and opportunity (enabling technologies). Today’s workplace features fluid, cross-functional teams and globally dispersed and mobile employees. As a result, the ability to collaborate virtually is vital for businesses to succeed. In an effort to more fully understand how businesses are approaching and engaging staff and customer collaboration, LogMeIn and Ovum recently conducted research with business leaders about the value of business meetings.

Here’s what we learned.

92% of UK employees admit that the number of meetings they attend is rising, with 70% of those meetings perceived as having little or no value. In the UK, among the key findings were that virtual meetings – where one or more participants attend via teleconferencing and/or web conferencing – now account for almost a third of all meetings. This statistic speaks volumes about the realities of today’s mobile, connected and consumerised workplace.

In addition, more than 25% of all meetings are now ad hoc; impromptu meetings that are neither pre-scheduled nor formal in nature. This trend is especially acute with one-on-one meetings, with 38% of internal meetings and 26% of external meetings reported as impromptu and unscheduled. A staggering five and a half full days are wasted every year by employees just waiting for late meetings to start.

Armed with the stats, how can businesses improve their collaboration to drive business results?

In a recent report by Forbes, it was identified that leading companies recognise that effective collaboration inextricably drives value creation. Improved collaboration helps inform decision making and improves business processes. Jaclyn Kostner, consultant in virtual meeting management and the founder and CEO of Bridge the Distance, reveals that collaboration requires three crucial elements. These include:

1. Choosing The Right Tools

As Kostner explains, virtual tools can supercharge collaborative effectiveness. However, companies need to choose the right tools, ones that are intuitive, easy to use and effective. Which means, says Kostner, “they need to do what they’re supposed to.” The Ovum study found that 66% of businesses are looking for new web collaboration tools. Of these 66% the number one reason they are looking to switch is a better user experience. Meanwhile, 35% of executives say they are using additional collaborative solutions beyond those mandated or provided by their companies.

2. Enabling The Right Devices

The Ovum survey also reveals that 80% of meeting participants bring their own devices to each meeting. Indeed, the more senior the executive, the more device-laden they are. Overall, these survey findings indicate that virtual collaboration tools are becoming important even in face-to-face meetings. This also points to the need for tools that are easy to implement and easy to use. Collaboration tools must be able to work seamlessly with a wide array of devices. Simplicity is key, explains Kostner, because “you shouldn’t feel the need to call the IT department every time you want to organise a meeting.”

3. Providing Appropriate Training

Companies need to do more than merely implement new meeting capabilities. If they are to harness the value of new tools, team members also need training.

“Executives need to learn not only how to ‘push the buttons’ on their toolset, but also how to engage a virtual workforce; how to give people a sense they are valued and engaged in every meeting and on every call.” A survey often cited by Kostner shows that “only 16% of people have received training to prepare them to work effectively in a virtual setting.” Even in cases where training is provided, the question is whether the focus is purely technical or if it is designed to really improve virtual meeting effectiveness. In general, says Kostner, “there’s a lot to learn to get the most from these tools.”

Ultimately, complexity is on the rise and the need to manage this complexity drives the value of collaboration. If properly deployed, today’s technologies deliver exponential improvements in the ability to collaborate.

Collaborating effectively results in enormous competitive advantage. Companies need to promote cultures that value collaboration. In addition, they need to equip their teams with tools to enable closer collaboration between key business functions. For staff to find these tools valuable, and for businesses to reap their benefits, they need to be simple to use and easy to implement. Bottom line; choose the right tools, enable the right devices and provide appropriate training.