Companies will always need to work with external teams, whether that is clients, partner companies, external advisers, regulators, agencies or freelancers. Typically this means emails pinging drafts back and forth, losing track of current document versions and changes. Instead, set up secure sites in your collaboration platform where you can work with external parties. Add people to the site using their email address and remove them when the project has finished.
When you’re encouraging external collaborators to work within your collaboration platform, you’re effectively training them to work in a whole new way (and only for the purposes of working with you). This can be particularly difficult as they’re not changing their entire working habits, which can in fact be easier than remembering to work in one particular way at one time and revert to usual working habits the rest of the time.
However, this can be an opportunity for you to sow the seeds of collaborative working for people outside your organisation. So how can you encourage your external collaborators to sign on to using your collaboration platform? Here are a few key steps you should take:
1. Be upfront
Be clear from the outset that this is the way your organisation works and you would like your external collaborators to do the same. Explain the reasons why you do things in this way, from increasing efficiency and flexibility to making communication easier, and your collaborators should be open to taking part.
2. Train new users
Provide training opportunities for all new users to the system so that they understand both the technicalities of the platform and the benefits of the system, such as how it can help them to streamline their work and communications. Take away any concerns they may have about working with a new platform by focusing the training to the parts of the platform they need to use. Don’t overwhelm them with instructions about parts of the system they won’t ever visit.
3. Give them a handbook
Create a quick how-to guide or FAQs that they can refer to if they get stuck. This reduces embarrassment and frustration for new users on having to ask how to do something. Make it as easy as possible to work collaboratively, instil confidence and comfort in new users, and they will be more likely to use the system.
4. Commit fully
Only communicate with your external collaborators in the platform and make sure your whole team does too. New users will quickly understand this method of working if they see others doing it, and will feel comfortable interacting in this unfamiliar format.
5. Involve them
Make sure that you and your team acknowledge the tentative steps your external collaborators make into using your collaboration platform. This reassures them that they’re doing it right and will encourage them to keep going. Give them feedback if there’s anything they could be doing in a different or more easy way.