Team Bonding. Another major issue while working from home is the lack of team bonding. Employees don’t meet each other; they hardly communicate with each other. Team bonding is integral for better team atmosphere. We set virtual meetings and games at the end of the month so that the whole team can bond and it also breaks the routine.
We are living in a new world in which offices are becoming obsolete. How can teams effectively communicate if they are never together? Zoom and Slack are excellent tools, but they don’t replicate all the advantages of being together. What strategies, tools and techniques work to be a highly effective communicator, even if you are not in the same space?
In this interview series, we are interviewing business leaders who share the strategies, tools and techniques they use to effectively and efficiently communicate with their team who may be spread out across the world. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kamal Thakur, CEO of Cerebrum Infotech, a software product-based company known for providing innovative and scalable solutions. Kamal is responsible for planning marketing strategies, building the brand, and interacting with stakeholders to provide them with the best solutions. Kamal is passionate about the whole mobile app development process and is a pillar of support for the company.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I started a decade ago; I always had a passion for building mobile applications and have always been a keen observer and ready to take on new challenges. I believe in questioning the existing work methodologies and come with something fresh. I have built Cerebrum Infotech from the start, and I am proud to say that my team always amuses me with its creative ideas.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I resigned & left my job after working for 4 years as I was stuck in the same routine and wanted to try something new. So I started exploring other companies, I got good offers from some prestigious companies but still somehow I was not fully convinced. Then one day I spoke openly to my CEO a week after being relieved from the job and expressed the reason for quitting. He offered me a similar platform to do what I wanted to do without any restrictions & commitments. And I interviewed around 100 freshers out of which I picked 12. After that every year I have a new challenge and never felt stagnated or bored working at the same place. It’s been years now and counting.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite life-lesson quote is “If there’s a thing I’ve learned in my life it’s to not be afraid of the responsibility that comes with caring for other people.” I care for my employees; I don’t treat them as productivity machines. We are humans and we need to connect with each other. I don’t believe in being rigid. I have an open office and employees can directly contact me in case they wish to share their views or concerns. I am not saying that you need to be friends with everyone you meet, but you don’t need to be all bureaucratic either; listen to their problems and provide them with practical solutions. Flexibility is the key to keeping your employees happy and productive.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I would like to thank Mr. RP Singh, CEO of Seasia Infotech. I learned so many things about business from him. He is always full of energy and ready to face the unique challenges of business every day. He is like one of those people whom we meet and understand how they do things and how they make a difference with their ideas. Observing and interacting with him really helped me to shape my career.
Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course, is how we work and how we communicate in our work. Many teams have started working remotely. Working remotely can be very different than working with a team that is in front of you. This provides great opportunity but it can also create unique challenges.To begin, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main benefits of having a team physically together?
The main benefit of having a team physically together is that you can connect face to face. You can see the body language and face expressions of people and know whether they are enjoying their work or are stressed. Also, comprehensive communication is another great benefit of working in an office. Brainstorming meetings where we write everything on a whiteboard, new ideas and participation of the whole team are some of the advantages of having a physical team.
On the flip side, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main challenges that arise when a team is not in the same space?
Well, having steady communication is one of the challenges that every business faces while working remotely. Role confusion is yet another problem that we see in remote work. In the workplace, a team is created to achieve certain goals, but in remote work it becomes an issue when goals are not presented clearly by the manager. It hampers the productivity of the team. Also, in remote work, managers find it hard to involve in every aspect of the work to ensure the team is fulfilling duties assigned to them.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges? What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Communicate With Your Team Effectively Even If You Are Rarely In The Same Physical Space ? (Please share a story or example for each.)
The first and foremost thing is effective communication. Use a tool to make it easy to communicate even when we are not in the same physical space. To make things easy, we ask every team member to choose a time slot to connect. This way, they are in control, and happy to connect.
It is important to ask your team for regular work updates. Don’t micromanage them, but it is important you ask them what they are doing or assign them work and at the end of the day whether they are able to complete the assigned tasks. It helps to build accountability and employees can focus on their work.
You might think that employees are working from their homes, they are comfortable. But, don’t forget they might get overwhelmed. The same routine can make them feel demotivated. Talk to your employees about how they are feeling; give them a dose of motivation and encourage them to share their work-related concerns and problems.
Another major issue while working from home is the lack of team bonding. Employees don’t meet each other; they hardly communicate with each other. Team bonding is integral for better team atmosphere. We set virtual meetings and games at the end of the month so that the whole team can bond and it also breaks the routine.
Don’t turn your camera off; encourage your team to keep their cameras on during the meeting. You can see their expressions and body language and it gives a sense that we are in the same space. It makes your team feel more connected.
Has your company experienced communication challenges with your workforce working from home during the pandemic? For example, does your company allow employees to use their own cell phones or do they use the company’s phone lines for work? Can you share any other issues that came up?
Initially, it was challenging to manage the team while working remotely. After a while, we all got a hang of it and things went smoothly. We allowed employees to use their own phones.
Let’s zoom in a bit. Many tools have been developed to help teams coordinate and communicate with each other. In your personal experiences which tools have been most effective in helping to replicate the benefits of being together in the same space?
We have been using Cerebrum Infotech’s iCMS. It’s a great tool to keep in touch with the team members and has options of audio, video, and text. Besides there is an option to share media- photos and videos, which help employees to stay in touch with each other and gives a feeling of still being connected while working remotely.
If you could design the perfect communication feature or system to help your business, what would it be?
We have designed iCMS. It not only helps in connecting with all my employees, but it is also a great conference management tool as well. It is a multifaceted tool; its various features have helped our business immensely.
My particular expertise and interest is in Unified Communications. Has the pandemic changed the need or appeal for unified communications technology requirements? Can you explain?
It is because of Unified communications that we are able to work remotely in the pandemic. Unified communications have made it possible to work with global clients without any problem.
The technology is rapidly evolving and new tools like VR, AR, and Mixed Reality are being developed to help bring remote teams together in a shared virtual space. Is there any technology coming down the pipeline that excites you?
We have been utilizing the power of Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, IoT, and Data Analytics to provide our clients with next-gen products. A mixture of all these technologies can help businesses provide cutting-edge and top-notch products.
Is there a part of this future vision that concerns you? Can you explain?
It’s both exciting and concerning. My biggest concern is that while technology brings people together, it takes them far from each other. While eating out, I have observed that people are busy on their phones, and they miss out on real human interaction.
So far we have discussed communication within a team. How has the pandemic changed the way you interact and engage your customers? How much of your interactions have moved to digital such as chatbots, messaging apps, phone, or video calls?
Now there are no physical client meetings. For any meeting, a video call is more than enough. Earlier as well, we connected with our clients through audio and video calls, and instant messaging. In the pandemic, we were able to hire more talent, and acquire clients.
In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of working with a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote team member?
That’s right! That’s why I avoid giving feedback on emails. I prefer to video call my employees while giving feedback. From my tone and facial expressions they can make out that I am not irritated, I am just being honest with them so that they can rectify their mistakes. I always point out some positive points of my team members while giving feedback so that they don’t get demotivated. Another thing I would like to suggest is to never be too harsh. Constructive criticism can help your team improve, but don’t micromanage them.
Can you give any specific ideas about how to create a sense of camaraderie and team cohesion when you are not physically together?
Team Building is essential. It is difficult for team members to stay in touch when they are not physically together. Employees are not sitting together in the lunch break; they hardly get time to greet each other if they are not working on the same project. To tackle these problems, we always have some fun activities every Friday. We play online games together and have fun sessions of cracking jokes and sharing everyday stuff. It helps team members to bond and saves them from burnout.
Ok wonderful. We are nearly done. Here is our last “meaty” question. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I want to break the notion that exhausting your employees to the breaking point is cool. Putting in extra hours isn’t directly proportional to productivity. If work can be done in 8 hours and you are taking 12 hours to complete the same work; it doesn’t mean you are a more efficient employee. I respect that employees have lives outside the work and I give them enough time to rejuvenate and come to work with a positive attitude. I believe it is important to be transparent with your employees.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can get in touch with me on LinkedIn
You can check our website for software products and other regular updates
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Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.