Businesses continue to adopt collaboration technology to improve communication and productivity, but most aren’t unlocking its full potential.

In the U.K., a fifth of organizations are using some form of collaboration tech, but only 9 percent of employees in those businesses are actively using the tools to their fullest capabilities. Executives at those companies believe a lack of understanding of the tools and a lack of training are the biggest reasons employees may be failing to jump on board.

This lack of adoption is a problem, especially since “increasing employee productivity” ranks among the top three challenges for small and midsize business (SMB) leaders, according to a 2017 survey conducted by Gartner1.

Organizations that purchase collaboration software to improve productivity are setting themselves up for implementation failure, unless they commit to developing a deeper understanding of their tool’s features and communicating best practices to their entire organization.

Here, we’re exploring the five hidden features in collaboration tools that you may not be using, but that could be the key to providing a direct boost to employee productivity among your remote team members.

1. Indexing reduces search time and frustration

Though collaboration software typically offers file management and file sharing, some tools, such as Slack, offer indexing functions. This capability ensures that everything including messages, files, and notifications are indexed and searchable.

You can quickly search for and recall relevant documents without leaving the platform, and also share them with other users. Indexing makes knowledge management and document management easier. The entire team can access documents stored in a centralized location to stay informed and updated.

Why you should be using this feature

  • Helps avoid data loss disasters: Avoid disasters that arise when an important message, file, or document goes missing. A centralized database with indexed, searchable, and retrievable files means you never lose important information.
  • Enhances employee knowledge base: Indexed documents arm employees with ready access to knowledge and information. All discussions and documents are archived and indexed. For example, a customer service manager may wish to reference a customer’s interaction history. With indexing functions, they can perform one search to retrieve all relevant, archived documents and quickly understand previous issues and conversations the customer has had with the company.
  • Aids new employee onboarding: It’s always a challenge to onboard a new employee and maintain productivity while getting them up to speed. However, businesses can leverage indexing capabilities and make it easy for new team members to learn with a certain amount of independence by tagging and indexing onboarding documents. Individual departments can do the same with process documents, best practice guides, etc.

Indexing in Slack helps you quickly search for documents, conversations, and files related to any topic

Indexing in Slack helps you quickly search for documents, conversations, and files related to any topic
(Source: slack.com)

2. Surveys for gathering internal feedback improve the final product

Online survey functionality in collaboration tools help gather and save feedback from many respondents in one place, without the need for a third-party survey app. Built-in survey capabilities in collaboration software help businesses gather insights and internal team feedback on anything from projects in the early stages to the final product before launch, or even on the effectiveness of business processes.

One tool that offers built-in online survey functionality is Samepage, a project management and collaboration
tool. Samepage’s online survey feature lets users add a survey to any page to get opinions or take a vote on creative assets, strategic moves, projects, ideas, and more. These surveys are not just limited to internal use; they can be used to gather feedback from vendors, partners and customers as well.

Why you should be using this feature

  • Offers opportunities for individual recognition: Collecting feedback from the team on ongoing tasks and submissions offers more opportunities to recognize individual contributions. This directly boosts individual morale and contributes to the overall productivity of the workforce.
  • Quickly gathers information from a large group: With online surveys, it’s easier to collect information from employees company-wide or even from a group of freelancers. For instance, send a survey to quickly find out who possesses a specific skill or specialization, along with their availability for a new project.
  • Provides improvement plan for final product: Quickly gather consolidated and quantifiable responses on a particular task or submission. The consensus and insights can be used to improve upon the final product before it launches.
  • Promotes teamwork and buy-in from employees: Teams can use online surveys to have employees rate projects and ideas. This can create a greater sense of ownership among individual employees than a more traditional scenario, where only certain stakeholders have a say on approvals or the value of an idea or product.

Creating a survey in Samepage

Creating a survey in Samepage (Source: samepage.io)

3. ‘Seen’ feature reduces follow-up time and improves project management

“Seen” or receipt features let users know that an action has been acknowledged or a task has been received and accepted. When there are several stakeholders in a project, it’s time-consuming to keep following up on the status of a task. This is where a “seen” feature comes in handy. The project manager will know when a document or attachment has been seen, received, or is commented upon without spending time on manual follow-ups.

Collaborative project management tool, Taskworld, comes with a feature called “seen by” that lets the assignor know whether or not the assigned task or subtask has been viewed by assignees. This ensures that nothing falls through the cracks and that deadlines are not missed as the result of a team member not receiving the task on time or not understanding delivery dates and/or expectations.

Why you should be using this feature

  • Saves time in follow-up: The “seen” feature reduces time spent in following up and back-and-forth email threads that can get lost or overly long, making it easier to meet deadlines.
  • Fosters an increased sense of ownership and accountability: This feature replaces direct follow-ups, while instilling a sense of ownership and accountability in team members. The owner of the task feels responsible for following through without needing to be tracked down or reminded of deadlines.

Visual task boards in Taskworld

Visual task boards in Taskworld (Source: getapp.com)

4. Badges to recognize performance increase engagement

Awards and recognition are an integral part of keeping your team motivated to elevate performance. Collaboration software comes with various features that help peers recognize each other for a job well done. For instance, the “like” option in Asana lets users tell others members who add a comment or other content that they approve.

Bitrix 24 adds a bit more depth to this feature with a tool called Badges. Badges can be used by supervisors and management to recognize employees. They show up in the activity stream and also in the user’s profile.

Why you should be using this feature

  • Increased satisfaction among employees: It is not always possible to give monetary awards for high performance. As a way of constant encouragement, badges help to call attention to hard-working team members through instant recognition.
  • Drives individual and team performance: Badges let managers incorporate gamification into projects and tasks to drive individual as well as team performance and increase productivity.

Badges in Bitrix24

Badges in Bitrix24 (Source: bitrix24.com)

5. Project chat saves time and keeps everyone updated

Almost all collaboration software offers a chat feature to facilitate team communication through direct messaging, team channels, group chat, and video chats.

Project chat—also referred to as page chat, content chat, or threaded chat—is a chat function that lets users start a conversation from within a task’s or a project’s activity page. It allows users to avoid having to search through long conversation threads to find relevant interactions about one project or task.

Collaboration platform Samepage offers a page chat feature that lets users connect with co-workers without leaving the page, by either typing into the page’s chat window or commenting directly on one element of the content. The conversation remains tied to the content so any team member can view the collaboration history of a specific project, asset, or task to understand the history and context.

Why you should be using this feature

  • Increased responsiveness: This feature boosts responsiveness, since users can see when and where
    they are needed and respond promptly. This saves time and improves collaboration and coordination.
  • Focuses on one task for easy tracking: Because the chat conversation is attached to specific content, it is easy to track, as opposed to the long conversation threads and channels that are ongoing and could cover many different aspects of a project.

Page Chat function in Samepage

Page Chat function in Samepage (Source: samepage.io)

3 ways to encourage full adoption of collaboration tools

Here are three methods you can employ as you work toward achieving complete adoption of your collaboration software:

3 ways to encourage full adoption of collaboration tools

Additional resources for making the most of your collaboration tool

If you’re planning to invest in a new collaboration tool, or if you just want to understand the hidden features in your existing collaboration software better, we offer resources that can help. Here’s some further reading to check out:


1Information on Gartner’s Top Technology Trends for SMBs Survey Gartner conducted this survey in April and May 2017 among 699 U.S.-based small and midsize businesses (SMBs) that have more than 10 employees and an annual revenue of less than $100 million. The survey excluded nonprofit organizations. The qualified respondents are decision-makers or have significant influence on the decisions related to purchasing technologies for their organization.