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The “Invisible Influencer” In Hybrid Meetings: New Research Uncovers The Secret To Productive Employee Communication & Collaboration

Global Study Shows that Financially Thriving Businesses Around the World Have Invested in Audio Technology


Shure, a leading manufacturer of audio solutions known for quality, performance, and durability, commissioned premier global market research firm, IDC, to conduct a global study on the challenges facing organizations in the new age of hybrid work*. Analyzing attitudes from over 600 interviews across the U.S., China, Japan, the U.K., France, and Germany, the research assesses what is standing in the way of successful hybrid working environments.

Truly effective hybrid working environments are few and far between. The research uncovered how organizations can better position themselves to handle modern day working environments and optimize day-to-day communication, company culture, employee and client experiences, and team satisfaction. 

Globally, organizations understand that hybrid work is here to stay, but realize that many current set-ups are not effective; 94% of respondents expect hybrid meetings to remain a pillar of work, yet more than 50% are pushing for a full return to office to improve corporate identity and collaboration. Organizations want to improve collaboration and believe a full return to office is the solution; IDC research says otherwise and indicates that a return to office is not the only answer. Data shows that businesses are overlooking key opportunities to improve the employee experience regardless of location, and that an investment in high quality audio results in more collaborative and flexible ways of working. 

“Hybrid meeting environments became the new normal in recent years, and it’s apparent that they’re here to stay, but organizations still are not equipped with the tools needed for effective communication—even though many have tried. As a result, employees are left discouraged and disengaged, creating a cycle of frustration. It’s critical that from the very top of the organization and down, employees are using the right technology that enables them to communicate the right way,” said Robin Hamerlinck, Chief Information Officer at Shure. 

Hamerlinck continues, “Sourcing the correct audio equipment is the first step, and a step that puts all employees on the same playing field, so that meeting equity is achieved. As a leader in audio conferencing and communication, we commissioned IDC to address these audio challenges and prove that it is possible for both employers and employees to thrive in hybrid environments.”

Hybrid Is Here To Stay, So Why Are We Still Struggling? We’ve Ignored The “Invisible Influencer” 

Many hybrid meetings have challenges. At the executive level, this reality can trigger a demand for a complete return to office to enable effective collaboration. This is where the great mismatch lies. According to the IDC InfoBrief, a full return to office, or a fully remote workforce, fails to capture the value that can be realized with hybrid work, which can enable effective communication with colleagues globally. But hybrid technology must work repeatedly.

When a hybrid system repeatedly fails to work, employees are left frustrated. When asked about the main challenges of hybrid work, respondents highlight:

  1. Poor communication and collaboration abilities 
  2. Distracted employees and low attention levels 
  3. Technology shortfalls that impact collaboration 

While audio quality is not the only concern raised when specifying solutions for a hybrid environment, audio quality has an impact on both individual and group productivity. Research by Eryn J. Newman and Norbert Schwarz, found poor audio quality causes listeners to perceive the speaker as less trustworthy, less intelligent, and less likeable. In addition, the content being presented is seen to be less important**. Scientific research underscores that high audio quality leads to increased trustworthiness and suggests that the person with the best audio quality will probably be considered the meeting’s best contributor if others have not optimized their equipment.

Additionally, companies at a higher hybrid maturity level are more likely to have invested in better audio quality equipment, resulting in an enhanced hybrid working experience:

  • Of organizations who are thriving financially, 72% use professional audio equipment 
  • Of those who see stable economic performance, 63% are using professional audio equipment

As organizations continue to seek a competitive edge, having the right technology equipment and solutions in place will continue to gain significance. 

Identifying, Accepting and Breaking the Circle of Frustration 

When employees are unable to effectively communicate and collaborate, frustration arises. This can lead to poor performance within an organization, with employees unable to do their best work. 

The cycle of frustration can emerge when organizations mandate a full return to office under the assumption that this will result in a quick fix, improving company culture and overcoming communication challenges. However, on any given day, some employees are still operating remotely. This sparks the need to implement off-the-shelf audio conference technology – often in a rush, without much research. This results in “good enough” equipment, that doesn’t hit the root of the issue: employees are unable to effectively communicate.

The right technology serves to optimize the work experience, and organizations that can identify and break the cycle of frustration can improve overall morale and satisfaction. Marginal gains of quality audio influence organizational reputation. Organizations that invest in audio can see a significant impact from the first meeting to the last:

  • Team Motivation: 94% of respondents believe that technology investments can help recreate the natural flow of face-to-face meetings, contributing to team motivation 
  • Productivity: 90% of respondents say it enables and encourages meeting equity to help achieve more productive and meaningful work
  • Employee Retention: 90% of staff see it as an investment in their future at the company 
  • Organization Image: 90% of respondents say it impacts the way staff and clients feel about an organization 
  • Employee Well-Being and Happiness: 73% of respondents say it makes them feel valued, appreciated, and more capable 
  • Heightened Agility and Decision-Making: 49% of respondents say it improves decision making 

The Price Was Right, Now It’s Wrong: Audio Equipment Choices Must Center on Quality 

Once organizations identify and accept the cycle of frustration, purchase decisions and technology implementation become critical. When hybrid and remote work environments took hold of the world, organizations pursued quick fix purchases that failed to include key stakeholders in the decision-making process.

The result of poor, uninformed decision-making is inadequate audio solutions that do not work for the benefit of employees. These solutions now must be replaced with technology that enables productive work environments. 

  • When asked what the most important factor is when it comes to audio equipment decision-making, 61% of respondents in a planning role said price; audio quality was a close second at 59%, showcasing the two critical components that must be evaluated when determining what technology is right for an organization

When procuring professional audio equipment, 65% of respondents said price was the most important factor for organizations planning to use audio and 52% said audio quality mattered most. However, for organizations who are already using professional audio equipment, the number one priority shifts to audio quality – 64% of respondents said audio quality is the most important factor whereas 58% of respondents said price

For organizations to meet the requirements of superior audio, decisions need to be made by those people within the company who will use it on a regular basis and fully understand the benefits of professional audio equipment.

“Organizations were pushed to make rapid decisions around hybrid work when it emerged. Those weren’t always decisions that worked in the best interest of employees and overall business success. Today, we see that the hybrid work environment is here to stay,” said Mick Heys, Vice President Future of Workspaces and Imaging at IDC. “During our research, we discovered that 50% of organizations say that poor audio quality leads to reduced decision-making ability. Think about how long you spend in meetings, how long you spend in conference calls. So, if you can improve audio in every single one, that is the gift that keeps on giving.”

Around the World, Organizations Feel the Impact of Audio

The research takes a global perspective, uncovering insights from the U.S., China, Japan, the U.K., France, and Germany. Across countries, adoption of hybrid working environments range from low to high success rates. 

  • U.S. is ahead of the curve when it comes to most aspects of mixed mode meetings – hybrid is here to stay. Investment in high-quality meeting room audio equipment has so far been a backbone for many successful hybrid work models in the U.S. Organizations should double down and continue to invest in best-of-breed technology to stay ahead of the game. (1)
  • U.K. organizations show a higher adoption rate of truly hybrid work models than other European countries. A focus on audio quality has enabled U.K. organizations to help organizations build internal knowledge when procuring audio equipment. Collaboration and communication challenges, however, call for continued focus on best-of-breed meeting room audio equipment and building internal knowledge. (1)
  • France is the most conservative when it comes to adopting truly hybrid models, compared to all other analyzed countries. French organizations should revisit their approach to hybrid meetings to understand shortfalls. They can then look to enhance them with best-in-class audio technology and best-in-class experiences. (1)
  • Germany shows lower true hybrid model adoption compared to the U.K. and U.S., placing a moderate importance on hybrid meetings. The need to achieve faster decision making is pushing German organizations to mandate more time in the office. Organizations should take steps to enable the seamless transition between home and office work. (1)
  • China reveals hybrid meetings are less critical to Chinese organizations as users continue their swift return to onsite office locations. Hybrid meetings continue to be relevant for company-wide internal meetings. However, Chinese organizations using small and medium-sized meeting rooms are missing out on the marginal gains resulting from enhanced audio quality. (2)
  • Japan unveils a lower adoption of hybrid work with many organizations returning onsite to work throughout 2023. Japanese organizations show commitment to regain corporate identity, enhance collaboration and team motivation. Best-in-class meeting room audio technology can help achieve these goals. (3) 

Regardless of location, research shows that not investing in audio is just as consequential to the organization in terms of a slow erosion of critical functions and capabilities. By investing in audio, organizations will see more collaborative and flexible ways of working, as well as greater engagement from remote and hybrid employees, customers, and partners.

To discover additional insights and learn more on how to resolve key challenges of hybrid working, download the IDC InfoBrief sponsored by Shure here

*IDC InfoBrief, sponsored by Shure, The Hidden Influencer: Rethinking Audio Could Impact Your Organization Today, Tomorrow, and Forever, doc #EUR150735523, July 2023

**Good Sound, Good Research: How Audio Quality Influences Perceptions of the Research and Researcher, Science Communication Volume 40, Issue 2

1IDC InfoBrief, sponsored by Shure, United States Country Chapter, doc #EUR151055123, July 2023

2IDC InfoBrief, sponsored by Shure, China Country Chapter, doc #EUR151065823, July 2023

3IDC InfoBrief, sponsored by Shure, Japan Country Chapter, doc #EUR151123323, July 2023

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