When global business leaders from Virgin’s Richard Branson to Apple’s Steve Jobs say collaboration is at the heart of their success, then you know it is more than just today’s buzzword.
They are in good company. PwC’s annual ‘CEO Survey’ reports that 86 per cent of global business leaders now view collaboration as a very important skill.
Whether it concerns attracting the best talent, engaging and retaining staff or transforming productivity, working collaboratively is the glue that holds together any successful business. We no longer operate in hierarchical structures, where skills and workers are kept in silos, out of sight of the rest of the business.
People want to work together in an open environment. They can see how much easier it makes their job when best practice is shared by another department, so why would they want to revert to more outdated, less efficient processes?
It seems like a no-brainer. Yet it is very easy to make a statement about changing the way an organisation operates and significantly more difficult to make that change a reality.
Faced with the challenges of managing a multi-generational workforce, the evolution of technology and a shifting labour market, effecting change throughout an organisation is not easy. So, what are the key questions that business leaders need to ask themselves if they are to make working collaboratively a reality across their organisations?
1. Are your employees engaged?
There are several factors to consider before making your collaboration vision a reality. The first concerns employee engagement. At our recent European Conference, we were reminded of the importance of this issue by Wayne Clarke, founder of the Global Growth Institute.
Recounting an example from a business he had recently worked with, Wayne spoke of the difficulty in effectively relaying a strategic vision to your workforce if they are unhappy with the basics, such as wearing a comfortable uniform. If simple problems like this are not resolved, then it is highly unlikely that the workforce will pay any attention to a collaboration initiative being rolled out from the head office.
It is vital that employees understand that digitisation across the organisation is a huge opportunity for them rather than a threat.
But how can you truly keep your finger on the pulse of employee engagement? Rather than relying on manual feedback methods, which provide an annual snapshot of engagement levels, businesses can now use HR software to see how motivated employees are on a daily basis.
This insight and constant dialogue between the company and its people is essential to enable the HR team to adapt its policies accordingly if it is to help staff and the organisation reach their potential. Without this, organisations will end up wasting a huge amount of time and money chasing a vision that will never be fulfilled.
2. Does your workforce possess the skills to make collaboration a reality?
As well as assessing levels of staff motivation and engagement, the nature and skills of the workforce need to be fully appreciated. Working collaboratively means different things to different people, so it is never as easy as replicating an approach from one workforce to another.
For example, a manufacturing company will consist of a completely different set of workers with different skills to a big marketing agency. With this in mind, it is critical that the HR team agrees on an approach to introducing collaboration that is clearly communicated to employees.
If you don’t know your employees and can’t articulate what collaboration means to them in their daily work, you are unlikely to earn their commitment or make a success of the project. The latest software is critical to allowing HR teams to measure and assess whether the collaboration goals that they set are clear for employees and, importantly, how successfully objectives are being met.
3. What will work best for my team?
The final key consideration you will need to address relates to the tools you choose to enable your collaborative approach. When you are faced with so much choice in terms of the collaborative chat apps that are on the market and the latest technological tools, it is essential that you find the solution that will work for your business.
A great way of doing this is to get your employees involved in the decision-making process at an early stage. Open sessions where your team can come and trial the new technology before it is implemented are so important.
Collaboration is the future for the way we work, both as people and as the businesses that we are part of.
It is vital that employees understand that digitisation across the organisation is a huge opportunity for them rather than a threat, so this should be at the front and centre of your message.
Not only will you learn whether a particular tool suits your workforce practically, this approach also gives you the opportunity to convey exactly how it will improve employees’ working lives, making it clear how the work people do day to day ties into the business’ overall strategy. This will be crucial in turning collaboration from a vision into a reality.
Embrace the digital opportunity
Undoubtedly, collaboration is the future for the way we work, both as people and as the businesses that we are part of. But there is no quick fix. It is a change of mindset that needs to be instilled throughout an organisation, not a soundbite in a speech.
Successfully adopting a collaborative approach relies largely on the effective use of the latest technology.
Those organisations that embrace technology to give them invaluable daily insight into the performance and motivations of their workforce will succeed. Those that ignore such advances risk falling behind the competition. The time to act is now.