The failure of politicians to collaborate in working for sustained economic goals maybe one of the characteristics of our age. But surely there is no excuse for non-collaboration within companies where growth must be a common objective across the organization?
The paper defines a truly collaborative environment as one that “involves every employee at every level and department, and is infused in an organization’s culture and reflected in its daily operations. It can help recruit, retain, and motivate employees; increase productivity; bring new products and services to the market faster; increase customer satisfaction and loyalty; and improve an organization’s bottom line. And because it lowers stress, it makes for a better work environment overall.”
Unfortunately, as revealed in a report by the Corporate Executive Board, most organizations fail to reach this happy state, and tend to share a narrow definition that relegates collaboration to an activity focused on specific high-impact projects. Too many senior leaders fail to understand that true collaboration is not the same as either teamwork or cooperation, but is an organization-wide cultural value that should be embedded in the company’s fabric.
Building collaboration requires strong leadership, and depends on trust, communication, and a shared vision and purpose. Collaboration is not a vague aspiration but a measureable value that can be developed through training, not only leaders and and high-potential employees, but every employee across the organization. To do this requires a strategy.
“Without a strategy and a roadmap that articulates clear goals, employees will have plenty of good intentions, but will fail to act on them.” Say the authors, Kip Kelly Director, UNC Executive Development and Alan Schaefer, Founder/CEO Banding People Together.
Underpinning the strategy they propose are 12 key tenets:
Lead by example. In highly collaborative organizations, leaders use and demonstrate collaboration tools and strategies and encourage employees at all organizational levels to do the same.
Focus on individual and organizational benefits. Highly collaborative organizations communicate to employees about how they will personally benefit from a collaborative environment—how it will improve their lives and make their jobs easier—as well as how it will take the organization to the next level.
Emphasize behaviour and strategy before technology. Highly collaborative organizations formulate a strategy (the “why” and “how” of collaboration for their organization) before rushing to buy the latest collaboration platform. The technology should support the strategy.
Learn how to get out of the way. Leaders and managers in highly collaborative organizations understand that micromanaging stifles collaboration. Best practices and guidelines are fine, but let employees do their work, their way. Empower employees.
Give employees a voice. In order for someone to feel like they have a voice, they have to have a platform and be acknowledged. This is a simple idea but gets lost quickly at the speed of business.
Integrate collaboration into organizational workflow. Collaboration should not be viewed as another competency that must be incorporated into an employee’s skill set. It should be integrated into all aspects of their work.
Create a supportive environment. Collaboration and teamwork should be rewarded. For example, make a percentage of an employee’s bonus tied to how well he or she collaborates with others.
Examine behaviours the organization is rewarding. Highly collaborative organizations focus on metrics that align different business units.
Practice persistence. Collaboration should not be confined to teams, employee levels, or pilot programs. Highly collaborative organizations make collaboration a corporate-wide initiative.
Adapt and evolve. Highly collaborative organizations recognize that collaboration is a perpetual state in their organizations and adapt and evolve as needed.
Recognize that employee collaboration benefits customers. Happy employees are better performing employees, and this translates into more satisfied, happier customers.
Acknowledge that collaboration generally makes the world a better place. Highly collaborative organizations recognize that collaboration lowers stress, increases retention and loyalty, and improves the bottom line.