Today, you can’t be considered a modern workplace without being a connected workplace. Utilising social networks and other technology to improve communication is decidedly in fashion, especially as it’s seen as the best way to improve workforce collaboration.
Unfortunately, many businesses today use communication and collaboration interchangeably, not realising that having one doesn’t automatically guarantee the other. While providing the tools to communicate is certainly the first step, it’s no guarantee that employees in hyper-connected workspaces use these tools effectively, or use them at all.
There is plenty of research out there to show the benefits of a collaborative workforce. Employees that work together within teams and across the whole business tend to be happier, and the business benefits from stimulating new ideas that can lead to innovative products and more efficient processes. While bringing like-minded employees together, collaboration can also help to challenge the workforce to help solve problems and stimulate learning. Old processes can be looked at through a new lens and traditional ideas can be questioned by employees with different opinions.
Communication is a key driver of collaboration in the workforce; it just makes sense that when employees can communicate easily they can also collaborate easily. Add to this the army of successful tech-savvy giants and start-ups that regularly laud futuristic communication, and it’s no surprise that today’s businesses are looking at ever more technological ways to connect their workforce across buildings, countries and the world.
Of course, the key here is that when employees can communicate easily, they can collaborate easily. The fact is, there’s a lot more to collaboration than providing fancy technology or simply saying your business is connected.
Real collaboration comes from communication to the power of two, otherwise known as the two-step process. Once you have the right tools in place, such as internal social networks and employee portals, you then need to promote collaboration, not just communication, at every level. In a recent SuccessFactors-sponsored study, Oxford Economics identified three key pillars to effective workforce collaboration. Companies that were considered ‘Digital Winners’ and successful collaborators all excelled in these three areas. Tackle them, and you could power real communication for effective collaboration.
Let’s take a look at some of the different ways in which workforce collaboration can take place:
Like many new practices and processes in the workplace, adoption often starts from the top down. Employees of these ‘Digital Winners’ rated the management’s collaboration capabilities and skills as high. Leaders are more responsive to requests and provide better feedback. They also said management was more proficient in facilitating collaboration, showing that leaders need to practice what they preach and then go a step further by directly helping employees communicate and collaborate.
A training program that encourages management to develop their own collaboration skills as well as promote these same skills to their teams is certainly beneficial. HR Workplace Collaboration software that also enables management to communicate and collaborate directly with each other and also with employees, is essential. SuccessFactors Performance & Goals, for example, provides a superior feedback process where managers can track employee performance every step of the way and provide real-time feedback from any device and location. It also works both ways by enabling employees to send requests for important decisions to management where notifications and reminders can encourage them to respond quickly.
Any team can collaborate, but it takes a diverse team to collaborate effectively. Without diversity, collaboration lacks the range of opinions and thoughts that make it such a strong driver of innovative ideas. It’s no surprise then that research found employees of Digital Winners were more likely to report increased diversity among the general workforce as well as in leadership roles. Diversity is also great for the business as a whole and can even help widen your customer base. Thusit is essential to start improving diversity in your workplace.
Ensuring a diverse and inclusive culture takes a two-fold plan that first aims to ensure important decisions, such as hiring and promotions, are based on data rather than a managers ‘gut-instinct’ that could suffer from unconscious-bias. The second is to ensure this becomes the default throughout the business so diversity is tackled at every level. We discuss in detail how to tackle diversity in the workplace here, but the key is having a robust HRMS like SuccessFactors that can provide you with the relevant data you need to make fact-based decisions on employees. Sourcing talent from a wide range of talent-pools, analysing to ensure demographic balance and then ensuring this talent receives fair treatment in terms of compensation and succession is all essential for improving diversity.
We’ve already addressed how simply providing the technology to communicate doesn’t guarantee it’s effective use, but even companies that are effectively using their technology aren’t usually doing so for collaboration. Most organisations that do utilise social networking and other digital tools, focus on improving processes or data analytics rather than social collaboration. Digital Winners are more likely to use technology to determine employee wants and needs and facilitate better collaboration.
This is where organisations need to think outside of the box when it comes to their technology and collaboration capabilities. Giving employees a place to connect and share is vital in stimulating a collaborative culture that your workforce has complete control of. An HRMS like SuccessFactors can provide a central hub with employee profiles and intuitive self-service tools that enables your workforce to discover and communicate with other teams and individuals from across the business based on skills, needs and much more.
Additionally, look at how some of your other technology that isn’t yet being used for collaboration could be utilised to create a collaborative culture. LMS, for example, could be used to provide soft-skills training that teaches employees about collaboration. A self-service LMS like SuccessFactors Learning can also stimulate social learning, enabling employees to upload their own resources, learning materials and much more for a collaborative learning culture that helps spread skills and capabilities at an unprecedented rate.
Like many new practices or processes in the workplace, true collaboration has to permeate the organisation at every level and become the default for employees. This means ensuring leaders prioritise collaboration and make it their mission to pass collaborative values onto teams and employees. It’s important to incorporate collaborating into the hiring process by vetting potential hires for their collaborative values, collaboration should be woven into all of an organisation’s processes and workflows thus embracing it as a true culture.