The 5 Enemies of Effective Workplace Collaboration

Posted by Kath McNiff on Jan 23, 2019 5:28:39 PM

Collaboration is king in the new world of work.

Disruptors like Uber and Airbnb and have shown that small teams of diverse thinkers are capable of toppling industries and building breakthrough products that change the world.

With the #futureofwork on our doorstep, collaboration has become more important than ever - it's the secret sauce of innovation and is vital for business survival and success.  

As Jason Fox (wizard rogue and author of How to Lead Quest) says:

"To find futures, we need to venture into the angst of uncertainty and systematically and collectively use our imagination to explore what's possible."

But collaborating (especially amidst uncertainty) is not as easy as it sounds and organizations can struggle to get it right.

For specific ideas on creating a space for collaboration, you might want to check out our White Paper:

Get-Your-Team-Going_Call-To-Action-1For now, let's review a few of the barriers that get in the way of collaboration and look at ways of jumping them.

Lack of training

Businesses build break-out rooms and setup team messaging tools in the hope that collaboration will just happen.

But like any other skill, collaboration requires training - tailored to a company's unique challenges and goals.

To collaborate effectively, teams need to understand how to

  • Actively listen

  • Have challenging conversations

  • Use collaboration tools

  • Develop effective partnerships

  • Manage accountability

HR leaders can build a truly collaborative workplace by helping people to understand the art (and science) of collaboration - including how it plays into everyday processes and broader business goals.

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Those damn Silos

A recent survey from My Customer.com, reveals that 40 percent of employees feel unsupported by their colleagues because "different departments have their own agendas."

When departments hoard information and focus on their own goals, the business at large misses out on the convergence of perspectives and potential improvements that a more collaborative approach would provide.

In her book The Innovation Formula, Dr. Amantha Imber shares a funny yet telling anecdote about a lingerie company where "bras didn't talk to panties"  - two ridiculously siloed departments that led to mismatched underwear and significant customer frustration. 

One of the problems is that different departments tend to favor different tools and processes - so getting on the same page in a digital sense can prove difficult. This is where a central platform for communication, cooperation, and coordination can help to break down the silos and bridge the information gaps - and voila, matching undies! 

Senior leaders need to bring departments together regularly - to set complementary agendas, share challenges and reap the benefits of cross-pollination. 

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Fragmented Tools

Collaboration tools are hot right now - and they'll stay hot according to a recent report via Computer World.

 "...collaboration software has become an increasingly integral part of how work is both organized and carried out".

But the sheer volume of disparate tools can defeat the very purpose they're intended to serve.

Email, Skype, Slack, comments in Word docs and PDFs - with so many conversations going on all over the place, it can be hard to keep track of collaborative efforts.

The proliferation of collaboration platforms shows no signs of slowing down so the challenge will be to consolidate and find a simpler, more holistic solution -  one that engages workers, organizes collective knowledge and ignites the collaborative spark - or as the recent research from Deloitte suggests:

"HR organizations must work with IT to bring their expertise in team management, goal-setting, and employee development to help make using the new wave of connectivity tools productive, simple, and engaging."

5-enemies-of-collaboration-holistic 5

The 'T' Word

According to PWC's Global CEO Survey, 50% of CEOs worldwide consider a lack of trust to be a major threat to their organizational growth.

Trust is at the heart of every great collaboration - it starts at the top of an organization and filters down.

It practical terms, it means that people can depend on each other to:

  • Follow through and do what they say they will do

  • Put skin in the game (share the risks and rewards)

  • Acknowledge good work

  • Compromise where needed

  • Show vulnerability

  • Empathize

  • Share opinions without fear of ridicule, reprisal or idea-theft

  • Overcome personal biases and default ways of thinking

Research has shown that people working in trust-based cultures are 60% more likely to enjoy their jobs and 70% more aligned with their companies' purpose - the perfect storm for collaboration and innovation.

5-enemies-of-collaboration-trust 6

The Other 'T' Word

Collaboration? Who's got time for that?

Time is precious and there's so much work to do. Dr Jason Fox calls this relentless busyness "the curse of efficiency" and goes on to explain how it crowds out time for collaboration, innovation, and good strategic development.

Operational efficiency is crucial to business success but it doesn't drive change or push the boundaries.

So, why do we continue to focus on it? Because we're good at it, because it feels comfortable and because it's less frightening than tackling the big problems or seeking new horizons.

Organizations can free up time for collaboration by automating the busy work - using their intranet for online forms, workflows and tick-the-box compliance requirements. 

To carve out time for intentional collaboration (instead of just hoping it will happen in an ad-hoc or serendipitous way) organizations can set particular days of the week as 'Collaboration Days' - where people plan to be in the office for team meetings and brainstorming sessions.

Or, like Atlassian, they could run regular ShipIt Days where teams can drop what they’re doing and collaborate to "make something awesome.”

Get Collaboration Going

From building an International Space Station to mapping the Human Genome or composing Hey Jude - collaboration is key to our greatest leaps forward.

The same is true for your business.

For a deeper dive into the challenges of collaboration and how your intranet can help, download our White Paper. 

 Get-Your-Team-Going_Call-To-Action-1

 

Topics: Collaboration, esn, innovation, company intranet

Enterprise IT as the Torchbearer of Workplace Productivity

Posted by Kath McNiff on Dec 20, 2018 2:00:00 AM

 

We expect a lot from our digital workplaces - that's because as tech consumers and smartphone aficionados we know what's possible.

From paying bills, to booking appointments and bingeing on Netflix - we've grown accustomed to smooth interfaces and predictable digital experiences. Things just work - and if they don't, well... there's an app for that.

Enterprisee-IT

Chaos vs Control

Jumping between apps is fine for us as individuals, but spells chaos for the IT professionals in charge of modern digital workplaces.

At the office, collaboration is king and organizations need a cohesive way of getting things done. If some people are on WhatsApp and others are on Messenger - how can they share ideas and get work going?

This dichotomy leaves Enterprise IT caught between a rock and a hard place.

Employees want to use their flavor-of-the-month tools and, since the IT procurement team don't want to rain on anyone's parade or halt real productivity gains, they may turn a blind eye or add the tool to the already congested software register.

Thing is, this tool might be great for one department but a nightmare for another, and there's a good chance it'll be thrown to the curb when the next shiny thing comes along. 

Enterprise-IT-chaos

At the other extreme, Enterprise IT might put their foot down and get serious about which tools are allowed and which are not - because how do you manage security and maintain a level of assurance in an 'anything goes' software scenario?

To maintain control, the organization might have a well-defined process for selecting software solutions - and refuse to stray from the Preferred Vendor playlist. They may even stick with tired legacy infrastructure because it represents a significant financial investment and "is the way things are done around here".

In the first scenario, IT is left picking up the pieces of an impossibly fragmented workplace - while in the second they're being blamed for forcing everyone to use outdated and inflexible technology.

Is there a happy compromise?

The Middle Ground

Tim Flower, Director of Business Transformation at Nexthink, believes there is.

In a recent webinar via CMSWire he said the answer lies in taking a step back and spending time on research, reflection and strategic thinking.

The key to an exceptional digital workplace is not about the latest shiny app or complicated technology stack - it's about people and the tools they need to get work done.

Flower suggests that IT teams need to benchmark the current digital employee experience and look for evidence-based ways of improving it.

He says they need to spend less time responding to isolated issues and more time empathizing with users and understanding what a typical day is really like.

This involves taking a holistic view of the digital workplace backed up by quantitative and qualitative data - what are people doing and how do they feel about it?

Flower's company, Nexthink, makes a nifty device that gathers this intel as people go about their day-to-day work.

Oscar Berg - the webinar's co-presenter and author of  Digital Workplace Strategy and Design - shared this slide to emphasize the power of asking users to "tell me how you really feel":

Enterprise-IT-slide

No sugar coating that. Email overload hurts productivity but no one considers complaining to IT about it.

He goes on to explain that productivity takes a nose dive when workers are faced with "interruptions, inconsistently designed systems and bad performance".

As both experts rightly point out - once IT teams truly understand the barriers to productivity in their organization - they can make informed decisions about the best way forward.

They can take a proactive stance and look beyond the issues that cross the help desk: "I'm stressed out by the number of tools I have to use" said no support ticket ever.

5 barriers to productivity

Making Informed Choices

To calm the chaos of disparate communication tools, Enterprise IT might choose to deploy a digital workplace that has everything built in. One that gives users the social and collaborative features they crave without the distractions of platform-switching and multiple sign-ons. 

To free themselves from the tyranny of support tickets and reactive problem solving, IT may look to implement a digital workplace that's secure, cloud based and easy to maintain - and do away with the complexities of shared licenses and messy payment cycles. 

Focusing on the Big Picture

By implementing a digital workplace that's high on productivity but low on maintenance, IT professionals free themselves up to focus on what really matters - providing a digital employee experience that delivers true business value and measures up to the expectations of today's tech savvy workforce.

The correlation between effective collaboration and productivity is well documented - and Enterprise IT is uniquely positioned to ignite this flame.

Starting a fire instead of always putting one out!

To get a head start with improving productivity in your organization, download our free ebook: 5 Barriers to Productivity in the New World of Work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Topics: Collaboration, productivity, workplace

10 Ways to Engage a Remote Workforce

Posted by Annabelle Willis on Mar 8, 2018 6:15:29 PM

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In the recent Gallup State of the American Workplace Report it found that from 2012 to 2016, the number of employed Americans working remotely –at least some of the time- grew from 39% to 43%. This number is set to continue to rise, and employees already working remotely will spend more time doing so.

The appeal of flexible work is fairly obvious, particularly for those battling long commutes, raising a family, or managing a chronic illness. Your team might work on the ground or be travelling regularly. Heck, maybe you just feel that you could produce a higher standard of work today while you wear your pyjamas on the couch. The reasons for seeking remote work are varied, and research supports that the outcomes can be positive for both employees and employers. In fact, Boston College research reports that 64% of employees would choose a lower paying job if they could work away from the office just one day a week.

So, not only could offering remote work options increase the productivity and performance of your team, but it could help attract exceptional talent to come and work for you in the first place. Sounds like something worth considering, right?

Before you go ahead and cancel the lease on your office building, you’re obviously going to need the right digital tools in place to support your remote team. One of the most critical will be your company intranet, not only in its functionality but how you leverage it to engage employees. For all of remote working’s benefits, keeping staff engaged, connected and collaborative is difficult without physical interaction. Fortunately, your intranet is where you can bridge the gap.

Here’s how:

1) Detailed, meaningful User Profiles

User Profiles can do so much more than placing a face to a name. Staff need not share their life stories, but think about the important stuff- areas of expertise, qualifications, strengths and the like. Without meeting, a remote worker should be able to view a User Profile and understand what that person does, and what they could bring to a project.

2) A Staff Directory that encourages connections

Now that your User Profiles actually mean something, you’ll need a killer staff directory to make them findable. With GreenOrbit, by applying metadata to your profile, this information then becomes searchable across the intranet. For example, you could simply search the word ‘French’ to find a French speaker to interpret something for you. This makes it easy for remote workers to find topic experts and initiate collaboration, no matter where they might be located.

3) Storytelling

The mobile team at RSPCA do a fantastic job at this; regularly posting articles to their intranet sharing stories and photos of their animal rescues. In turn, they are keeping remote staff in the loop, while reinforcing and celebrating their team culture. Great job guys!

4) Digital collaboration

Distance shouldn’t hinder employee collaboration. Iwan Westfa, IT Manager at global consulting firm Ecorys, sums up the benefits (and ease) of collaborating via the intranet perfectly:

Someone in the UK posted to a #Channel that their client needed to conduct an interview with a particular type of expert. Up until then, they could not find anyone and the project was in jeopardy. Once it was posted to #Channels, an expert in the Netherlands popped up by commenting on the post. So the reporters came to the Netherlands to carry out the interview. Normally we would have just lost the opportunity, but we made a profit.”

Thanks, Iwan.

5) Private Groups

Business-wide collaboration is great, but remote workers also need to collaborate within their team. Functionality such as Private Groups provides a place for teams to communicate, file-share and come together- even when they’re apart.

6) Digitize your forms

If your forms and processes are paper-based, remote workers are going to have a rough time completing them. They’ll either have to navigate a scanner or send it to you in the post, both of which are slow and completely infuriating. Instead, comprehensive online forms will allow them to submit forms quickly, easily and accurately.

7) Recognising good work

You might be unable to give your remote co-workers a physical high-five, but social intranet tools can provide the digital equivalent. Using a tool such as GreenOrbit #Channels, you can acknowledge the contributions of remote workers for your entire organization to see. At GreenOrbit, we share #StaffShoutouts internally to celebrate exceptional work. Through likes and comments, the ‘applause’ can be heard wherever we are.

8) Comprehensive online learning

A remote or mobile worker should experience the same training and education as their office-based colleagues. Providing comprehensive training modules with workflow through your intranet means staff can become experts in a new program, sales strategy, or safety process wherever they may be located.

9) Videos

Video conferencing is as close as dispersed teams can get to chatting face-to-face. When conferencing isn’t possible, record important presentations or events and store them on your intranet to allow remote employees to be a fly-on-the-wall.

10) Find opportunities

Within our own team at GreenOrbit, we have a number of remote workers whose lifeline is the intranet. Essentially, it’s where they ‘go to work’ and can interact with colleagues on a professional and personal level.

One of our remote employees is a regular contributor to our #Photography channel, sharing his work as a moonlight events photographer. From this, we instantly knew he would be the perfect person to work with our marketing team and photograph the SuperFoiler Grand Prix. He had the opportunity to travel around the country pursuing his passion, while the marketing team had access to exceptional event photos - a fantastic outcome for both parties.

As the number of remote workers grows, so too do the expectations of the remote work experience. By implementing these tips and leveraging your intranet as a digital workplace, you’ll be able to attract and retain the best remote employees for your business.

Want to know more about how your intranet can get work going? Check out our eBook:

3 Ways your Intranet can be a Launchpad for success

Topics: clients, digital workplace, employee engagement, HOW TO, mobile workforce, Social Intranet, Case Studies, Collaboration, mobile intranet

Digital Collaboration at Ecorys

Posted by Annabelle Willis on Jul 25, 2017 3:09:44 PM

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In the past, knowledge sharing wasn’t so hard. Think of having your team all in one office, all working from 9-5. But this isn’t the reality for businesses today. Workers are remote and on their devices, teams are dispersed and subsequently, time zones are mismatched. For many, having everyone in the one place at the one time just isn’t a reality.

In this environment, how can you share and find knowledge effectively? How can you leverage the expertise of Janet; the French speaking, excel whiz, HR manager? Or Doug; the analytical, mathematical, finance guy?

Once upon a time, you might have tried via email. And if you tried, you’ll know it does not work the way it did before information overloaded our inboxes. International research, consultancy and management services company; Ecorys, faced this same issue. Having consulted to The World Bank and Asian Development Bank (amongst many others), this team are seriously, well, knowledgeable. They knew there was so much they could learn from one another, but there was no easy way.

“Previously, you could be working on a project in Bangladesh, and there could be someone in another office with expertise. Normally, you’d never know. It was too annoying to send an email out to everyone in the company.” – Ecorys IT Manager

GreenOrbit #Channels are communities of interest, based on the topics that are meaningful to you and your staff. They provide a centralized, engaging system for communication and knowledge sharing. As opposed to email, employees turn to this content for information that is categorized and allows for group collaboration. As evidenced by Ecorys, conversations via #Channels results in multiplied knowledge and real business outcomes.

“Someone in the UK posted to a #Channel that their client needed to conduct an interview with a particular type of expert. Up until then, they could not find anyone and the project was in jeopardy. Once it was posted to #Channels, an expert in the Netherlands popped up by commenting on the post. So the reporters came to the Netherlands to carry out the interview. Normally we would have just lost the opportunity, but we made a profit.” – Ecorys IT Manager

And that’s just the beginning. Read the full Ecorys Case Study to learn more about digital collaboration and how it delivers business-wins.

 

Ecorys Case Study

Ecorys Case Study

 

Topics: clients, digital workplace, Internal Communications, intranet, intranet dashboard, Case Studies, Collaboration, CUSTOMERS

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