Kickstarting collaboration in your business might seem like a daunting task – particularly if your employees are used to working individually or in siloed lines of business.
Here are five tips for CxOs who want to get started helping their employees find smarter ways to work together.
- Start with culture
This point is made a lot, but culture really is the most important first step to enabling collaboration. It’s always tempting to go tech-first, but if your people aren’t receptive to it, your collaboration drive will be a waste of time, effort and resources.
To get started, identify a key group of employees who are keen to get involved – from every level of the business, from your senior executives to your front-line people. This way, you can ensure your goals are enthusiastically supported by everyone.
But just as culture comes from the top, kickstarting must come from the C-suite. You need to create a definitive, collective vision for what collaboration will achieve in your business. “Have a plan based on your vision—and carry it with you,” says David Wilkie, CEO of World 50. “Use it to benchmark whether people are on the same page. Be really good at communicating your vision all the time.”
- Don’t try to shoehorn in tech
When you do get to the tech, you need to ensure you’re choosing platforms and software that match your organization’s needs – otherwise, you’ll end up with a suite of tools that never get used to their full potential.
And if the tool you’re considering won’t integrate with your current environment? Ditch it. The transition between your existing infrastructure and any new collaboration tools needs to be seamless, or you’ll have a hard time convincing employees to use them, especially if there’s special training required.
As John Tudhope, Director of Sprint Business, has pointed out previously, your chosen collaboration tool not only has to stand out, but it also has to be easy to use, or it won’t attract users.
Gamification can help you out here – adding a competitive aspect, such as leaderboards, or an incentive for using the platform, such as a prize drawing, can help drive adoption.
- Get creative with teams
Breaking down silos has long been an organizational goal for businesses around the world – but for effective collaboration, it’s non-negotiable. You need to (enthusiastically) encourage different departments and lines of business to share data, knowledge and resources.
Beyond that, you need to encourage people from different business backgrounds to actually work together, too. Teams with diverse skills are the backbone of a successful business, especially when it comes to innovation.
This benefits you at the C-level, too; leaders who surround themselves with a diverse team are more likely to engage with a wide range of stakeholders, according to Deloitte. Pair your creatives with your tech or organizational experts for a unique blended perspective.
- Communicate everything – the good, the bad, and the ugly
The need for effective communication in business is obvious – but when it comes to collaboration, honesty is paramount. Give your employees simple ways to share their feedback about your collaboration drive, especially when it’s not working as well as it should be.
Platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams, or “enterprise social networks,” give your teams opportunities to discuss and debate projects in an open way, rather than squirrelling away people’s concerns in a closed email thread.
That doesn’t mean you should ignore the good stuff, though. Giving your employees the opportunity to acknowledge when individuals have done good work builds trust within teams – which is particularly important if they’re working with new people. Heidi Gardner, a Harvard academic researching collaboration in business, suggests having a small stockpile of gift cards that are available for employees to give out to each other as thanks.
- Go beyond ‘set and forget’
Creating a culture of collaboration isn’t just a switch to flip – it’s a long-term commitment for your organization (at all levels). Many companies make the investment in collaboration, but quit before it starts delivering value. Success comes from understanding that this is an ongoing process; there’ll be hurdles to overcome and teething problems, and that’s fine. Expected, in fact.
Once you’ve started implementing your collaboration drive – whether that’s a large-scale organizational change or minor adaptations to the way your employees already work – you need to monitor it to ensure you’re meeting the goals you set.