Collaboration is key to innovation. But companies that force staff to collaborate often meet resistance that cannot be overcome. It is not enough to announce the move to collaborative working patterns – these must be modelled and enabled through the use of effective tools and policies that promote a facilitative environment, some which are outlined below.
Recruiting diversity-friendly staff should be a priority
Collaborative cultures thrive on diversity of opinion, assertiveness and respect. But diversity does not refer to traditional measures such as gender and ethnicity, but to thinking processes, values and characteristics. Again though, just having this is not enough. People must be accepting of other peoples’ processes and values, understand why they can add value to their own thinking, and recognise that not everyone will agree all the time. You should recruit people that consider the opinions of others important in coming to an optimal decision.
Model assertiveness and acceptance from the top down
Senior staff set the tone for companies. They must be seen to be collaborating with their own managers and with direct reports, and this must be done publically. This is important to reinforce in peoples’ minds that collaborating will be seen favourably. In some companies the collaborative process can be seen as time wasting and it’s important that workers view it favourably and in the interests of the organisation as a whole.
There is another step to the ‘perception story’ below.
Ensure collaboration influences outcomes and that this is perceived
If it is not perceived by employees that decision-making is driven or at least influenced by collaborative conversations, they will not see value in participating in collaborative processes. Companies should encourage decision-makers to adopt processes that take collaboration into account – this will only happen if the decision-makers see value in collaboration and see that collaboration-enabled outcomes are more optimal.
Create forums of participation as enablers
If diversity is embedded into the organisation and your employees want to collaborate, you already have a community ready to act. Providing platforms/enablers are facilitative moves designed to encourage collaboration from a community that is already keen. Many companies get this wrong, and think that enablers will actually convince people that collaboration is the way forward. But they simply won’t use the platforms available.
Collaborative workforces are driven by the prevailing culture and enabled by tools. HR directors should remember this and ensure that all tools are backed by strong leadership that values the collaborative process throughout the organisation.
This article was written by Jamie Lawrence, Editor of online HR publication and community HRZone.
Take a look at HRZone’s insight report into Five key HR technology trends for 2014 for further industry advice and insights.