If I asked members of the senior management team in almost any organization how highly they valued collaboration, their response would be that it was really important. Which is to be expected, because how could you not be for collaboration? But after I finished reviewing your organization’s mission statement, values and other company propaganda, how would I know how highly it values collaboration? Where would I look to find the truth? At the end of the day, if I found that collaboration was medium to low in the organization, is that really a bad thing, and does that make your organization a bad one?
Let me start with this question: How would you know whether an organization values collaboration? We have to get past the propaganda and down to what it says and does. What do I mean by that? If an organization values collaboration then it should be part of its selection process. One of the questions you should be asking during every interview is, “Can you give me an example of when you collaborated in your last job? What did you do, what did you say, and how did it turn out?” Your selection process is the gateway for people to come into your organization. If you value collaboration, why would you not select for it?
Maybe you are a recent convert to collaboration – what else might I see that would tell me you value collaboration? I could look to the content of your various training programs. If we assume that some people were hired in the past who didn’t have collaboration skills or that some employees want to strengthen their skills in this area, then the organization would offer training programs on collaboration.
How else might I determine whether your organization is serious about collaboration? Organizations that are serious about measuring and improving their performance conduct employee surveys. These are typically called attitude, engagement or satisfaction surveys. The question for me is, “Are there questions related to collaboration?” It is important to measure the degree of collaboration, but it is more important that those results are shared with employees. What’s even more important is to see management leading those feedback sessions and championing sessions to improve collaboration. You should expect in the future – within six months to 12 months – to hear management cite examples in employee meetings and in communications that show how this issue has been addressed, and to offer positive examples of employees demonstrating collaboration on the job.
I know, this is all motherhood and apple pie, the kind of thing you would expect to come out of Human Resources. For you “hard-nosed” business types, why should you care about collaboration? The reason you should care is because it makes good dollars and cents. According to Brian Kropp, managing director at the Corporate Executive Board (CEB), organizations with effective collaborators saw revenue increase about 5 percent more between 2012 and 2013 than those without them.
In a survey of 23,000 workers conducted by CEB in 2013 entitled, “Breakthrough Performance in the New Work Environment,” two-thirds of the respondents said the degree of collaboration required in their work had increased over the last three years. In a 2014 article by Susan Ladika in the Oct 2014 issue of HR Magazine entitled, “Collaborative Edge,” she states that 57 percent of respondents reported that they were doing more work with people in different geographies that required them to collaborate.
If this isn’t a strong enough case for collaboration, then consider the fastest-growing and soon-to-be largest group in the work force. Millennials. These are people born between 1980 and 1995. This is a cohort that was raised on teams. For them, collaboration started with sports teams and carried over to group work through high school and college. Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) did a study in 2013 called, “PwC’s Next Gen: A Global Generational Study” that talked about the value that millennials place on teamwork and community. This was a global study of 44,000 employees of all ages. This millennial force in the work force is growing and will be around for the foreseeable future. This group will change the way work is done, not the other way around.
Let’s go back to the original question: How highly does your organization value collaboration? You could give it lip service and hope that it goes away. But I see the need to increase collaboration as a business imperative that will increasingly impact revenue. Looking at how work is getting done around the world and the values of the group that will soon be the majority of the work force, you can be assured that the ability to work together and an emphasis on collaboration will become a requirement for successfully conducting business.
EASI·Consult® works with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and mid-sized corporations to provide customized Talent Management solutions. EASI Consult’s specialties include individual assessment, online employment testing, survey research, competency modeling, leadership development, executive coaching, 360-degree feedback, online structured interviews, and EEO hiring compliance. The company is a leader in the field of providing accurate information about people through professional assessment. To learn more about EASI Consult, visit www.easiconsult.com, email [email protected] or call 800.922.EASI.
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