Without a doubt, collaboration among employees is the foundation of all successful businesses and organisations. When employees are collaborative, they work with one another to complement each other’s weaknesses, amplify their strengths, and get things done to the best of their abilities.
While many companies think that their employees are collaborative, more often than not, that collaboration is only restricted to an existing team and colleagues you are already close with.
In fact, collaboration exists hardly beyond the 2nd-degree connection of colleagues. And certainly not the wider local office if you work in a corporate environment.
True global employee collaboration is harder to achieve than most expect it to be.
Especially, when multiple timezones and geographical borders are involved. So how do we get there and how can we unlock collaboration among employees globally?
Why you think your organisation is collaborative, when it may not be the case.
First, we need to focus on busting the myths.
When talking about collaboration, you can’t avoid teamwork. But, the two are not all the same.
Yes, you need teamwork to meet the project deliverables for a client on schedule.
You need teamwork to complete tasks in a smooth manner.
But does collaboration and teamwork mean the same thing?
No. A big No.
Teamwork is where everyone works together with specific roles to achieve a common goal together.
It is like a sports team. You often have the goalkeepers, those who attack and score goals for the team.
The players need to play well together to win, but they don’t have to like each other to play well. In fact, they don’t even need to follow the tactics if they can carry the team.
A strong team has a capable leader to steer the ship and lead the team through ups and downs.
That is, having a strong manager or supervisor often suffices for good teamwork.
Many companies thereby think that they have a collaborative workforce while they have employees who work well together.
Collaboration, on the other hand, does not solely focus on teamwork.
Let’s get the basics right – What is Collaboration?
A collaborative team not only works well together but that they also share common beliefs and values among its members. Every member has equal importance in the success of a project and has their part to play.
In the business world, it is where employees collaborate to create something to contribute to the success of an organisation. Of which, during the process, they exchange skills and knowledge, and offer different perspectives, leading to better business outcomes.
Why? Because two heads are better than one!
Working in teams enable employees to be quicker and more effective in their work, as compared to people who work on projects on their own. It also promotes creativity, responsibility, and healthy relationships in the workplace. This goes a long way in enhancing employees’ motivation and morale as a whole.
Now on with unlocking global employee collaboration – and you should be focusing on the two large factors at-play.
#1. Have leaders champion collaboration. The people and company culture will follow.
Now, we cannot stress enough how important leadership is in facilitating collaboration. There is more to collaboration than putting people in the same room, hoping for the best that they get along and work together.
In order to spark collaboration, leaders and managers must actively create a culture that encourages open discussion and provides opportunities to foster this type of interaction.
It is not cheesy at all when we say leaders should lead by example.
That is, to line yourself up with how you want the rest of the organisation to come together and work.
As Harvard Business School Professor Prithwiraj Choudury put it, management is key.
Your management style and character often prevail in an organisation. So if you change it for the better, the wider firm will follow it too.
That is, if leaders like you make creating opportunities for personal growth a priority in the organisation, sooner or later the firm will also be filled with like-minded employees who care about their own development, too.
While there are many different ways to foster a collaborative workplace, the most successful settings are typically where employees feel seen, heard, and safe to share their thoughts and take on stretch assignments. You can be doing more harm than good if you ignore your employees.
Leaders, make yourself available for those who you work with.
Managers can play a key role in fostering connections, which encourages collaboration. Why managers? Because of the breadth of their network in a company.
The most successful leaders move away from the traditional authoritative style, into more of a mentorship role. Because they recognise the importance of developmental relationships.
In fact, that is how Gustavo Franco, CEO of BCNewt approaches new-joiners to the firm. He finds time to meet each new employee individually to discuss their needs and potential. That way, he can connect the dots between the people he manages, and put them in touch with others who would be beneficial resources and could elevate one another’s success.
This is also the one tip that Maria Goldsholl, Partner at TechCXO & member of the Forbes Human Resources Council swears by. This is as pivotal to collaborative work culture, as it is to enhance employee engagement.
She said, “And only when you understand the strengths of each individual, you can organise your team around efficiency and focus on optimising their skill sets.”
Check our Leader’s Guide to Employee Engagement here for more strategies!
#2. Implement powerful tools and processes to facilitate global collaboration.
Collaboration is not easy. Especially on a global scale.
Therefore, we must turn to systems and digital tools for help to facilitate collaboration.
For sure, we are all gurus of digital team collaboration tools by now. Throughout the pandemic, tools such as Slack and Trello have helped organisations in setting out work plans and more. They allow everyone to check the progress on a task, add comments without inundating the team’s main communication channels.
Yet, it is important to note that, tools are not people.
And if the tools are not thinking from the perspective of people, they will not lead to better collaboration. Let alone a strong uptake. They may contribute to better teamwork, though. Therefore, in order to unlock global employee collaboration, we need tools that are NOT limited to the scope of one team.
Let’s dig a little deeper.
Unlock global employee collaboration globally with AI.
A strong system is needed to enable global collaboration.
Not only should it be secured and fast enough to support the use of an entire organisation. It should also meet business and operational requirements without deviating from human interactions.
That is why digital tools backed with artificial intelligence has the potential to empower people. Because they are created to emulate what a human would do, and do it even better.
These technologies are already generating value in various products and services. As well, companies across sectors use them in an array of processes to personalise product recommendations, user experience audit through natural language processing.
The possibility is truly endless when the McKinsey Global Institute found several hundred AI use cases of such deep learning techniques.
Particularly in bettering the workplace, AI can also be used to identify skills-gap in completing a deliverable, as well as discovering those who may possess the right skills, interests, and availability to collaborate with the project team in the wider organisation.
Better yet, it is also a way to engage and develop employees by offering more meaningful work that incorporates their interests into their daily work and deepens their skills.
That is the agile, empowering and collaborative workplace that Xrosswork aims to create.
Fostering collaboration among employees really is that easy. When you can overcome geographical and departmental barriers with the help of artificial intelligence.
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