Over the past two decades, the amount of time spent by managers and employees on collaborative projects has increased by 50%. And with silos breaking down and more teams taking on cross-functional roles, collaboration is certain to increase through the 2020s.
But even in a global economy where we’re more connected than ever, successful collaboration can be difficult to achieve. Work is changing at such a pace that old-school, in-person collaborations are less viable than in the past. Large enterprise companies that are spread across the globe are at serious risk of becoming disjointed and fragmented.
Global organizations that can foster collaboration between remote workers and through technology are primed for success in work’s current climate. JPMorgan Chase, for example, hosts an Innovation Week that brings together all 40,000 of their technologists across 14 global hubs to collaborate and share ideas.
Here are three ways you can support collaborative practices at your organization.
Working in a global economy means that employees at businesses of any size will be interacting and collaborating with individuals from different cultural backgrounds. “Globalization doesn’t mean that we’re all going to get more similar,” says Emily Mosby, founder and president of Mosby Global. “It means that we’re going to have more contact with folks who are dissimilar from us.” Scaling collaboration requires preparing for individual differences and preconceptions.
Training employees to understand the variances in their own identities and helping teams develop cross-cultural agility can help them to approach others as individuals. This is easier to achieve, Mosby points out, when collaboration as a value is tied to performance metrics and goals. “If you say, ‘Our organizational value is to collaborate, and your performance will be evaluated based on how you’re able to navigate cross-cultural collaboration or challenges,’ then it becomes a part of a person’s goals in order to advance,” she points out.
Organizational structure has become more fragmented and dispersed than ever before. Large companies are spread across different global regions, and many employees work remotely, not interacting with their colleagues face-to-face. These evolving ways of working hinge on an individual employee’s ability to manage their own time and priorities. This is especially necessary as you identify employees who could become team leaders in a collaborative space. “So many employees still need help with their own priority-setting and task management,” says Jan Lehman, CEO at CTC Productivity and national marketing chair at NAPO. “Now, you’re asking them to manage the priorities and tasks of other people.”
Lehman suggests teaching leaders concepts from project management to help keep collaborations flowing smoothly. Even a single employee missing a deadline can have a significant impact on the rest of the team. “Collaboration is only as good as its parts,” Lehman notes. “If you’ve got somebody who’s constantly failing, then collaboration’s going to fail across the team.” The risk is larger for remote workers. When employees aren’t interacting in their daily lives, the significance of individual contributions can get lost in the chaos. But when those employees are trained to increase productivity and understand how their work contributes to the larger picture, collaboration has the possibility to be even more successful.
To minimize disruption and increase efficiency, small companies and enterprise organizations alike have turned to independent professionals to fill gaps in their processes. And this is a trend that is expected to increase throughout the decade. “It will become increasingly important for organizations to have the capability to collaborate with independent professionals,” says Will Bachman, co-founder of Umbrex. “Ideally, these professionals can be plugged into a project when their specific skills are needed.”
But for agile enterprise organizations to collaborate effectively in the gig economy, HR must have mechanisms in place to ease and expedite the incorporation of independent professionals. Ensure that there are no delays in integrating individuals or providing the resources they need to contribute to collaborative projects. “HR can establish processes to make it easy for managers to engage independent professionals and minimize friction,” Bachman says. “Best-in-class organizations today can find an independent professional in the morning and have that person working on a project in the afternoon.”
Creative collaboration is the hallmark of tomorrow’s work. Innovation is best served when individuals work together and share ideas, and laying the groundwork now for innovation through collaboration can help your organization differentiate itself in the years to come. Organizations that acknowledge difference, maintain priorities and facilitate integration will see most success in the new economy.
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