By itself, technology will not drive collaboration

How do you embed collaboration in your organization?

Today’s technology makes teamwork and collaboration far easier to execute. Technological convergence enables previously disparate systems to communicate fluidly, connecting people across the organization in real time. Ideas can be shared, problems can be tackled by many, and productivity and innovation increase accordingly. 

So, why is it that 86% of employees and executives cite lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures, despite 80% of businesses using social collaboration tools for enhancing business processes?

Organizations understand the importance of collaboration

Organizations are extremely aware of the importance of developing collaboration internally and externally. Many studies have shown that critical business outcomes are enhanced in collaborative companies. Such outcomes include improving:

Collaboration deepens employee networks, helps to develop collective purpose, and improves the self-development of individuals. There is no doubt that organizations are onboard with collaboration as a core business strategy.

Collaboration technology booms

Organizations are deploying collaboration tools at an incredible rate. The global online collaboration market is expected to grow to around $60 billion by 2023. Teamwork apps are now the largest growth segment of collaboration tools. 

A survey of knowledge workers conducted by Dimensional Research found that 83% of workers depend on technology to collaborate, yet 59% face challenges using these. These collaboration technologies fall into three main categories:

  • Communication tools, such as email, video calls, and instant messaging

  • Conference tools, such as shared whiteboards, video conferencing, and community forums

  • Coordination tools, such as project management apps, calendars, and status updates

Organizations are providing all the tools for collaboration to happen, and yet these aren’t being maximized. People aren’t using the technology effectively, and projects are failing because of a lack of collaboration. 

Just because you own a chessboard does not mean you will play

Ownership facilitates use, but it does not guarantee use. Organizations that implement collaborative technologies often make the mistake of believing that ‘if it is built, people will come’. If you buy your kid a chessboard, they won’t use it unless you teach them to play – and then play yourself.

Teamwork requires a culture of collaboration to exist. Providing the tools that enable collaboration does not develop this culture. It is incumbent upon leaders and managers to do this.

5 ways to develop a culture of collaboration

To develop a culture of collaboration, organizations must adopt a proactive strategy. Here are five ways to help achieve this:

  1. Ensure that collaboration is a key tenet of your organization’s values, and communicate this often

  2. Sound out your employees on the types of collaborative tools they believe will enhance teamwork, and include these in your collaborative tech rollout

  3. Coach people in how to use the new tech, explaining how it will make their jobs easier and more fulfilled

  4. Develop policies and procedures that govern and promote the use of your collaboration tools

  5. Ensure that all leaders and managers set the example for employees by using your collaboration technology in all communications, task setting, and project management

In summary

Collaboration has the potential to ignite innovation and creativity. It can boost productivity, improve employee engagement, and reduce employee turnover. Your collaboration technology will enable your people to reach out to otherwise inaccessible expertise, streamlining workflows, and increasing your organization’s knowledge and ability to get things done.

Yet, many organizations are failing to realize the potential benefits of greater collaboration facilitated by technology. Their people remain siloed and, largely, non-collaborative. 

True collaboration is much more than a bunch of collaborative tools on a desktop. It is a way of working, built into the fabric of an organization and exampled by its leaders and managers every minute of every day. It is this culture that is then embedded into the policies, processes, practices, and technology of the organization.

Collaborative leaders inspire their people to be collaborative by being collaborative themselves. They respond to requests, make meaningful decisions, provide feedback continuously, break through complexity, reduce bureaucracy, and encourage partnership building outside of their department or team. Are your leaders ready to create the culture of collaboration that could drive your organization to the next level? This Rising to the Challenge Leadership self-assessment (link needed) will help you discover if they are.


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