How to cultivate collaboration in a Modern Workplace

16 Mar 2020

Onboard with mentorship and experiential training

Start with communication from Day 1, by creating an onboarding program, rich in social interactions, so that your new employees would be able to observe others, learn from their actions, and ask as many questions as possible. Mentorship initiatives are usually a win-to-all practice. It benefits employees in terms of socialization and personal development while higher job satisfaction and employee retention is a perk for the whole organization.

Experiential learning approach might also come in handy. It’s all about gaining necessary skills and information to perform a task by simply… doing it! “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand”. Impressively, this Chinese proverb has defined the essence of experiential learning way before it became a widely applied practice.

Today’s organizations often opt for roleplay, games, case studies, simulations, and many other hands-on techniques instead of long, theoretical induction training for their new employees. This way, people develop skills and behaviours related to a new activity in contrast to only understanding it. Most importantly, it’s all done among others, within various experience levels, in a social manner.

Promote cross-functional teamwork and interactions

It’s all about perspective: something as simple as an apple cannot be described consistently if observed from one angle only. So do the projects and problems of your company. Every organization has great resources scattered within various departments, from marketing to research. They represent the different angles, and creating cross-functional teams is a popular practice for leveraging contrasting perspectives.

Diversity generates creativity and spurs innovation. When people with different roles and backgrounds come to work together, insights deepen and productivity grows. In addition to that, cross-functional teams are believed to be real collaborative culture boosters. It improves communication skills, strengthens the sense of belonging and helps develop common goals. Yet teamwork, especially in a multifarious environment, is easier said than done. It’s not always natural and it’s up to organization to make people gel. In fact, before inviting your cross-functional squads to brainstorm, you might want to make sure that diversity is an obvious, day-to-day occurrence in your organization.

Think about the ways to make colleagues (especially those who do not work together) meet. Create overlap zones. Encourage unplanned interactions in the office. Yes, that’s exactly what Steve Jobs did at the Pixar headquarters! The atrium area with a reception and some other facilities was planned by Jobs to house the campus’ only restrooms, to make people who would naturally avoid moving around or communicating have conversations with other colleagues, even only while washing their hands.

Jobs believed that, “If a building doesn’t encourage collaboration, you’ll lose a lot of innovation and the magic that’s sparked by serendipity. So we designed the building to make people get out of their offices and mingle in the central atrium with people they might not otherwise see.” (reference)

Connect people and information

In a modern workplace, technology is a no-brainer. It creates fully inclusive connected workforce experiences, enabling staff to be involved, engaged and productive anywhere, anytime, on any device. Deploying employee-centered apps, request management systems, and cloud-based solutions is important to promote real-time communication. But making everyone available just by a click of a button is only one side of the coin. In organizations with flourishing collaboration culture, data and information is just as reachable.

Corporate knowledge comes in all shapes and forms. It’s the files and templates that you store using smart document management software, and that KPI dashboard in your office corridor. It’s your personal calendar, displaying individual availability, and the shared spaces calendar, providing overview on office space utilization. Digital room signage might seem like a detail, but it’s also a piece of instant valuable data, deepening awareness on what’s happening in the office and helping to manage time. It is fair to say that well-informed staff makes well-informed decisions, and is more engaged. Moreover, accessible data reduces silos, ensuring that everyone is on the same page at all times.

Data sharing can also be an interactive experience. It’s called infopresence - a term, coined by Oblong Industries in 2013. With a goal to deliver a better human-computer interface, they made information present, literally. Oblong’s Mezzanine provides an immersive collaboration experience where various content and data can be shared simultaneously in one room, whether the user is present or not. Data becomes physical: it can be moved and edited, users can contextualise, reflect, and act on the information. Real-time.

Collaboration has no shortage of benefits, and there are plenty of methods to improve team dynamics. Whatever practices you choose, remember to support it with a strong strategy first, and always listen to your greatest asset - people.

Topics: Employee well-being

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