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Prioritize Building a Culture of Collaboration to Eliminate Workplace Silos

By Daisy Hernandez, Global VP of Product Management and Enterprise Collaboration, SAP Labs (SAP Jam)

August 14 2018 - Recent studies have shown that companies that invest in a collaborative culture report stronger revenue growth and happier employees. And yet, most businesses have a long way to go in truly achieving a collaborative company culture. In one study, 96 percent of executives stated that ineffective collaboration is to blame for business failures. In the same study, only 62 percent of employees were satisfied that their manager was proficient in collaboration. There are several factors that contribute to this, including expectations that a tool will solve every problem, a mismatch of priorities around developing collaboration skills by executives, a lack of accounting for change management and unclear understanding of desired outcomes.

The rapid pace of business today requires companies to be internally collaborative and connected, now more than ever. A single change in a company strategy or project must be understood broadly and adopted quickly. Anyone, regardless of their role in the company, needs to be able to communicate critical information to the right people at the right time. This requires a company culture of collaboration, one that promotes and supports internal tools and processes that facilitate cross-company collaboration.

Here are three best practices on how organizations can close this gap:

Start from the Top

Company leadership sets the tone for the rest of the organization. If key leaders rarely communicate or collaborate, the rest of the organization will likely follow in their footsteps. To prevent this, first identify and gain the support of key influencers and leaders in your organization, so that they can set examples for employees to follow. Leaders must learn to embrace being in the "hot seat" and make themselves available and open to feedback, even when the questions might be difficult to answer. "Virtual" meetings, open office hours, and other forms of regularly scheduled communication that can facilitate open discussion - such as blogs or videos - not only help set an example, they can also help to transform the company vision and direction in a way that is more tangible and personal for employees.

Focus on Results, not Platforms

With technology on the rise, many collaboration platforms exist today, and most companies typically focus on features and functions as the chief criteria considered when making a buying decision. However, fixating on this can often lead to a disappointing return on investment and/or low or non-existent adoption of the platform. Such shortcomings usually come down to one root cause: a lack of focus on the expected outcomes. Before embarking on a comparison of various collaboration solutions, it's best to start with identifying which processes or teams need to collaborate. Who are they collaborating with? What information or data do they need to share successfully? What would be the result if things go well? This not only allows you to pick the right solution, it ensures that you'll have a way to communicate to the teams that will be using the solution and a way to measure success.

Start Small

Change is never easy, but it is inevitable. It can take time to learn new ways of doing things, and each individual will have their own individual change management cycle. Some will adopt and embrace change quickly, and others will take time. When looking to shape a culture of collaboration, it's best not to attempt to change everything all at once. It's easier to take smaller steps towards success rather than trying to enforce a new way of working for the entire organization all at once. Both success and failure have a way of traveling through an organization quickly - when one team succeeds and reaches new levels of collaboration and communication, they can become the model for other teams to follow as well. They can become the case study for other teams and each team can determine on what works for them.

Summing it Up

With support from the company leadership, defined outcomes, and starting small, companies can reap the financial and employee satisfaction benefits of a collaborative company culture. Ultimately, this transformation, like any affecting a large group of individuals, is a shared journey that will take time and effort. It is one that is best approached as iterative rather than instantaneous. With maximum effort comes great reward: success is always sweeter when it's shared and celebrated with others members of your organization.


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