"Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up."— Oliver Wendell Holmes
"The percentage of 'engaged' workers in the US -- those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace -- is now 34 percent, tying its highest level since Gallup began reporting the national figure in 2000. In March 2016, Gallup also reported that 34 percent of US employees were engaged, along with 16.5 percent who were 'actively disengaged' -- a ratio of two engaged workers for every actively disengaged one.
The percentage who are 'actively disengaged' -- workers who have miserable work experiences -- is now at its lowest level (13 percent), making the current ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees 2.6-to-1 -- the highest ever in Gallup tracking. These findings are based on a random sample of 30,628 full- and part-time US employees working for an employer from January to June 2018" -- 2018 Gallop Research.
Gallop's 2018 research notes that the remaining 53 percent of workers are in the "not engaged" category, identified as: "They may be generally satisfied but are not cognitively and emotionally connected to their work and workplace; they will usually show up to work and do the minimum required but will quickly leave their company for a slightly better offer." Although employee engagement trends are positive and trending in the right direction, the fact remains: Two out of three US employees are not actively engaged.
In my own experience of managing large teams across multiple line of business, employee engagement can increase through the use of collaboration technologies and re-designed business processes. In my book, The Pursuit of Social Business Excellence, I wrote about importance and benefits of cultivating a collaborative culture, where ideas and improvement recommendations from all employees can be seen and heard throughout the seams of the social business fabric, not just from the top of the organization.
"Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results."— Andrew Carnegie
If collaboration is the interpersonal activities that create value when we work together, how do you strap a few jet engines on collaboration applications to drive significantly greater value? It turns out to be either much easier -- or much harder than you expected.
To better understand company collaboration best practices, I asked Wayne Kurtzman, IDC research director, Social, Communities and Collaboration Practice, to share his point of view and research backed findings. Prior to joining IDC, Wayne led emerging technology programs for global B2B and B2C companies, leveraging community collaboration and social media to drive employee and customer experience, new efficiencies, and new revenue streams. He has developed global community, social, and analytics practices as well as award-winning knowledge management and advocacy programs. Here are Kurtzman thoughts on scaling business collaboration, aimed at improving employee engagement and business outcomes:
Collaboration features are increasingly touted as the next "must have" enterprise application. Your challenge is that it lies at the intersection of user experience, community, and technology.
Peter Drucker said, "Company cultures are like country cultures. Never try to change one. Try, instead, to work with what you've got." Now think beyond work culture to how employees use technology: it's cheaper, more portable, easier to use and more functional than ever. Have a need? Load an app. Need to work with people? Get a messaging or collaboration app. Your employees are literally waiting for you to catch up, and likely are already using shadow IT solutions to enable them to be more productive.
On the tech side, IDC research found the integration of core business applications, empowering cross-silo conversations, and enterprise adoption of collaborative platforms results in significantly fewer meetings, less email and faster time to execute projects. That's because work is done in real time, and not waiting for the next meeting. But it takes adoption from the bottom up and the top down to succeed, and often a change in how work is done. IDC has isolated nine steps in creating a culture to drive accelerated benefits from collaboration:
- Shared purpose/identity. The driving reason to collaborate is what keeps the group together. It's about community built around a shared purpose. Community can't be dictated, it is earned. When purpose or identity changes or diminishes, so does group cohesion.
- Trust and Openness. The best ideas require a "safe place" to share them, and get constructive feedback. If concepts are open to strong criticism, you will lose your best ideas and eventually, sense of community.
- Common Context is the lingua franca of group dynamics, the common language and experiences used to describe the group's work. On-boarding new members to the community needs to be done the way you would in an "in real life" community group. Online collaboration environments make this easier, as users can see a history of how context develops. Still, mentoring users is key to success.
- Mentor and model. Modeling behavior and mentoring is best done by peers in every department. Using peers and not managers makes it easier to grow adoption, on board users, and to set and moderate norms.
- Cross-silo membership. Adding subject matter experts from around the globe with other stakeholders creates new insights that helps drive better results, and prevent pitfalls.
- Convergent and divergent ideas. Not every idea is an easy-to-reach idea based on known facts. Most are ambiguous and require assembly. Embracing and building from partial ideas can results in significant "A ha!" moments for the team.
- Negotiation. The group needs to determine how and when it brings the ideas forward and implements them to stay on time. This is important with divergent ideas, that often takes consensus.
- Meritocracy. Increasingly, employees expect to be acknowledged for work done. Collaboration is a meritocracy, which may mean a redefined role for managers as a facilitator.
- Process, Assets, and Workflow. Here's where the technology comes in: Bringing together all the relevant systems, assets, meetings, visuals and add scheduling, workflow and the other systems can now be leveraged faster, shared together as a default, and leverage the cultural assets that drive true digital transformation.
After speaking with Kurtzman, it is clear to me that scaling collaboration is a function of an inclusive and open-minded culture, honest and curious talent, lean and agile processes and lastly intuitive and smart technologies.
"No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you're playing a solo game, you'll always lose out to a team."— @ReidHoffman
You are not a team because you work together. You are a team because you trust, respect and care for each other. Collaboration is hard work but with simple steps, it can be easier and far more rewarding. Creating a collaborative culture is not a destination but a continuous journey towards co-creation of stakeholder (employees, customers, partners and communities) value. Collaboration can start with just four words: 'what do you think?'