Recently, the East Coast was hit hard by a massive winter storm that dumped more than three feet of snow in parts of West Virginia, Virginia, DC and Maryland, causing more than 8,500 flight cancellations and leading to 11 states declaring a “snow emergency.” Hundreds of drivers were left stranded on Interstates for as long as 19 hours.
In addition to the immediate negative impact and personal harm experienced by millions of Americans, many businesses suffered huge financial losses. For businesses that rely solely on workers being physically present to run machines or serve customers in-person, there is not much that can be done to curb such losses. However, for service-based businesses that utilize the Internet as a key part of their revenue generation and customer service, enabling workers to collaborate offers a myriad of benefits, not just when big storms strike, but during the “normal” times as well. In today’s article, I’d like to focus on collaboration, including defining what it is and how it is an invaluable component to a Next Gen Workplace.
Real Collaboration vs. “Working Remotely”
Collaboration is sometimes confused with concepts such as “consensus,” “teamwork,” and “working remotely.” While it often includes these other concepts, collaboration does not always mean everyone has to agree before a decision is made. Nor does collaboration suggest that there is no room for individual creativity — quite the contrary! Collaboration encourages clusters of experts with diverse skills to make decisions quickly. Moreover, the Next Gen Workplace environment allows experts at any level to propose, create and execute without hierarchical or geographical constraints.
In a collaborative work environment, priorities are set by clusters of experts who make decisions. Decisions are communicated real-time through applications that incorporate social-media-like capabilities and collaborative work tasks are shared on a secure technology platform. In this environment, individuals are able to apply themselves to the work based on their skills and availability, regardless of their geographic location. Additionally, expertise outside the enterprise is available as needed (i.e. on-demand) to bring about necessary knowledge/education. Moreover, factors such as inclement weather play a much smaller role in deterring productivity.
Another advantage of a collaborative work environment compared with just “working remotely” is that individual accountability is embedded into the collaborative work process. As a result, leadership is empowered to influence, envision and execute, rather than focusing on commanding and controlling subordinates, which is so often the case in traditional work environments.
Make Collaboration Part of Your Corporate Culture
Collaboration is still a distant utopia for many companies, but it does not have to be that way. In my last blog, I talked about the various real-time technologies that must be put in place for the Next Gen workplace experience to become a reality (If you missed it, check out, “Technology’s Role in Creating a Viable Next Gen Workplace.”). While technology is an important component of collaboration, there is much more to the equation. To optimize collaboration and achieve real business value, it must be applied to workflows and business processes. It is also crucial to embed collaboration within the corporate culture to ensure it becomes more than just a passing fad.
The characteristics of the collaboration component within the Next Gen Workplace include:
- greater focus on an individual’s visibility and reputation
- schedules that occur anywhere and at any time based on working moments
- rewards and compensation based on the value of contribution and expertise
- managers who act as coaches to ensure the right skills and resources are applied to the right priorities
- communications that use richer and more diverse mediums
- organizations that are formed based on business priorities and are staffed from a global marketplace of talent
Evolving from a traditional “plan and push” operation to a Next Gen Workplace is not an instantaneous event; it’s a business strategy that requires planning, thoughtful strategy and precise execution. Before leading your organization on this life-changing journey, ensure that your team members and executives are thoroughly prepared for what lies ahead.