National Connections, Local Ownership
National Connections, Local Ownership

Five Steps to Promote Successful Collaboration in the Workplace

You’re sitting in your home office, or in the cab of the truck…how can collaboration possibly be fostered in these environments?

A few weeks ago, I posted a blog on the FleetOwner IdeaXchange discussing how important it is to make collaboration part of your overall operational strategy. This is always a vital step but never more so than during a crisis and no one can dispute that we are still in the midst of the huge crisis of the pandemic.

Too many businesses for far too long have suffered from their various departments operating in silos, limiting the ability of departments to do more with more complete information and data. The sense of “what’s mine is mine” when it comes to operations stymies the ability of a company to find better, more efficient, and more cost-effective ways to work. Successful companies are those that understand a holistic work environment will lead to greater success.

While doing additional research, I came across this 2020 article from the Harvard Business Review (HBR) that dealt with this specific issue. The conclusions they reached, although not directly related to our industry, certainly apply to any company in any industry.

Although HBR recommended a number of actions, here are five I would stress:

1, Encourage questions from employees outside of your department – Sometimes the best questions come from people who are not directly related to what your department does or what issues you may be facing. Opening up the discussion can suddenly expose risks or potential solutions that might otherwise have not emerged. However, outsiders may feel reluctant to ask questions because of that specific lack of knowledge. Management should encourage all participants to ask anything without fear of embarrassment.

2. Watch out for hoarding behavior – Not everyone is opposed to collaboration; however, there are still too many who still want to reside in their own silo. The HBR suggests companies ask employees to fill out a “well-designed three-question survey that can be completed in just a few minutes.” They note that the responses can expose those who are not open to collaboration. By knowing who is a barrier to collaboration, management will be able help those employees become team players.

3. Connect with front lines – Staying in touch with everyone, from entry-level people to top management is vital, especially during times like these when so many people are working in isolation. Hold town halls where everyone can discuss any issues they may be experiencing. Knowing this may allow management and HR to pinpoint which employees may be having issues adjusting. When all employees feel that they are being heard they are more likely to operate collaboratively as they feel they are truly part of a team.

4. Reinforce business goals – Every communication with employees should emphasize company goals and issues and how important it is for everyone to work together to achieve those goals or to address and resolve any issues. Again, when everyone is working towards the same goals, collaboration becomes the natural order of things.

5. Encourage employees to assess their own work behavior – Everyone reacts to stress differently, so in the case of a crisis like COVID-19, employees should take stock of how they are coping while working remotely. Employers would not be able to make this assessment. HBR suggests employees should seek out the perspectives of others; “ask people with whom you’ve been sheltering what they’ve observed you do when you’re stressed.” Once a team member understands their own reactions, they can make adjustments and, again, be able to then work more collaboratively.

Some of the above actions may be more necessary during these trying times. However, transforming your company from a siloed atmosphere to a holistic environment, encouraging collaboration rather than isolation, will lead to long-term success.

Read more of Jane’s IdeaXchange blogs.

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