Businesses today operate in a world that is marked by constraints as well as challenges. There is increased competition, more regulatory restrictions and increased customer expectation. These challenges cause organization’s to be pushed into a corner; the only factor that can keep them afloat in such a situation is their people resource. With technology having made rapid advancements and continuing to do so, the best solution for powering ahead is fostering a collaborative environment.
Collaboration refers to a condition or abstract processes where people work together for achieving collective results that may not be obtainable by working alone. It requires shared objective, commitment, open communication and diversity of skills among collaborators including right mix of people and group facilitator to realize its purpose. In a collaborative environment, employees collaborate, which in the broadest terms means they interact to solve problems, serve customers, engage with partners, and nurture new ideas.
Or, alternatively, collaboration is the interactive dynamic of engaged people, who, when electing to work together, adopt shared behaviors and goals through conversation … with an objective of driving new, emergent, innovative insights and outcomes.
Collaboration is taking disparate points of view, disparate purposes and focusing best creative talents, knowledge and attention on a single (Different) purpose, solve an issue, create something new, and go back to your own purposes. Collaboration INVITES and encourages different talents to use those talents in different way than normal. Collaboration invites people who would not normally be Participants (see the long explanation of this at www.thegreatworkplace.com) to a team, to become intimately involved, albeit on a temporal basis. Collaboration looks BEYOND the walls or an organization to “Best Knowledge” that can be driven to solve issues. (The Great Work Place 2.0)
These are definitions of collaboration that have been proposed by different people and several more exist. There may be a slight disparity between the definitions here and there, but the focus is largely the same. Using the workflow tools and communication capabilities, routine, repetitive tasks can be automated and resources can be utilized for concentrating on more strategic and creative issues.
Integration of these tools and capabilities can ensure that employees, no matter where on the globe and no matter what schedule they are working on, are able to access all relevant information, coordinate, communicate and discuss irrespective of geographical boundaries, time zones and departments. The collaborative effort can produce a synergistic result that can make a real difference. Silos are broken and the flow of knowledge, experience and resource sharing can happen on a wider basis. Feedback from all stakeholders can be collected and incorporated for improvement or analysis.
Benefits of Workforce Collaboration
- Provides the combined knowledge of many individuals
- Diversity of opinion and views may bring to light avoidable mistakes that would not have been obvious to a single individual
- Experience based sharing is more effective
- Routine work becomes more interesting and can be accomplished faster
- Several heads can provide a balanced opinion, ruling out bias
- Synergistic effort brings in better result
- Creative environment; boredom is kept out
- Surprising expertise on a topic or area may come up, revealing a valuable resource
- Greater trust and bonding is facilitated
- Information silos and Knowledge hoarding are broken down
- It is collaborating without superior-subordinate relationship, so pressure to conform is less and gives a genuine platform to share ideas.
Even though there are many advantages, there are some disadvantages:
- Decisions may not always be right
- Individuals may deflect and socially loaf around
- Time taken to arrive at a decision may be more as discussions are lengthy
- Costs of integrating networks is high
- If time zones are different, it may be some time before response and further communication is exchanged.
Workforce collaboration is a very strong tool and can be utilized for exceptional results. The way to make it perform best is to weed out the disadvantages and have a group facilitator to keep things sailing smooth.