The workforce has changed rapidly in recent years and companies that want to build and maintain employee engagement in today’s working world must focus on collaboration, says David Youssefnia, Ph.D., president and founder of Critical Metrics and one of Talmetrix’s advisers.
“When you think about collaboration today, it’s something that’s important because the nature of work has changed,” Youssefnia says. “Employees don’t all want the same thing — they want full-time work, or part-time work; they want to work in an office or from home. For all the different setups, being collaborative helps support the diverse needs of today’s workforce.”
The Engagement-Collaboration Connection
Workplace collaboration and employee engagement are intertwined, Youssefnia says. If employees don’t collaborate well, they’re unlikely to be engaged. The factors that drive engagement — how employees feel about the work they do; how they feel about their co-workers, managers and executive leaders; and the confidence they have in the company — are all affected by collaboration.
“If you can’t get work done in the team, how are you going to enjoy the work you’re doing,” Youssefnia asks. “If there’s a super-competitive culture that means success and career development depend on being better than your co-workers, how are you going to be able to collaborate?”
And the collaboration-engagement connection goes both ways: “If you’re committed, and I’m committed, we’re more likely to work together,” Youssefnia says. “Engagement leads to collaboration and collaboration leads to engagement.”
3 Steps to Increasing Collaboration
Increasing collaboration can seem like a daunting task, but it’s not impossible, says Youssefnia who recommends taking these three steps:
- Measure and observe. Next time you do an employee engagement survey, ask a few questions related to collaboration: Do you have a strong relationship with your manager? Do you feel like you work well with your colleagues? In addition, look for signs of collaboration on a day-to-day basis. How do projects completed by people from multiple teams turn out? Do those projects seem to require more time and effort than necessary? These questions can give you insights on where to dedicate more resources or training to helping employees collaborate.
- Create collaborative spaces. The way your office is set up can have a big impact on collaboration. Open-floor plans and dedicated meeting rooms can help foster collaboration; cubicles and closed spaces may hinder it. Look at the way traffic moves through these spaces, too — do people stop to share ideas and updates, or are they shunted away from co-workers as they walk from one part of the office to another?
- Hire and promote collaborative people. It’s important to determine whether your organization is bringing people on board without considering how they work with others. For example, “you can bring in a rock-star employee who’s not a team player, and it will have a negative impact.” Look at who your company promotes and rewards as well — are their successes based on individual contributions, or are they strong leaders who connect and inspire teams? Prioritizing collaboration means rewarding those who make it happen.
With the current focus on employee engagement, employers that want to get it right must ensure their employees collaborate well, Youssefnia says. It’s a simple concept, but an important one, and organizations that don’t make it a priority will have a harder time improving engagement.
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