Are we recognising the potential power of collaborative working?

Are we recognising the potential power of collaborative working?
December 1, 2017 SammyJ

Collaborative working is defined as “the act of two or more people or organisations working together for a particular purpose.” (1)  There is an increasing dialogue regarding the subject of collaborative working, although I question if organisations have really stopped to consider what this means, the benefits of it and what affect it has on the employer-employee relationship.  There are two approaches to collaboration: internal and external. The external approach is about identifying symbiotic partners for mutual benefits, internal collaboration is about establishing symbiotic partnerships within the workforce. This blog focuses on the internal collaborative relationship.

In my view, collaboration within a workforce accelerates the potential to develop ideas and enthusiasm, enabling organisations to access and benefit from a wider talent pool.  So how do we go about creating and sustaining a collaborative culture? Through the work of Dave Ulrich, we can consider the role of HR in enabling and encouraging an internal collaborative work environment. Ulrich suggests, “Collaboration is an increasingly important organisational capability because individual skills are more successful when they combine to form productive teams. The role of HR can be to ensure that a business has the ability to collaborate by making collaboration a part of who is hired, what is trained, how people are paid and how decisions are made.” (2)  I would concur with the statement around individual skills being more successful when they combine to create productive teams. Having seen this in action within a commercial setting, I would suggest collaboration could also be used as a powerful approach within the engagement and management of change.

Does collaborative working affect the psychological contract with an organisation? If so, what positive impact does this have on the working environment?  The psychological contract between employee and employer is the unwritten set of expectations of the employment relationship which can develop overtime based on employee and employee performance and actions. (3)  It could be suggested that the employer-employee collaboration, if effective, could add to the depth and sustainability of the psychological contract, with employer and employee achieving greater performance appraisal and better understanding of performance with increased skillsets. (4)

So where does technology fit with the development of a culture of collaboration?

Technology plays a significant part in enabling collaborative working both internally and externally, through the use of social media tools, such as Skype and LinkedIn forums, enabling work-from-home employees to be involved in collaborative projects and webinars, where there can be a transfer and sharing of learning between stakeholders.

From my own experience, I have seen some of the more obvious benefits of collaborative working:

  • Employees working together having more focus on the individual and combined skill set, recognising the strengths each individual has, outside their specific job roles.
  • Working collaboratively, both internally as teams within an organisation, or externally as organisations working together, can stimulate fresh thinking and new ideas and promote innovation and motivation.

Awbery has seen an increase in the desire within their client organisations to be coached and develop their understanding of the different types of collaborative learning. One approach which has become increasingly popular within the Awbery design of learning experiences, is Action Learning. Action Learning is a collaborative approach to problem solving that is embedded into many of our leadership development programmes, helping to create a culture that embraces collaborative working in order to increase and capitalise on both individual and collective strengths.  Using technology to create the action learning across multi-sited business has worked well, with GoToTraining and GoToMeeting, Skype and Facetime being utilised as part of the day-to-day business communication methods.

As the New Year approaches, and the digital world continues to expand and develop, ask yourself, in your organisation, do we enable and encourage internal and external collaborative working?  What could we do to create a more obvious, proactive culture where this approach becomes the norm? Could we better utilise technology to enable this to happen?

Writing by Mary Sisson, Awbery’s Business Development Director.