Earlier this week I was interview by HR Daily in advance of my presentation at the Workplace Learning Congress (8-9 June 2017 in Sydney) on Advocating Working Out Loud in your Organisation. The interview discussed the benefits of internal collaboration. Full text of the HR Daily article is posted below. Please contact me via LinkedIn or Twitter if you would like to discuss how to build collective capability in your organisation through knowledge sharing and collaboration.
Benefits of internal collaboration too great to ignore
Too many organisations are not yet recognising the benefits of fostering collaborative online employee networks, an L&D strategist says.
Many employers today have an internal social network, or use Yammer or SharePoint, but far fewer are realising the full potential of online sharing, says learning practitioner and collaboration expert Michelle Ockers.
Some fear inappropriate comments and behaviour, others are overly concerned about sharing information too widely across the organisation. But a bigger risk, she says, is the “opportunity cost” of notutilising collaborative networks.
There’s a “business continuity risk”, for example, of employees failing to pass on unique and valuable knowledge. “There’s that risk they walk out the door with it, because there haven’t been active efforts to cross-pollinate, to share it, and not everything can be written in documents and trained – there’s a lot of tacit knowledge-sharing that you risk missing,” Ockers says.
There’s also an increased risk of unnecessary rework and duplication – “if people aren’t connected and working openly, there’s a lot of waste and cost in that” – and the risk of losing employees who thrive on online collaboration and networking, particularly those from younger generations.
The benefits, on the other hand, can create a significant competitive advantage, and have a big impact on productivity. Regular status updates among members of a project team can, for example, make for shorter, more efficient meetings.
“I’ve sat on projects where we’ve transformed project team meetings from status updates more to getting straight into issues, risks and so on, because people were providing their status updates online,” says Ockers, who is currently reviewing Qantas’s L&D approach, and previously held senior L&D roles at Coca-Cola Amatil.
The key to effective online collaboration is to be clear about the purpose of the network, and structure it accordingly, she says.
“Think strategically… what is going on in your organisation and what is it in your strategy that you need to address?” If the strategy is to leverage internal expertise more effectively, the focus might be solely internal, but if the organisation needs to stay abreast of certain cutting-edge fields of knowledge and expertise outside the organisation, the approach might be to assign key people to build external networks and collaborate there, before bringing that information back to in-house networks.
HR should ask, “what are the relevant communities of practice or bodies of knowledge we want to connect people around?” and consider setting up different forums around different interests, projects and topics, Ockers says.
Differentiation is important because if employees know their knowledge is relevant to all members of a community, they’ll be more likely to share with greater detail.
One way to improve internal network participation is to get senior managers and executives to lead by example by sharing updates on their own work and thoughts, she says.
“I worked at one organisation where the CEO did a weekly blog… She wrote about what she’d been doing that week, what sort of things she’d been thinking about, who she was meeting with and the kind of conversations she was having. She put in a little bit about her family and what was going on for her personally. It made her very approachable and it gave people a sense of what was on her mind and the direction she was heading, which was very powerful.”
Some leaders will require coaching on how to increase their online presence, others will simply need encouragement. HR can also consider running regular events to increase participation, such as monthly chats where different leaders field live questions or answer questions that have been submitted beforehand.