Collaboration Tools Are Managers' New Best Friends

William Meller - Collaboration Tools Are Managers' New Best Friends
Collaboration tools can give workers quick answers to questions, speed decision-making, and improve communications by being the managers' new best friends.

Online collaboration tools have become a vital element of the modern workplace. And because the modern workplace does not have a "place" at all, we need to adopt a well-organized, central space where all the project documentation and communication lives. 

Our clients may be located in Europe, our developers in South America, and our marketing team in Asia. But the documents, processes, deadlines, and schedules live under the same roof. Online collaboration tools enable a coordinated workflow and better communications by providing a unified collaborative environment for all types of discussion, being all about aligning people.

Collaboration software comes in many forms. You’re probably familiar with Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Drive and Docs, Miro, etc. Modern collaboration apps take collaboration a step further by unifying all of these work interactions within a single online collaborative tool. More online collaboration tools spring up every year while existing ones are constantly improving their features and functionality.

In an article at Harvard Business Review, Brad Power shared an interesting thought: "The potential of online collaboration tools is as big in enterprises as it has been in the consumer realm. 20-something workers will continue to chat and tweet on social media outside of work. Will your organization provide them with equivalent tools to support them in their work and treat this as a cultural change? Have you seen workers use online collaboration tools to do their jobs better and discuss how they can improve their work?"

At Nationwide Insurance, the $20 billion financial services provider, online social collaboration has become part of the workplace and a key tool for engaging workers. Anyone can ask online questions, post comments, make announcements, recognize a peer, or search the network to find answers. Like Facebook, the Nationwide network enables people to share with groups or friends, with easy access through mobile devices. When workers ask questions of the community, they usually get faster answers than from the help desk or e-mail. Some leaders are now posting quick (less than two minutes) video announcements about new or changed processes, instead of sending e-mail. This has been a real hit with generation Y employees in Nationwide’s contact centers, for example, who are comfortable with this type of communication. - Brad Power, Harvard Business Review

To multinational accounts, you increasingly need seamless collaboration across geographic boundaries. To improve customer satisfaction, you increasingly require collaboration among functions ranging from R&D to distribution. To offer solutions tailored to customers’ needs, you increasingly need collaboration between product and service groups. 

Getting collaboration right promises tremendous benefits: a unified face to customers, faster internal decision-making, reduced costs through shared resources, and the development of more innovative products.

Technology is making it easier than ever for high-performing employees to enjoy a collaborative company culture. “Social applications allow people to work not just faster and cheaper, but also in ways they simply couldn’t have before,” said Heidi Gardner, author of Smart Collaboration: How Professionals and Their Firms Succeed by Breaking Down Silos.

 Different modes of collaboration involve different strategic trade-offs. Companies that choose the wrong mode risk falling behind in the relentless race to develop new technologies, designs, products, and services.

According to Jim Clifton, the chairman, and CEO of Gallup, employees are most likely to quit because of poor leadership. “Employees everywhere don’t necessarily hate the company or organization they work for as much as they do their boss,” he writes. “Employees—especially the stars—join a company and then quit their manager.”

Organizations of nearly all sizes and industries find that activating high-performance teams can deliver dramatic results. These teams, unlike those of the recent past, prominently include people from outside the organization, such as contractors, suppliers, and consultants, as well as colleagues in disparate locations who might be telecommuting or working flexible hours. 

These teams also find themselves responding to new business drivers such as speed to market, mobility, and globalization. These teams also require a new way of working together. A new Harvard Business Review Analytic Services global study of more than 300 midsize to large enterprises finds that many executives believe current collaboration tools fall short of supporting the depth, pace, and style of teamwork now required to keep up with today’s most important business imperatives.

Sheila Heen, a Harvard Law School lecturer and co-founder of Triad Consulting Group say that short interactions open the door to ongoing communication and company collaboration between team members and present more frequent opportunities for them to learn and improve as a unit.

It is clear that developing a culture of collaboration requires more than simply dividing employees into groups. Collaboration, facilitated both through technology, is the result of many individuals coming together as one, being a new approach to team leadership that makes collaboration a significant thing for all types of teams. It’s part of a leader’s job to celebrate and encourage employees who learn how to be collaborative at work, but it doesn’t always have to happen through informal reviews.

There's no new normal coming. Today’s workplace is the new normal!

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