The Case for Collaboration

 -  10/3/11

In the rush to get employees working together, talent managers risk overlooking the critical human factors that can make or break collaboration initiatives.

Canadian telecom Telus faced a set of challenges familiar to many organizations. On one hand, the notoriously cutthroat telecom market was pushing it to develop innovative products and services faster and more efficiently to compete for customers.

On the other hand, despite being recognized as one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers, surveys were showing the British Columbia-based company’s 35,000-strong workforce was looking for a more engaging, empowering and collaborative work environment.

Faced with that familiar set of pressures — increasing competition and rapid market change on one side, a dispersed global workforce with shifting expectations on the other — the company set out in 2008 to transform from a hierarchical top-down model to a more open one.

“We wanted to be, if you use Renee Mauborgne [co-author of the business book Blue Ocean Strategy] language, a blue ocean organization as opposed to a red ocean organization, which denotes a much more innovative and collaborative organization to try and outwit your competitor,” said Dan Pontefract, senior director and head of learning and collaboration for Telus.

Telus is not alone. Many organizations, large and small, global and local, are implementing employee collaboration systems to boost innovation and create a more agile and responsive workforce able to compete in a fast-paced, volatile global business environment. But in the rush to implement systems, from off-the-shelf products such as Salesforce Chatter and Microsoft SharePoint to vendor-provided add-ons to the existing talent management system such as Saba’s People Cloud or custom-built, in-house tools, many talent managers are overlooking the critical human factors that can make or break workforce collaboration initiatives.

The Case for (and Problems With) Collaboration

Like Telus, many companies are implementing collaboration initiatives to boost innovation and employee engagement. Some have specific objectives in mind, such as decreasing production cycle time, boosting operational efficiency or improving customer service scores. Whatever the stated purpose, collaboration systems should do two basic things: help workers find answers to problems and connect them with others capable of helping them, said Josh Bernoff, senior vice president, idea development, Forrester Inc. and author of Empowered.

Article Keywords:   talent management   collaboration  

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