Maximising the potential of the connected workplace for individual and organisational success.

In an earlier blog, we examined the emerging phenomenon of the connected workplace, driven by an increased need for teamwork in a time of business transformation and supported by the emergence of increasingly popular digital collaboration tools.

Against the backdrop of current and pending workplace skills shortages and an increasing need for skills in the social and communication areas, using new tools that promise to maximize the opportunity to connect and share expertise sounds like a no-brainer. For those in the learning sphere, it also presents a powerful opportunity to place learning right where it needs to be: embedded in the flow of work, accessed by people where they are and when they need it, and harnessing the rich experiences that can be facilitated by collaborative and peer-based learning.

The promise is big and exciting, but like many tools, the newest collaborative tools can’t magically deliver a solution on their own, whether the goal is enhanced communication, better learning, or improved productivity. So, how can we help the collaborative environment fulfill its promise?

These strategies can help you maximize the opportunity of workplace collaboration with the latest and greatest tools, for better learning and, ultimately, improved performance.

    1. There are lots of great tools out there but using lots of tools doesn’t necessarily mean more collaboration. Standardize the use of tools to facilitate maximum access to shared knowledge and expertise. Much can be lost if different teams are using different tools, and rather than breaking down silos, it can further embed them. Choose tools that encourage teams to collaborate across teams, not just within their own team. Cross-disciplinary teams are essential to the workplace of the future – enabling collaboration and knowledge sharing across teams will create the foundations to make these working arrangements a success. Choose the collaboration tools that best suit your organization carefully. Consider its communication preferences, your teams, the way you work (or want to work), and so on.


    1. Culture is key in a connected workplace. Currently, however, it is also one of the biggest workplace challenges. Deloitte Human Capital Trends 2017 rates a good culture as highly desirable for prospective employees, while also reporting that only 14% of companies really know what a ‘good culture’ looks like. And, globally, employee engagement is at persistently low levels. Employees need to feel valued and they see investment in their development and learning as an important indicator. Help shape a positive workplace culture in which ongoing collaborative learning is supported and encouraged, with incentives, recognition, and reward for participation. Use a collaborative approach to maximize peer learning opportunities.

      Decide what your culture is and what your goals are and let that guide your choice of tools. You might want, for example, to create an environment of ‘ambient awareness’ – knowing not just what I’m doing but what others are doing, which might both help me in my role and make me more aware of what the organization is doing. Choose tools that support cross-team sharing, that enable ‘big picture’ or summary views of what’s going on, and enable tagging and searching for ease of access.


    1. Collaboration tools alone won’t improve productivity. A rethink of work practices, physical workplaces, and leadership approaches are all needed. Learning must work with broader HR, Technology, and the business to work towards shared goals, making it easy for employees and teams to learn and work together to be successful.[1] Collaboration tools are just one element of the learning and performance ecosystem, one component of a carefully designed blend of tools, modalities, and resources that foster learning, continued development and sustained performance.


    1. Walk the talk. If you want to harness the benefits of a collaborative workplace, incorporate collaborative elements throughout your learning and communication channels. Use webinars, forums, and curated channels to enable employees to engage in online collaborative platforms in the learning environment and build confidence and interest in using them in other areas of their work. Make collaboration part of the onboarding experience – for example, with a channel for new employees to share tips on the best industry publication sources, or a forum for account managers to share important learnings from client projects.


    Embracing and supporting the collaborative connected workplace will mean that your employees learn and share more from each other and are more informed about their organization and their roles. Help learners form new habits so that working and learning in a collaborative way becomes second nature – it will help them learn, grow, and perform better both together and as individuals.

    The truly connected, collaborative workplace crosses boundaries of geography, language, and time to offer a rich experience for employees of all regions and levels. Help your workforce come for the information and stay for the community, inclusion, and connectedness that a successful connected workplace offers.[2] This can help you to build a happier, more engaged and, ultimately, more productive workforce.

  1. [1] In a technology consulting firm, for instance, consultants worked in project team silos on client projects, often embedded with client sites for extended periods of time, with little contact with their consulting colleagues working on other projects. The firm realised that it was missing out on the opportunity to benefit from lessons learned across projects, or from similarities between one project and another. They decided to set up an online forum for sharing and exchanging ideas on client projects and lessons learned. Consultants report that it has helped them that it has helped solves problems faster, while for the business creating efficiencies in time and cost.[2]
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