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Stop, collaborate and listen: Five tips for fostering enterprise collaboration

Business people having online meeting

The benefits of collaboration within the enterprise are almost limitless. According to a 2014 Deloitte report commissioned by Google Australia, businesses with collaboration at their core are worth an estimated A$46 billion per year to the Australian economy. Moreover, the study also uncovered the massive potential for companies to inject an additional A$9.3 billion in annual value to the local economy, just by making the most of collaboration opportunities.

Further results from the report indicated that businesses that prioritise collaboration are twice as likely to be profitable and five times more likely to experience a considerable increase in employment. Yet, more than half of Australian businesses still have no formal collaboration strategy in place.

With Australian employees documented to waste an average of one hour per week searching for existing information or duplicating work, workplace collaboration is key to avoiding such inefficiencies and the resulting productivity dip. Fundamentally, a collaborative office environment has the power to enable staff with easy access to critical information and resources required to operate effectively.

The following five tips detail the best practice methods that can help companies ensure greater collaboration across devices and geographically dispersed teams, so as to deliver true business value and performance.

1. Implement a collaboration strategy

In order to ensure that an office environment actually helps to foster collaboration, it is first and foremost vital to set in place a dedicated human resources team to drive policies and initiatives as part of an organisation-wide collaboration strategy. This is one of the key ways in which a company can effectively nurture and manage collaboration activity across individuals and departments.

To shed some light on the tangible benefits of having a proper plan – according to the same Deloitte report, organisations that have a collaboration strategy in place are 60 per cent less likely to see a decline in profitability over time, and nearly four times as likely to have a considerable increase in profit.

2. Consider the “collaboration trifecta”

When developing a strategy, it is important to consider the three critical areas that enable greater workplace collaboration. Known as the “collaboration trifecta”, ideal collaboration occurs at the intersection of culture, technology and workspace design.

Culture, for one, can determine how open and keen employees are to adopting new collaborative technologies and adapting to change. On the other hand, technology is also becoming an increasingly vital element of workplace collaboration. This has been particularly driven by the advent of interactive tools, such as smart whiteboards and video conferencing solutions, which have opened up a world of potential for innovative, digital businesses to collaborate and share content across geographical boundaries and time zones. Lastly, workspace design is also essential in fostering greater collaboration, as genuine human interactions are vastly influenced by the availability of functional spaces such as small offices and common outdoor areas.

3. Ensure technology is easy to manage

It almost goes without saying that technological innovation is one of the strongest drivers of collaboration in the workplace today. In fact, a 2014 report by Randstad found that 85 per cent of Australians believe collaboration is increasingly important with the advancement of technology. However, with rising staff expectations for office tools that are easy to install and simple to use, it is also critical for businesses to remove related adoption barriers to facilitate collaboration and the sharing of ideas.

4. Harness greater engagement amongst flexible workers

Developments in communication technologies have enabled employees to become collaborative regardless of geographical locations. In particular, with the rise of video conferencing tools and social media, staff can interact over virtual channels almost instantaneously. More recently, with smart devices and the BYOD trend going mainstream, remote participation in meetings and discussions has also become highly popular amongst companies.

Evidently, organisations looking to keep pace with the workplace of the future will not only need to offer flexible working arrangements, but also the services and technologies to facilitate this. According to a 2014 report by Randstad, 73 per cent of Australian workers believe the next generation of young people entering the workforce – often referred to as ‘Generation Z’ – are more inclined to demand and expect flexible working arrangements. As such, the key to managing this shift and remaining competitive lies in identifying and providing employees with the right tools to enable real-time collaboration across devices and geographies.

5. Establish varied collaboration environments

Collaboration does not only happen in the meeting room. It happens before and after the meeting, in the cafe, in the hallways, even in the gym. Leading organisations recognise the need to map technology solutions to meet each of these physical space requirements. A truly innovative collaboration solution should be able to offer a flexible and natural way to communicate with co-workers and clients – whether they are together in a boardroom or working remotely. It should also be able to support the growing needs of an increasingly global workforce.

Nonetheless, Randstad notes that less than half of Australian workers actually think their employers are prepared to meet the demands of Generation Z workers as they enter the workforce. This is primarily due to the fact that different generations tend to work differently – older workers are typically used to sitting in cubicles or offices, while younger workers often prefer hot desking or working from home.

Ultimately, to ensure collaboration for workers across the board, simplicity is key. There should be no complicated set up and no need for expensive software. It is fundamentally about providing the space, technology and policies so that anytime, anywhere collaboration can take place freely and naturally.

About the author:

This article was written by Ricky Butler, Regional Manager, APAC, SMART kapp at SMART Technologies