Creating a culture of organisational collaboration and flexibility is essential for business success and employee happiness, argues Stravito’s Thor Olof Philogène.

People fitting cogs and wheels together, representing collaboration

According to Gallup’s 2021 report, State of the Global Workplace, as many as 80% of employees are not engaged at work, costing the economy more than $8tn in lost productivity. Aside from the huge financial impact, disengaged employees are at an increased risk of being stressed and unhappy, with corporate innovation potentially grinding to a halt.

Recent Fortune research into ‘The Great Resignation’ as it has been termed, found that 76% of knowledge workers want flexibility in where they work and 93% want flexibility to manage their working hours.

Ultimately, organisations that promote autonomy, and have a purposefully collaborative culture are better poised to foster talent, spur innovation and harbour success. Underpinning this is the ability for organisations to share knowledge and inspire employees across teams and time zones in new ways, as workforces move to hybrid or remote-working, and traditional working hours no longer exist.

Cross-functional collaboration

In my conversations with several client-side insight leaders, many have spoken about the importance of cross-collaboration and the need to place knowledge in the hands of stakeholders who can drive organisational change. Doing so naturally breeds innovation and business growth.

Market research and insight teams have the opportunity to act as the conduit between business functions, creating strategic alignment across everything from finance to supply chain and R&D. Much like the best CEOs, who maintain a company-wide lens, those who share knowledge cross-functionally and inform and engage stakeholders in multiple departments see the greatest returns.

In fact, McKinsey research showcases that those organisations which consistently and successfully leverage customer insights outperform peers by 85% in sales growth and by more than 25% in gross margin.

Support human expertise

Yet, cross-collaboration only works if effective communication strategies are in place. As teams continue to work remotely, collaboration tools that enable individuals and teams to work on projects together asynchronously are vital in creating synchronised output, without demotivating employees who crave autonomy.

But even when the right collaboration and communication strategies are put in place, it remains difficult to use knowledge and insights to inform business decision-making if the technology employed creates bottlenecks that constrain resources.

Just before the pandemic, one of the world’s largest consumer electronics companies implemented a new enterprise insights technology for this very reason. Using the new technology, individuals across departments and locations were able to access previously siloed information. As the pandemic unfolded, they could monitor customer behaviour changes and shifts occurring as a result of the Covid-19 situation in real-time. The company is confident that by unlocking insights, they have and will continue to move closer to customer centricity, thus future-proofing their innovation efforts in years to come.

It’s essential for organisations who want to foster collaboration and innovation, to implement user-friendly technology that people want to, and will continue to, use. Even better is to choose technologies that inspire, and dare I say it, are fun to use. However, very importantly, this technology is not intended to replace human expertise, but rather to facilitate and augment it.

Measure & reward success

With the right tools and strategies in place, collaboration and innovation can thrive. Every Management 101 course shows that behaviours that are celebrated and rewarded within an organisation are the ones that will persist.

Some older and well recorded examples of this include Siemens acknowledging knowledge sharing by tying rewards to the subjective evaluations of colleagues. Research from innovation leaders and KPMG also found that companies recognised as model innovators had designed an incentive system, encouraging teams to participate in conceiving, prototyping, and launching new ideas – rather than simply performing their core responsibilities.

Advancements in technology and analytics mean that organisations can also get a good idea of how much knowledge is being accessed and shared through monitoring activity and adoption rates on their knowledge and collaboration platforms. Such metrics will need to be customised to each individual organisation, but should be focused around the outputs driven by better collaboration strategies.

The bottom line is: collaboration breeds innovation. By working cross-functionally, supporting human expertise and measuring and rewarding success, you’ll drive corporate innovation. And both your employees and your business will be all the better for it.

Thor Olof Philogène is the chief executive of Stravito