Collaborative workforces don’t just happen

  • Companies that exemplify long-term success devote time and effort to encouraging collaboration above competition.

  • Keeping your staff focused on working together requires understanding what employees are trying to achieve personally.

Corporate culture is rife with stories of competitive environments and destructive behavior. But companies that exemplify long-term success devote time and effort to creating spaces that encourage collaboration above competition.

Startups often possess collaborative cultures because employees are often focused on the same goals, and individual success is closely tied to the success of the group. But is it possible to bring that same kind of community spirit to a company that isn’t a startup and already has some measure of competition in place?

Keeping your staff focused on working together to make things happen requires understanding what employees are trying to achieve personally. As your staff members mature in their careers, they will move among organizational units as well as in and out of the company. When your employees understand how the company works and what opportunities are available, they can concentrate on developing the skills they need to land the role they want next. They can also develop relationships based on cooperative working environments that can last throughout their careers. It’s the responsibility of management to build employees, and in turn build cooperative teams, that support one another and create positive working environments.

Here are three concepts that are critical to developing and maintaining positive, collaborative work environments.

1. Maintain critical mass. Business units have a life of their own and as strong performers transfer between units they can leave gaps that can damage the team. It’s important to have multiple individuals who are capable of leading the team so that as team members transition out, their responsibilities can be assumed with minimal negative impact. This requires deep understanding of the personal dynamics that exist within groups.

2. Know the leaders. Every incumbent eventually leaves. Successful companies make sure that its leaders do the best while they are there, know how they might progress through the ranks — and even leave the company when the time is right. Executives who want to make certain their very best performers are in the right positions at the right times understand the motivations of these individuals. Simultaneously, they’re looking across teams to identify potential leaders who can be prepared to move into open positions when appropriate.

3. Promote internally. As leadership positions become available, there should be no surprises to anyone about who will fill the role. Internal movement is good for the organization and promoting the obvious candidate shows strength and foresight. Employees working in collaborative environments understand the strengths of their co-workers and truly endorse logical and well-planned transitions. Surprise placements, particularly by hiring external staff, can cause resentment and infighting.

Make the most of the human resources you have. Build a collaborative workforce by recognizing talent and building teams that respect the individuals with whom they work.

Scott Koegler is a technology journalist with a specialization on the intersection of business and technology. All opinions are his own. AT&T sponsored this blog post.

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