Secrets of successful collaboration

Sharing ideas can reap rewards, but no one wants back-to-back meetings. Here's how we can all work smarter and unlock the power of the group.

by Claire Sweeting
Last Updated: 08 Nov 2018

We’ve known about the benefits of collaboration for years. ‘You can’t stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes,’ said that well-known philosopher Winnie-the-Pooh. Technology is now sweeping aside barriers and allowing people from all parts of a business to share knowledge and ideas, leading to big innovations.

People who might not have worked together in the past are bouncing ideas off each other in order to move the business forwards – the marketing manager and the finance controller; the millennial and the baby boomer; the UK office and the Hong Kong office. Not only are they solving problems faster by working together, they’re also gaining more job satisfaction as colleagues listen to and value their opinion.

Bringing people together

But there are challenges. To start with, different generations of workers have different ways of working. According to a recent survey*, 78% of baby boomers prefer face-to-face communication, compared with just 58% of the younger generation. Plus baby boomers tend to have more respect for hierarchy, while millennials want the freedom to speak to people at all levels of the business. But once these groups are working together, they can support each other to master new technology, as well as dispel the generational misconceptions they have about each other, leading to stronger and more flexible teams.

Another problem can be the office environment itself. Yes, most of us are in open-plan offices these days, but they don’t always lead to greater collaboration. They need to be well-thought-out and designed with the needs of workers in mind, with private spaces, otherwise there are just too many distractions. Research has shown that the number of people who couldn’t focus at their desk rose by 16% between 2008 and 2014**.

A changing culture

While some staff are sitting in the open-plan office desperately trying to concentrate, others are dispersed around the country or even around the world. For these teams to work well, communication is key – they need the right tools and reliable technology, alongside thorough training and guidance. The culture of work is changing, but management needs to change with it.

And of course, complex hierarchies can stand in the way of collaboration. As businesses grow, they often gain layers of management, making it harder for employees to access the information they need. Information gets stuck in silos, leading to poor decision-making. In a McKinsey survey***, 60% of senior executives said that poor decisions were just as common as good decisions in their organisation (12% said poor decisions were the norm).

Tools for the 21st century

But with the right tools and information, it’s possible to overcome these obstacles. Microsoft is at the forefront of collaborative technology, and can provide all the hardware, integrated apps and communication tools you need.

Microsoft Teams, for instance, is a chat-based collaboration tool enabling colleagues to work together through a common workspace, using features such as team chat, one-on-one chat and document collaboration. Meanwhile, Microsoft Surface devices help you discover new ways to write, design, learn and problem-solve.

Microsoft Surface Hub is a first-of-its-kind device that’s purpose-built for meetings, with Skype functionality and whiteboard screen-sharing. But when you’re sharing data around the city, or the world, what are the security risks? Microsoft’s cloud apps feature multi-factor authentication and access monitoring, and encrypt your data at rest and in transit with best-in-class cryptography. Microsoft also conforms to all ISO security standards, so with these tools, it’s not a choice between teamwork and security – you can have both.

* Ricoh, 'The 4G Workplace
** Harvard Business Review
*** McKinsey & Company

Find out more about how Microsoft can help unite your workforce here 

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