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Resilience + Business

How to Build a Connected Organization

Alena, O-Dack, Starheadboy collaboration paintings

By Adi Gaskell

Talent management has rightly been a highly respected part of the management toolkit for several years now.  The latest research suggests however that the management of talent really begins to take off once those individuals begin collaborating with each other.  IBM discovered recently that companies that provide online collaboration tools were 57% more likely to be high performers.

The research strongly suggests that the traditional org chart needs to be redrawn, with it looking more like the network topology diagrams we see for things like the Internet.  The chart will highlight the connectivity of each employee and how effectively they work with others, wherever they may be in the organisation.

Of course, this kind of shift requires a rethink in how organisations are structured.  At the moment, most job descriptions contain individual, not collective responsibility for instance.

Margaret Schweer and colleagues surveyed 76 talent managers at organizations to determine what practices enhanced collaboration. They uncovered several key behaviours that seperate the ace collaborators from the laggards.

  1. Collaborators invest in their networks – Good networks don’t happen by accident.  Those in the top 20% of collaborators in their organisations were found to spend considerable time developing their connections with colleagues.  These individuals tend to target strategic relationships, placing themselves at key leverage points within the organization.
  2. You have more knowledge in your organisation than you realise – The research found that companies often had much more talent in them than their management realised.  Just 30% of the talented individuals appeared on high performers lists.  The researchers believe this is down to companies not valuing collaborative work, whilst managers often succumb to favourtism when selecting people for the fast lane.
  3. Talent is not being utilised – On a positive note, the research found that most companies have a lot of talent.  The bad news is that few are making the most of that talent.  Sadly in many instances this was a deliberate act, with collaboration deemed a waste of time.

The research found that up to 25% of employees were not collaborating well, so there is clearly a lot of untapped potential within our organisations.  The research supplied a few strategies for helping managers encourage a more collaborative approach.

  1. Use social networks when recruiting – If a new recruit was found from within existing social networks then there is a higher chance that they will be tightly integrated into the organization from the start and will not become marginalized.
  2. Use induction processes to build relationships – Whilst many organizations still use inductions to to fulfill housekeeping activities, the best use them to help new hires build relationships throughout the organization.  There is a similar level of attention given when people leave an organization to ensure that connections are maintained should future openings arise.
  3. Enhance intellectual and emotional engagement – Use of social networks was found to enhance employee engagement significantly.
  4. Build organizational knowledge – A central facet of knowledge management is to turn individual knowledge into organizational knowledge.  Organizations have real opportunities to mimic the strong networks developed by the best collaborators and ensure employees are learning and working with a wide range of people.