Collaboration: Not Just In Company Offsites But Down In The Trenches As Well

Are your team-building efforts actually helping in building collaborative teams?

In my experience as an HR professional, I have had the opportunity to be part of numerous team-building activities. The typical format would be small activities performed with people from different functions or teams. And, of course, it would be an overall fun experience. However, the core idea is that the relationships you develop there would continue to the actual workplace and help ensure collaboration.

But in reality, does it work?

In our workplace, we need to work with stakeholders with different KPIs to deliver, and for them to collaborate with us means taking away time from their priorities. And why would someone do that? Either they respect you and want you to succeed, and/or they understand that everyone is working towards the organization's larger vision, and working together will only help achieve that. But in reality, these scenarios are idealistic and may only happen sometimes.

So, where does the problem lie?

The problem lies in how we define performance. Our goal sheet is about what we need to achieve as "individuals," but we know well that we cannot succeed in silos. We want our employees to work together, but we do not incentivize collaboration. So how do we address this?

Here are the two approaches that we can begin with:

  1. Start with your goal sheet.

I once bought a beautiful pink colored toy piano for my toddler from a shop in Kerala. A couple of weeks later, I wanted to buy a gift for my nephew of the same age, and I immediately thought of the piano and went to the same store. Unfortunately, they did not have the piece, and I returned disappointed. Eventually, I ended up buying something else for the child. A few days later, while shopping in another area, I saw the same toy shop (they were a chain). And I found the same toy that I had been looking for earlier. It got me thinking that two shops of the same chain, a few km apart, why didn't they speak to each other to fulfill a customer request? The answer was – that their KPI was to increase sales in their respective shops. And there was no incentive for them to provide references or collaborate with the other stores in the chain. Because of this, they were probably losing potential customers like me. These scenarios are common across teams and industries.

Start by making collaboration a part of your goal sheet. For example, the KPIs for a recruiter should not stop at XX nos. of hires per month. It should have a piece on working with the branding team to roll out hiring campaigns, sharing inputs to define candidate personas, and inputting actual candidate feedback about the campaigns. In the absence of a KPI like this, recruiters will source and shortlist candidates without actually tapping the power of building a strong employer brand. The branding team will work in a vacuum designing campaigns without truly understanding whom they are trying to attract.

Incentivizing the two teams to collaborate with each other will enable both of them to have a far greater impact than they would be working individually. As they say – The whole is greater than the sum of its parts!

  1. Get creative about your ‘Pay-for-Performance’ philosophy.

In one of the organizations where I worked, I had a colleague who was very good in his relationship-building skills but could have improved his data analytics. Having spent so many years in one of the support functions, he felt his strengths needed to be more utilized, but the sales team never had the confidence to include him because the role demanded him to be data-driven. Nevertheless, despite having no sales target in his KPI, he was enthusiastic enough to bring in essential clients year after year because he wanted to do good for the organization. Unfortunately, while his efforts were recognized, praised, and spoken about in all forums, he did not get a monetary benefit. This was primarily because the pay-for-performance philosophy could not deal with a corner case. A possible solution here could have been to offer him a one-time bonus, basis the size of the deal that he brought in.

If collaboration is the behavior we want to see in the organization, then let us figure out a way to reward that behavior. And that is our job as an HR professional – to have a robust pay-for-performance philosophy and evolve as we are on that journey, adapting to and recognizing the different ways our employees contribute.

Our objective is to help draw synergies across teams and achieve organizational goals. So, let’s work towards putting the sales vs. manufacturing battle to rest!



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