More Companies Asking Employees to Collaborate

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Employers in most industries are encouraging employees across different departments to collaborate, in an effort to help foster faster responses to rapid changes in their markets. But how do you get a fast talking salesperson to work with the reserved, detailed-oriented engineer?

Collaborating with colleagues is an essential skill necessary to success in the workplace, but it often requires new skills. To play well with others, a team of colleagues must adapt to each other’s style of working, and be willing to cede the limelight to others.  Employees required to collaborate on projects with other departments, must be willing to speak up and disagree on issues that arise.

Working in isolation may be costly to career advancement as well as the company as a whole. Silos have been blamed as the cause for setbacks at Microsoft, Sony Corp. and Swiss financial company, UBS AG. A lack of collaboration due to the creation of silos can prevent companies from providing good service or developing products customers want, according to research done by anthropologist Elizabeth Briody, founder of Cultural Keys consulting firm.

Employers are finding that teaming workers with diverse backgrounds fosters better ideas and decisions, according to a study of 1,100 employers by the Institute for Corporate Productivity. Employees at Starr Conspiracy, an ad agency in Fort Worth, Texas say their projects and designs have become more innovative and broader in scope since employees were made to coordinate their work on client projects across departments. One product that was created by an engineer, a writer and an art director by the company that has been a great success is an interactive online template for content. The template is an alternative to the PDF format used in informational white papers. “Working across so many disciplines at once, we’re able to tackle problems that I never would have tried,” said Nancy Crabb, the art director on the project.

Employees must overcome a learning curve to successfully collaborate, by first setting aside their desire to have control over a project.  The goal is to help the team find the right answers when developing a project. Employees must also be willing to debate an issue without worrying about angering others, and “engage in the productive conflict, the listening and debating, that help you get to the right answer,” says Mr. Steib, CEO of New York technology company XO Group, Inc.

Source: Wall Street Journal, “Taking One for the Team: Companies Foster Collaboration,” by Sue Shellenbarger

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