Advances in technology have revolutionised the way we collaborate in our personal lives. We have daily updates even from distant friends through Facebook news feeds, we rent hotel services through peer-to-peer platforms like AirBnB, and we seek help and advice from user forums rather than company manuals. Where we have made far less progress however, is in awakening this new era of collaboration in the workplace. Indeed, while collaborative technology is at our fingertips, we still gravitate towards conventional and outdated approaches to information sharing, decision-making and personal development. But why is this?
My many years of research have taught me time and again that a company’s culture is often at the heart of the issue. Even organisations that invest time and money in collaborative platforms like Yammer and Chatter, fail to see the impact they hoped for because they neglected to assess whether or not their company’s culture encouraged collaboration. Indeed, if performance management processes, remuneration systems, and job deigns are all individually oriented, then companies are unlikely to see employees dash to engage with collaborative technologies. To make collaboration work then, we must view an organisation as a system and develop processes and practices that give clear signals in favour of collaborative behaviour. But who in the organisation is able to transform culture in this way?
Of all the functions in a company, HR is the guardian of the future and the most influential in transforming culture. In the coming years it will fall to HR teams to foster collaborative cultures through rewards and recognition for knowledge sharing, complementary skill development within teams, and a renewed focus on network building. This challenge is the current focus for my research team at the Future of Work Research Consortium. Over the next few months we will be working with our members – some of the world’s leading organisations – to craft the future of HR and define the capabilities needed for this function to be the driving force behind collaborative organisations.