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Collaborators are winners. Is your organisation collaborative?

11 July 2016 #Employment

Do you work in a collaborative culture?

Collaboration sounds good, but probably more talked about than applied. Many businesses would say they are collaborative. Are they really? 

In people management the concept has great force, but actually requires an elusive level of co-operation. Can HR add significant value by facilitating a collaborative culture?  It could be the biggest thing HR professionals can ever do for the business they serve.

Managed collaboration is one of the biggest potential game changers , moving an organisation from a cluster of silos to an entity with greater dynamic and shared purpose.

Human Resources is the natural facilitator of defining, teaching and managing effective collaboration in any organisation. It may need a change of mindset, as improved collaboration may not be the first thing managers think of to improve their business.

It is very much a shift to "teamthink", so maximising resources and potential, which general day to day management may neglect.

Technology in theory makes collaboration easier, but also speeds up working life that stopping to think, let alone work out collaborations, is becoming a luxury.

If Human Resources can drive enhanced collaboration in their organisation they may be doing it, and themselves, a great favour . Promoting collaborative management and teamwork that cascades down the organisation has potential to transform engagement, motivation and output.

Thus HR adds value to the organisation in an enduring structural way, helping the organisation make best use of resources, and probably adding significantly to corporate appreciation of HR as facilitators of individual and team co-operation.

Collaboration is undoubtedly now seen as a critical component of business relationships , through joint ventures, supply chains, and networks. The imminent ISO11000 standard for collaborative working (internationalising the existing BS11000) may become increasingly an expectation in contracting. Hence, companies of all sizes need to understand and apply collaboration in a measurable way to show they meet requirements of business and indeed of ethics and social responsibility.

HR can help their organisation to understand and apply collaboration within, then be better equipped to export that capability in external business dealings. No organisation can genuinely collaborate with external business partners if there is no adequate internal collaboration as a foundation.

As the UK reinforces its global relationships, beyond Brexit, the challenge of successful collaboration will grow. A structured approach working to an international standard may help in shaping and managing relationships across the continents, particularly where gaps of understanding and culture affect business expectations and outcomes.

Hence HR may deliver something of great value to their own organisations which in turn leads to improved overall performance in handling global business, ventures and supply chains to everyone's benefit.

Small steps in the right direction may be tested swiftly, as part of a collaboration initiative, looking at existing silo barriers, assessing where new co-operation may add value, and facilitating a new culture in which co-operation is a priority.

If an organisation recognises the direction of travel and the need to enhance its methods to better compete and succeed, then it will not be hard to move into fresh thinking and better appreciation of colleagues and their potential contributions.

Management training and assessment can usefully include collaborative management as a theme complementing typical training topics, as long as the process does not stop with training and does become the daily practice of the business.

A couple of simple principles to apply:

Build bridges

Think bridges not walls. A senior diplomat aptly remarked recently that building a wall is easier than building a bridge. That goes for diplomacy and people management, and collaboration, like good diplomacy, is about building bridges not walls.

Asking for help

Think asking for help not pushing it. Collaboration is about pull as well as push, and pulling help can be easier and less confrontational. If one team asks another for help it will probably get it; if it tells another team what to do we can guess the reaction!

HR can facilitate colleagues and teams asking for help. It may be HR itself needs to ask for help more often. It might go against the grain in business to display apparent weakness that you need help, but collaboration is about complementary skills and expertise making the combined output better. It happens at individual, team and corporate level where the culture is right. 

We know the saying that no man (or woman) is an island. The British Isles will be needing in particular to become even more globally collaborative. Perhaps in Brexit context the famous words of the English 17th century poet John Donne might have been better remembered:

"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less,...."

Business success in tough world markets will ask more of businesses to make the most of their opportunities, and effective collaborations will a crucial factor marking out who will be the winners.

Forbury People has training and coaching capabilities which include collaborative working, and we foresee this being a strong potential value add of HR as bridge builders.

Michael Sippitt


Forbury People 

Clarkslegal, specialist Employment lawyers in London, Reading and throughout the Thames Valley.
For further information about this or any other Employment matter please contact Clarkslegal's employment team by email at by telephone 020 7539 8000 (London office), 0118 958 5321 (Reading office) or by completing the form on this page.
This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.

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Michael Sippitt

Michael Sippitt
Senior Consultant

T: 0118 960 4642


Employment team
+44 (0)118 958 5321