For many years, competition was the name of the game. Employees worked as individuals competing against their colleagues, with hopes of climbing to the top. Over the last decade, however, the age of competition has been surpassed as companies and individuals alike realize the benefits of forming strategic alliances.
An alliance is “an agreement or friendship between two or more parties, made in order to advance common goals and to secure common interests.” Forging alliances in the workplace could be perhaps the most beneficial strategic career move a person (or company) can make. As leaders realize the value behind these alliances, they have placed teamwork and collaboration at the top of the list of requirements for new hires, sharpening their own collaborative skills in the process. Workplace collaboration is no longer seen as an added tool, but rather a necessity; a method in which to both improve and maintain a competitive edge.
As managers work to develop a collaborative workplace culture, walls are being broken down, both literally and figuratively. Open space offices encourage interaction amongst colleagues and technology allows for a steady flow of communication between employees, management, and customers, as well as competing businesses. Adaptability, communication, respect, and trust are essential ingredients and are viewed as critical to the strength and success of the organization. Let’s take a look at the three major ingredients that comprise a solid collaborative workplace culture.
Collaboration Amongst Colleagues is Essential
Strategic alliances between co-workers are perhaps the most critical of all relationships. Knowledge must “be shared horizontally across departments through staff interactions which encourage the breaking down of barriers and silos.” This breakdown of barriers encourages a steady flow of knowledge, fostering innovative ideas and feelings of being part of something great.
Management and department heads seeking to develop a workplace that encourages the sharing of ideas must create a workplace environment conducive to such collaboration. The workplace must be flexible, meeting individual work style preferences, while encouraging employee interaction and sharing of information. Knowledge and ideas should flow organically, whether by chance encounters in the hallway or around the conference room table. Along with an open office design, companies should encourage communication by offering their employees the latest in technological tools. By arming your workforce with mobile tools, applications, and software, creativity isn’t stifled because of location or time of day.
Your Customers Are Your Collaborative Allies
Those companies seeking to maintain an edge over others in their industry must develop ways in which to share a steady flow of information between their staff and customers. Since your clients are the very people seeking out the products and services you offer, they can provide vital information regarding consumer goals and needs, as well as feedback regarding how your services compare to others within your industry. Feedback offers insight into future developmental needs, supporting the long-term health of your organization.
In an effort to strengthen collaborative relationships with employees and customers, GE has developed a collaborative tool, e-Workplace. This tool is “designed to strengthen GE’s relationships with its customers through providing faster information and customer service efficiencies and …provides a channel for two-way communications, facilitating immediate feedback.” This powerful tool has served to strengthen the alliances between company and client, as customers feel a true partnership with GE and its workforce.
Strategic Alliances Between Businesses Strengthens Long-term Success
As companies work to strengthen the bonds between colleagues and clients, the value of strategic alliances between the “competition” has been recognized. Most businesses have one specific area of expertise, while another in the same industry possesses strengths in another area. Each company stands to realize long-term growth potential through a collaborative partnership- one in which both companies and the client’s needs are met.
To ensure everyone involved benefits from such an alliance, a well-thought out plan of action must be in place. Clear expectations and goals must be conveyed and progress should be reviewed regularly. While the common goal is serving the customer, both companies must benefit mutually from the relationship and their missions must work synergistically towards meeting those goals. A system of regular tracking and measuring data will ensure a successful alliance.
To avoid a monopoly and ensure the customer’s needs are cared for, competition amongst businesses is necessary. But, as our economy and technology grow and evolve, so too do the workplace solutions used to meet our ever-growing demands. Collaboration is no longer just an added tool, but rather a necessity for long-term survival. Developing a workplace culture that encourages collaboration at every level is the solution for innovative ideas and a healthy, competitive industry.