I came across a great interview with ex IBMer Luis Suarez on the Stowe Boyd website on the subject of workplace collaboration. You may have read many articles on this same subject. What made this interview interesting was the underlying thinking about "internal competition" in the workplace, how that squares with the fact that social software means greater collaboration and the critical role of the HR within that. The premise is that we are not just looking at the HR department as facilitator but the reinvention of the HR function all together.
Suarez points out that internal peer-to-peer competition "is a massive barrier and inhibitor towards inspiring an open, transparent, public, knowledge sharing and collaborative culture. Reason being the fact that vast majority of organisations keep recognising individual performance vs. team, network or community performance, because the former is easier to do. Divide and conquer. Only a selected few, those who would be competing the fiercest in protecting their knowledge and assets, seem to have been the ones going higher up the ladder, when it shouldn’t necessarily be like that."
He goes on to say that on a day-to-day basis much of what we do is self-managed through informal groups (or networks). We are natural collaborators and organisations should recognise that many decisions are (or should be) employee-driven rather than coming as top down instructions. At the heart of sustaining the old way of thinking has been an HR function which sees its role as one of managing resources based on senior management needs rather than encouraging individual voices to be heard.
Social collaboration software is all about these individual voices and hence there needs to be an adjustment in HR thinking. In the past, the focus has been senior management. It’s never attempted to humanise work. However, Saurez feels that HR needs to, "transition itself from Human Resources into Human Relationships. It’s about shifting their focus from the top down hierarchy into the horizontal wirearchy of knowledge workers ... With only 13% of global employees currently engaged at work, there is a massive wake-up call for HR to realise the damage that’s been done all along and how they have got a huge opportunity to revert that trend by leading, up front, that digital transformation to help humanise business by becoming more open, transparent, caring and helpful to the overall employee workforce vs. just executing the orders of senior management at whatever the costs."
What are the consequences of not making that transition? At Globocol, we agree with Luis. Knowledge workers will move away from those companies that are not willing to embrace the necessary change. They see greener pastures where they can connect, collaborate and participate in open conversations without having a need to compete with their peers. Helping and caring for each other in order to become better at your job helps not just the individual, it improves the performance of the whole organisation. That's what HR needs to recognise and reward.