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HR must encourage collaboration

Different approaches to collaboration work best for different personality types

HR needs to find ways to overcome humans’ 'caveman' mindsets to encourage collaboration, according to a whitepaper from BT.

Seen exclusively by HR magazine, The Collaboration Conundrum: A WorkShift whitepaper by Nicola Millard, head of customer insight and futures in BT Global Services' innovation team, explains that while the decentralisation of technology is allowing employees to work more flexibly, human psychology could be standing in the way of collaboration. The report found that workers need a common goal and identity to motivate them to collaborate.

It highlighted that not everybody is a natural collaborator, but the leaders of the future must have strong collaboration skills. The report warns that traditional leadership methods are being challenged by new ways of working, and leaders can’t rely on their teams collaborating without direction and support to do so.

The paper cites research from MIT, which found that 94% of high performing organisations instil a strong common sense of purpose among employees, versus 53% of low performers. It also references recruitment company Randstad’s collaboration research, which found that 61% of employees think that they collaborate more than they did five years ago, and nearly nine out of 10 (87%) believe that collaboration is becoming increasingly important as technology changes the way they work.

Millard's report found that different approaches to collaboration work best for different personality types. “Extroverts, for example, love the open plan office,” she explained. “[They] like being able to collaborate and chat when they bump into people.

“Introverts, on the other hand, are likely to build a wall of books around themselves and put their headphones on in the corner. [However], we found they like to collaborate over chat apps, where they can write down their thoughts.”

One of the issues Millard has faced when encouraging collaboration at BT is lack of ownership. “When I’ve asked groups who is in charge of collaboration only one person has ever put their hand up. It turns out they were from IT and looked after the collaboration platform, rather than collaboration itself. Businesses need to figure out who owns collaboration,” she said.