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FCW : December 2012
Commentary | KRIS VAN RIPER AND CHRISTOPHER CATTIE KRIS VAN RIPER is a managing director and CHRISTOPHER CATTIE is an analyst at CEB. The work environment is chang- ing rapidly, but how those changes affect employee performance and productivity is not well understood. To grasp the realities of the new work environment, CEB surveyed 23,000-plus employees across indus- tries and locations. One notable nding is that the nature of collaboration has changed. More than two-thirds of employees reported that their jobs require more collaboration today than they did three years ago. Moreover, employee networks are expanding and becoming increas- ingly cross-functional. Sixty percent of respondents said their day-to-day work requires regular coordination with 10 or more people, and two- thirds reported regular coordination with employees from different work units and supervisory levels. However, accompanying this greater need for collaboration are new barriers that impede it. Employees are more geographi- cally dispersed due to trends such as telework. Shrinking budgets and reduced staff levels have resulted in rising workloads that jeopar- dize collaboration by encouraging employees to focus on individual responsibilities over group initiatives. Results from the Federal Employee Viewpoint (FedView) Survey suggest that those fac- tors, among others, have actually reduced collaboration levels since 2008. Using the FedView question "Employees in my work unit share knowledge with each other" as a proxy for collaboration, CEB was able to derive three insights about the impact of collaboration on the work environment: 1. Collaboration has an outsized impact on team performance. CEB determined that levels of knowledge sharing have a greater impact on work-unit performance than the quality of direct managers or the ability of new hires. 2. Collaborative work envi- ronments foster innovation. Employees who say their co- workers share knowledge with one another are two and a half times more likely to report feeling encouraged to come up with new and better ways of doing things. 3. Collaborative work environ- ments have higher employee retention. Employees who agree that their co-workers share knowl- edge with one another are half as likely to consider leaving their agency in the next year as those who disagree with that statement. However, indiscriminately call- ing for more collaboration is not the right approach. Leaders should encourage collaboration only when projects: • Have a high potential impact. • Require diverse expertise. • Bring together participants with clear and similar goals. • Affect a large or diverse set of stakeholders. In addition to choosing the right projects and tasks for collaboration, managers and leaders should avoid common pitfalls, which include: • Failure to establish ground rules. Managers must drive con- sensus around goals, limitations and evaluation criteria before invit- ing participants to contribute. • Inclusion of too many par- ticipants. Participants must have the appropriate combination of knowledge, skills and authority to collaborate productively. Quality of dialogue trumps the quantity of participants. • Oversized project scope. Man- agers should deconstruct projects into smaller goals or milestones and systematically direct attention toward each objective until solu- tions to all agenda items are met. As collaboration takes on a larger role in employees daily work, agencies have the opportunity to enhance productivity and innova- tion, as long as those activities are managed effectively. ■ Collaboration's role in the new work environment Agencies have the opportunity to enhance productivity and innovation but only if they learn to manage collaborative efforts effectively Rising workloads jeopardize collaboration by encouraging employees to focus on individual responsibilities over group initiatives. December 2012 FCW.COM 11 |
November 30, 2012