Workplaces these days depend on their subject-matter experts to steer them in the right direction. These star employees use their knowledge to advise on a variety of business decisions and to create innovative strategic plans that help organizations hit their numbers and profit greatly. But in this star-driven culture, where competition reigns king, how do you get these top employees to put aside their egos and work together for the good of the business? The answer is simple – smart collaboration not only allows subject-matter experts to shine, but it encourages them to focus less on individual glory and more on achieving top-level results that benefit everyone. By pooling their knowledge and resources across boundaries, businesses can solve problems and reap profits, two great results that not only bring kudos to your subject-matter experts but also help you attract more top talent to take your organization higher.
If businesses want profit and solutions over ego, it’s time to get smart. Smart collaboration harnesses the power of your subject-matter experts and trains them to focus on results, not glory.
Specialists tend to resist collaboration when they’re used to working in silos and taking direction from managers that insist on controlling every little task in their workday. If you’re looking to see more collaboration and less resistance, try taking a step back from your specialists and help them set business goals that not only benefit the organization’s greater strategic plan but also benefit their own interests and specializations. Then, let them discover how to achieve that knowledge by working together with their colleagues to find omnichannel ways of meeting the goals you’ve set for them. This not only allows them to feel proud of their work, but it also encourages knowledge-sharing and cross-training to build a cohesive, smart team that can step in on any task, no matter who owns the project. As a manager, you should be there as a guide for your employees, but over-managing them will lead to resentment, shutdowns, and closely-guarded knowledge that they won’t be willing to share. That doesn’t benefit the business – that only hurts your strategy and profits.
Managers should remember that specialists’ skills are highly portable – and if they don’t find what they’re looking for in your organization, they will certainly try to find it elsewhere. That’s why your stars are a crucial asset to your business – they bring knowledge and innovation that have been gathered from their unique experience and education. Supporting this, and supporting smart collaboration between employees and upper management, will tell your specialists that you value their contributions and knowledge. Often specialists are the key to creating an even more innovative strategy in an organization – but if what you need is greater than one specialist, this is where smart collaboration comes in. To coin a phrase, one star will shine brightly, but a constellation will light up the entire sky.
Supporting your subject-matter experts in their quest for innovation and knowledge, while encouraging collaboration with their peers and upper management, will help you grow your business strategy to focus on high-quality results.
Change is often a big obstacle when it comes to specialists and their willingness to share knowledge. What they need to know is, what’s in it for them? While this may seem a selfish reason to want to share knowledge, the reality is that today’s workforce is built on incentive and competition. Specialists will not hesitate to go elsewhere if they perceive that the work they’re doing is not beneficial to their own interests. However, that doesn’t mean that strategy needs to revolve around what your subject-matter experts want; conversely, what needs to happen is reassurance that the changes are happening and the projects taking place will not only support the business but will also support the specialists.
Introducing change can be hard, but by providing the support needed, whether that’s technical, strategic, or even creative, you can empower your stars to dig into their well of knowledge and come up with strategies that will benefit your organization. Often, people balk at change because they’re not sure how to navigate it with their current skills. That’s why bringing in another team to collaborate and teach can be helpful. Even bringing in outside expertise can help with cross-training and confidence.
Great people want to do great work – as a manager; your job is to support that motivation in whatever way you can. Encouraging learning and sharing across platforms is the perfect way to motivate your knowledge-hungry subject-matter expert. Any skills they learn benefit them, which is a great way to sell collaboration to an otherwise competitive employee.
While financial motivation is what most people think about when they consider incentives, this doesn’t always have to be the case when you’re thinking about how to empower your employees to work together and create. Many organizations don’t have the finances to set up incentives, but they do have ways to show their subject-matter experts that the experience they gain by working collaboratively will benefit them in the long run.
For example, some businesses have created incentivized programs that may bring in non-tenured or contract employees and allow them to work towards a permanent position and salary increases over a period of time, based on performance and results. Along the way, these star employees get to create innovative strategic plans and new programs that benefit your organization and allow them to expand their knowledge into their own business-related interests. It’s win-win, and these employees will not only be handsomely rewarded for their hard work, but the skills they have learned will benefit them in future jobs if they choose to leave your organization. Meanwhile, the work they’ve achieved and the innovative results your business will obtain can help you attract other stars to help you soar even higher.
So you’ve set up your goals and incentives to encourage your employees to start collaborating – now, how to achieve the results you’re looking for? As the manager, you’ll need to set the example. Start by collaborating in your own work. When it comes to setting goals, show your subject-matter experts that an open-door policy and idea-sharing is beneficial to determining the best use of new platforms and initiatives. Recognize all ideas and work as equally important to the results of the project – often, competition rears its ugly head when managers recognize one employee over another or shine a light on some ideas over others. While you’ll know what’s best for your organization, making everyone feel heard is the way to make everyone feel valued. Tone down the competition in your own work style and encourage everyone to put their best foot forward. This will be the key to ideas and work that lead to amazing results.
As well, making a business case for collaboration as an important strategic move towards innovative change will help your specialists understand why it’s needed. Use analytics and case studies to show them why putting their heads together will create better results for your organization.
So many organizations use archaic systems to encourage collaboration among employees. While it might seem obvious, having all employees use one shared document to track project management is extremely inefficient! Your stars will be much more willing to collaborate and track results when you give them user-friendly tools to do so. Making all elements of a project easily accessible allows any member of the team to track and report progress as you go, eliminating issues at project launch or even afterwards.
It’s proven that better communication in workplaces supports change and innovation. When people know more, they’re empowered to do more, especially when they feel like they’re an integral part of organizational changes for the better. As a manager, consider your performance metrics. Do they support collaboration and change, or are they unnecessarily punitive to those who don’t fall into lock-step? Have your employees come up with strategic plans of their own and really examine the “why” of your organization’s practices. Are you placing people with lacking knowledge into positions where they need to excel? That’s setting them up for failure. Instead, consider recruiting talent that can not only meet the knowledge needs your organization is looking for, but can also teach your existing talent better skills to help them perform at their best.
If something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to get your stars’ recommendations on how it could be fixed. That’s what they’re there for – utilize their talents and encourage them to brainstorm better ideas and solutions to fix what’s broken.
A collaborative team achieves more. That’s the strategy to keep in mind, even when changes can be painful. Helping your employees see the end goal will encourage them to think outside the box and synergize for better results.
Smart collaboration takes time, but we can help. We’ve successfully advised and mentored executives across many businesses, with many teams. Contact us to further your personal and professional growth and achieve the organizational results you want.