Engaging employees around collaboration can be challenging, but if the youngest generation in the workplace now is any indication, the future of company workflow will center around collaboration.
Before we get to tips for engaging employees with a collaborative workflow, however, let’s dispel some generational myths. Each new generation endures negative stereotypes as its members reach young adulthood — Gen Xers were lazy and Baby Boomers were anti-establishment. Millennials, or Gen Y as they’re also called, are no different. Companies are feeling the influence of those born from the early 1980s to mid 1990s, and negative stereotypes abound: this generation doesn’t work well alone, is distracted by gadgets and has an overinflated sense of self and entitlement.
But instead of focusing on the negatives, managers are better off viewing supposedly negative attributes through a positive lens and adjusting their workplace environment accordingly.
So Millennials don’t work well alone? Maybe. But they were raised to collaborate! This is the generation that grew up doing school projects together and coined the word “crowdsourcing.” This is the generation that shares (and listens) prolifically on social media. Not only do they want their voice to be heard, they know that groups brainstorming together come up with stronger ideas.
Like any big operational change, making your company more collaborative isn’t a quick fix. Here are some expert tips on meaningful and effective techniques for engaging employees with collaboration.
(Want more tips on working with Millennials? Check out our posts about learning from Millennials about employee motivation and approaching employee recognition with Millennials.)
Bring collaboration into the everyday workflow. Working together shouldn’t be a one-off, forced activity, advises Jacob Morgan, author of the “The Collaborative Organization.” In a video interview at a Zoho conference last year, Morgan explains that employees will view stand-alone collaboration as one more additional task, on top of their current workload. Instead, “make it part of what they do.”
Get senior-level support. This is another tip from Morgan. “If organizations don’t have the support from senior-level leaders adopting these tools and encouraging adoption, chances are the employees won’t use it,” he says.
Create a more social workplace. Employees who socialize naturally collaborate better. Val Matta, vice president of business development at CareerShift, has a helpful post at Mashable on how to increase sociability among employees. Her recommendations include offering perks, getting rid of unnecessary workplace hierarchy, creating online communities and recognizing everyone, “not just star players.”
Use Web 2.0 tools to spark collaboration. Rob Koplowitz, principal analyst at Forrester Research, writes in CIO that workplace collaboration kick-started by social technologies give companies a long-term competitive advantage in the market. New ideas “will move the company in a new direction to gain greater market share and earn larger profits,” he says. Web 2.0 tools (like blogs, wikis and social networks) work so well because they’re transparent, conversational and inclusive.
Be a leader, not a boss. Forbes contributor T. Scott Gross, in a post on “The New Millennial Values,” describes the fine line between being a boss and being a leader: “In a nutshell, this means you will do the following: hire great people, train them to fulfill your vision, get out of the way, and finally, say thank you for a job well done.”
Smart leaders “harness the everybody-is-welcome-to-play power of Millennial teams.”
Also? If you’re not a twenty-something, don’t try to be. “Be yourself, and act your generation,” Gross writes. “Of the living generations none is more put off by phoniness than Millennials. Millennials respect authenticity, so chill, dude! (LOL)”
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