Eight HR leaders on their top tip for collaboration

4 minute read

We asked eight HR leaders for their top tip on enabling collaboration in their organisations. Here’s what they said

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Sian Harrington

Meet the Human Focused Leaders 2021: Eight HR leaders on collaboration

1. Create a clear and powerful purpose

“It is essential to create a clear purpose for collaboration. A powerful purpose can centre around learning together while addressing a specific challenge within the organisation. Work with the board or senior executive team to identify an organisational opportunity or challenge which has not yet been addressed. Assemble a cross-functional team, with colleagues who would not usually work together and ask them to develop a proposed strategy with clear recommendations which they will then present to the board. Support the team during the course of the project with education and mentoring in relation to creating effective strategies, researching best practice from other sectors and presenting ideas with impact to senior colleagues and stakeholders. The combination of learning, with professional external support, while addressing strategic challenges within the organisation requires and creates high levels of collaboration.”

David Frost, organisational development director, Total Produce

2. Develop a tight brief

"A saying from my advertising days that rings really true for me is ‘there is nothing more freeing than a tight brief’. The same goes for collaboration which thrives off clarity, context and expectations. If a leader can provide a solid foundation and clearly communicate the common goal, teams will be empowered to work together to find a road map which works for them, identify blind spots which may require further collaboration with wider teams and keep on track to reach the goal. They will equally be enabled to do that in a creative and innovative way, because the boundaries are clear"

Julia Ingall, chief people officer, Bought By Many

3. Foster a culture of open communication and trust

“Collaboration is all about sharing perspectives to get a better result than any one person could achieve. Companies with a culture of open communication and trust, where voices at all levels and across all demographics are valued, will benefit from the natural tendency toward collaboration. Make sure to invite everyone to participate in the conversation and celebrate their different views.”

Nicole Giffuni, director of finance, human resources & business management, EquiLend

4. Learn to listen better and well

“I can think of dozens of circumstances where the contribution of others has immeasurably improved a decision or changed direction. ‘Others’ include colleagues of course but also trades union representatives, staff groups, stakeholders. It has been demonstrated that diversity of thought always improves decision making, so I try not to collaborate exclusively with middle aged white women – I want to work with young people; black Asian and minority ethnic people, people with a different sexuality than mine and people with disabilities as well as cognitive diversity. Finally we all as leaders need to learn to listen better and well as a key collaboration skill.”

Deborah Clarke, director of human resources and organisation development. Manchester City Council

5. See out the difference

“Collaboration is vital in the future of work because you need more minds to keep up with the radical pace of change we now face. But it is who you choose to collaborate with that is critical. My top tip for enabling collaboration is to see out difference. Only people with different experiences, mindsets and skills will help you get ahead. They will question you, often debate you, but ultimately drive you further because they bring a different perspective to the table and challenge you to think bigger.”

Jackie Fast is an award-winning entrepreneur and author of new book, RULE BREAKER: Rebellious Leadership for the Future of Work

6. Use digital collaboration tools

"With so many digital collaboration tools at our fingertips, how do we use them effectively? Like many, we’ve taken advantage of video conferencing to break down borders, ultimately furthering the collaborative spirit across the business. We’ve even taken our design thinking approach digitally, using interactive platforms for collaboration in large group settings to drive innovation. Sharing timelines, goals and ideas ensures a collaborative spirit that holds up in a digital environment. And utilizing all of these digital tools has helped new hires onboard and transition into their new teams."

Colleen Stratton, global leader of workforce development, SEI

7. Measure progress and celebrate success

“Agree roles and responsibilities and/or expectations and agree on priorities. Most of us are very busy and often collaboration can be in addition to the day job. Where possible offer some flexibility and recognition of challenges. Identify quick wins to get some early momentum. Ensure you have milestones or targets, so people feel engaged because they can see the results of their effort. Then celebrate success. From a thank you to an internal mention in an email, or an intranet article award to public recognition, ensure people feel their collaboration made a difference and that way they are more likely to want to get involved again.”

Craig Pattison, chief people and technology officer, Air Partner

8. Foster a collaborative mindset

“Successful collaborations require everyone involved to have a collaborative mindset – the intention, willingness and commitment to work in partnership with others. The best collaborations I’ve been involved in are those where people had a shared goal, not individual agendas or priorities. They agreed the best way to work together and stayed true to this throughout the duration of the collaboration. They allocate responsibilities and tasks based on the most relevant skills, strengths and experience, not position or hierarchy. There was an ethos that success comes through everyone’s contribution.”

Joan O’Connor, head of leadership practice, 10Eighty

This article is part of The People Space's Meet the Human-Focused Leaders of 2021 series in partnership with management consultancy 10Eighty.

HR leaders pictured in order left to right.

Published 7 April 2021
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