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Culture of collaboration

The power of collaborative culture lies in the ability to bring people together, overcome the volatility and ambiguity that characterises the external environment and drive organisations toward success

Suresh Dutt Tripathi 

Collaboration is a major competency that asks people who work together to attend not only to personal interests but also to outcomes benefitting the whole organisation. It is a great way to address complex challenges since it has the potential to tap communal creativity and unleash true innovation of employees. The culture of an organisation depicts how an organisation conducts its business. It defines the behavioural style as to how an organisation deals with its various stakeholders, internal as well as external. This makes culture a very important aspect for organisational success. Companies strive endlessly to imbibe an appropriate culture for optimum organisational effectiveness.

As companies grow exponentially and expand into different regions and geographies it becomes even more difficult to have a standard common culture across all branches. For instance, different states in India have different languages and varied cultures. Managing these diversities is of prime importance to maintain a standard code of culture for any organisation in India. The power of collaborative culture lies in the ability to bring people together, to work towards a common goal, overcome the volatility and ambiguity that characterises the external environment and drive organisations toward success. Technology is playing a huge role in connecting people far and wide. An organisation while planning on creating a culture that encourages employees to be open and communicate freely across various channels, need to have set outcomes and common goals. It is becoming crucial to connect employees internally and enable them to collaborate effectively with external stakeholders for better performance of the organisation.

Benefits of a collaborative culture

  • Greater clarity for all involved about what is needed for the organisation (and its people) to thrive over a period of time
  • Strategic, comprehensive planning that supports systemic success in the long-term
  • Inclusive, wise decision-making that benefits the whole
  • Fresh thinking and innovative solutions for vexing challenges
  • Efficient, concerted actions in service of shared, measurable goals
  • Effective time management
  • Increased autonomy and personal accountability among staff
  • Effective talent management
  • Stronger relationships, greater trust, broader engagement, accelerated learning, valuable knowledge sharing and a heightened sense of collective purpose.
The role of technology
Every organisation needs to understand the evolution in technology and use it to their advantage. Today the world is moving at an astounding pace in technology where no particular device or operating system is dominant. Since our personal and professional domains have started overlapping in an extensive manner, data mobility will be essential

There is a growing need to work from anywhere and anytime. Organisations need to offer more flexibility to their employees. The introduction of smartphones, tablets and Laptops has revolutionised the way professionals and enterprises are functioning. In India, the percentage of knowledge workers who use mobile devices is around 70 per cent - more than 50 per cent of these are owned by the employees.

With the implementation of appropriate systems and procedures, professionals today can collaborate and communicate across continents, collapsing barriers once imposed by time and geography; and smartphones are fast becoming the preferred device for these activities. Consumers are accessing a range of services including surfing the internet; sending photos or videos, emails; downloading apps, accessing social networking sites etc through their feature-packed enterprise phones. The rise and popularity of social media is a main contributor to this trend, organisations need to find a way to integrate this effectively within their systems for a better and exciting way of to manage day to day business operations, communication and improve connect among the humanware.

Apart from technology, organisations need to instil the company's core values among the employees to build a collaborative culture. Creating an environment of continuous learning and upgrading each employee's skill sets through various training modules and working on projects in cross functional teams (CFT) strengthens it further. Employees value intangibles in an organisation as much as the tangibles. Simple aspects such as candid communication, access to management, internal celebrations etc go a long way in enhancing the environment to work in.

Hence, our capacity to collaborate productively with others - employees, peers, stakeholders, customers, even competitors - is swiftly becoming a keystone skill for thriving in the increasingly interdependent, diverse and dynamic workplaces. Organisations need to internalise these intangibles in their culture to motivate the employees and create an environment of belonging and ownership. Initiatives that can be implemented and are very effective include celebrating events such as birthdays and anniversaries of employees, encouraging interactions outside work and organising social gatherings during non-working hours, helping employees maintain a work-life balance by offering flexible working hours when needed, encouraging the employees to get to know each other on a personal level, lending a helping hand during personal or professional crisis etc. These gestures and initiatives not only improve collaboration but also help in building a conducive and friendly workplace environment where the employees understand each other better.

At the core of Tata Steel's work ethic is the underlying belief that employees are our primary source of competitiveness. Hence the focus is on enriching the quality of life of its employees, develop their potential and maximise their productivity. With Tata Values as the bedrock, the unique attributes of our policy are climate of openness, equity, fairness, respect for individual, freedom to experiment, mutual trust and team work.

We lay lot of emphasis on creating an energetic and collaborative work environment where our employees are encouraged to experiment, innovate, participate, learn, grow and most importantly enjoy the work that they do. We believe that an employee can contribute to his full potential if he leads a healthy and balanced life.

We have a unique system of joint consultations, which is a participative forum, which works on employee engagement programmes, apart from discussing and resolving the unit level production, safety, cost, delivery and morale issues. We believe that closer association of the workers with in the working industry is desirable because it would help in promoting increased productivity for the general benefit of the enterprise, the employees and the country. It also gives employees a better understanding of their role and importance in the working of the industry and in the process of production. Such forums also serve the objective of satisfying the urge for self expression.

These are three tier forums. For example joint departmental council at unit level, joint works council at overall plant level and joint consultative council of at the organisation level

The function of the joint departmental council is to study operational results and current and long term departmental problems, to advise on steps necessary at departmental level to promote and rationalise operations, improve methods, layouts and process, improve productivity and discipline, eliminate waste, lower cost, improve quality, improve upkeep, improve safety, promote employees' welfare and organise employee engagement activities like sports/picnic, encourage suggestions and kaizens. On similar lines, the other two forums work on larger issues having correlations to policies or long term plans of the organisation.

For an effective culture of collaboration, mutual trust between people at every level of the organisation is intrinsic. At Tata Steel our culture calls for open, honest two-way communication between management and employees at all times. Tata Steel believes as a matter of principle that diversity within the workforce greatly enhances its overall capabilities. It is an equal opportunity employer in all its operating locations, and does not discriminate on any basis.

Suresh Dutt Tripathi
Vice-President, Human Resource Management, Tata Steel

First Published: Mon, November 24 2014. 00:14 IST