Director, Content Marketing
Keeping your workforce happy and engaged has never been more important as it is right now. As we head into year 3 of the Covid pandemic, employee expectations have radically changed and we’ve all been forced to rethink our priorities, both personal and professional.
How employers address this reality will determine which, and how many, employees decide to stick around, and how many jump ship.
Almost a year ago, Google defined collaboration equity as “the ability to contribute equally, regardless of location, role, experience level, language, and device preference.” The concept has become increasingly important since then, as organizations continue to redefine how people work together.
In Part 1 of this series, we offered an expanded introduction to collaboration equity in a hybrid work environment. And in Part 2, we focused on the benefits of improving collaboration equity, along with a few associated challenges.
Now it’s time to consider some practical steps toward making collaboration equity a reality for your organization — starting with a candid assessment process.
How “healthy” is your company’s collaboration equity?
How would you describe the status of collaboration equity in your organization today? Here are some possibilities:
- It’s a new idea, but sounds like something we should take a look at.
- We know it needs improvement, but we’re just now making a plan.
- This is a significant goal for us, and we’ve made a good start.
- After putting in some effort, we’re in great shape.
But your own perspective may not be enough. Take a quick “employee pulse” via a company-wide survey to get a more realistic picture of how your workforce is feeling.
If the general consensus was 3 or 4, congratulations! Don’t stop too soon, though. There’s always room for incremental improvement, and some of the practical tips we share below could be worth reviewing.
Also, it’s important to field continuing feedback. Are improvements and investments working as well as expected? They may need some tweaking. And after some experience with new tools and processes, employees might have fresh ideas to contribute — but more on tracking progress in a minute.
Getting started with collaboration equity
If the answer to the survey was 1 or 2, it’s time to get on track for improvement. Here are a few things to consider:
Create a formal planning process. Collaboration equity may sound like something that can be accomplished with a few process changes, and maybe some new hardware. But an informal or superficial approach is not likely to bring about real improvement. Your plan doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it’s important to identify goals and have a plan of action. Make sure to include:
- A gap analysis: assessing what necessary components are missing (tech tools, staffing, documentation, etc.) to achieve collaboration equity.
- A collaboration equity roadmap: Similar to a product roadmap in SaaS. Which components will be implemented by when? For example, you’ll fully implement the new project management system by end of Q2, and the new Tech equity hire will be onramped by Q3.
- KPIs to measure success: What metrics will help you determine if your efforts are making a positive impact? A quarterly employee survey could help measure experiences related to “digital inclusion,” for example. Higher-level metrics like employee retention rate should also be considered.
Gain buy-in from all levels. Buy-in from the top is key to success, but buy-in from the whole organizational hierarchy is also critical. So obtain input from everyone who collaborates, not just from IT and/or management. And if possible, involve stakeholders from every level.
Communicate the plan and track progress. Collaboration equity can’t be achieved overnight, so it may be a while before individual workers experience a significant amount of improvement. But consistent communication and regular check-ins can make them feel like participants in the plan from the very beginning, and throughout the process. Track progress on KPIs in a forum that’s accessible by and visible to the entire organization, and include regular updates in monthly company or team meetings.
Some practical tips
Wherever your organization might be on the journey to collaboration equity, you’ll likely find some useful ideas in the following examples:
Consultants at Gartner emphasize intentional collaboration, explaining that “hybrid work environments provide new ways for employees to collaborate productively, but leaders must intentionally create those opportunities.” For example, they suggest investing equally in four different work modes:
- Working together, together: when teams contribute to meetings in a shared physical space
- Working together, apart: when teams participate in virtual meetings
- Working alone, together: when team members are in shared physical spaces, but don’t work at the same times
- Working alone, apart: when individuals are conducting deep focus work, in separate spaces
Strategists at TechTarget recommend establishing social norms for hybrid work. For example:
- making seating arrangements that allow everyone to see everyone else, including remote attendees
- setting boundaries, such as the hours during which texts can be sent, and the time parameters for answering emails.
Advice from Forbes Business Council highlights the importance of choosing tools and technology that will work for everyone — not just the “tech savvy.” Another key strategy: digitize everything. That includes using virtual whiteboards, which not only encourage brainstorming in distributed meetings, but also preserve results for later review and sharing.
Here at Copper, our own experience with collaboration equity has turned up several pieces of good advice that might be easy to overlook, including:
- Don’t skimp on project management. Hybrid or distributed work structures need more planning, not less — so be sure to have a good PM tool and establish clear lines of responsibility.
- Avoid silos by making information available to everyone. Information should be easy to access, and promptly shared. Also, keep in mind that if people won’t be running into each other in an informal way, they may need defined opportunities for cross-team sharing.
- Allow extra time for remote communications. Many organizations find that hybrid or virtual meetings take a little longer than in-person meetings — which can mean everyone ends up falling behind. Avoid time-stress by scheduling realistically.
For help finding the best in-person, hybrid or remote work technology fit for your team, we’ve compiled a helpful checklist of collaboration tools here.
There’s always room for improvement
In the big picture, collaboration equity is about making relationships not just more productive or efficient, but also more comfortable and enjoyable. So the most successful strategies will focus on how people work together, while also ensuring that every individual participant has a positive experience.