Working out in the open: socialising team collaboration

From school-age we are trained to keep our work private until we’re happy that it is finished and the best that it can be. Our work is our own until we are ready to take a breath and send it out into the harsh, critical world.

Today, more and more companies are embracing team collaboration software, which means that employees have to adapt to a new working style that goes against what we’ve all been taught. Instead, they must work in a way that is open, transparent and collaborative.

For many, it may seem daunting. Having your work broadcast across an activity feed for the entire company to see, every time you create, upload or edit a document, can leave you feeling exposed. Your name (and face) is attached to every wiki you create or edit, every file you upload, every comment you make.

But it doesn’t take long before you start to realise the benefits of working in the open. This post explains why it works so well, both for companies and individuals.

People profiles

When a company adopts team collaboration software, such as HighQ Collaborate, all employees are required to set up a personal profile. The more detail included here the better: not just a name and picture, but biographies, interests and expertise, and links to personal blogs and social media accounts.

Using people profiles, colleagues can find out about one another – from simply putting a face to a name of a colleague they haven’t met in person, to finding someone who has expertise in a particular area.

However, it’s not just details about a person that can be seen on the profile. Everything associated with that person’s work appears here, such as recent activity, files and favourite items. Furthermore, colleagues can ‘follow’ the activity of certain colleagues, keeping up to date with all of the activity of that individual from the smallest edit to the longest report.

Perhaps most significantly, individual activity appears in the company-wide activity stream as well, revealing who is working on what, and when.

It is important to note, however, that permissions can be set which can limit access to confidential files, and an individual’s activity is only visible to colleagues with access to the same sites.

The Hawthorne effect

Something surprising happens when people work in the open: they instinctively become more productive.

This phenomenon is known as the Hawthorne effect. It is named after a psychological study carried out in the 1920s on workers at the Hawthorne Works factory in Chicago. Psychologists hoped to find out which working conditions caused workers to be most productive, by continuously changing conditions in the factory.

They were confused to find that no matter what conditions the workers were put under, their productivity increased. It was finally established that it was not the conditions that were affecting the workers’ productivity. Instead, it was the attention they received from being observed.

The workers at the Hawthorne Works were out in the open and their work was visible to the psychologists, their superiors and their colleagues. This attention motivated them to work harder and be more productive.

A similar effect applies to employees of companies using enterprise social collaboration software. Simply knowing that their colleagues and superiors can see what they’re working on and when, instinctively makes people work harder.

Work collaboratively in the open

By using team collaboration software, employees are socialising their work through the activity stream. Using wikis instead of documents and comments or blogs instead of emails, information is no longer hoarded; instead, everything is out in the open and all in one place. Aside from raising individuals’ productivity levels, working in the open also facilitates team collaboration in several ways:

  • Colleagues can leave feedback instantly on drafts and ideas
  • Colleagues can make edits that can easily be reviewed
  • Colleagues can contribute ideas to improve the quality of work
  • Mistakes can be quickly picked up on and rectified before someone continues along the wrong lines

In addition, colleagues are able to keep track of what each other are working on, which not only helps to evaluate performance but also helps others to see what they should be working on, or perhaps what they don’t need to work on as it is being covered already.

It is also helpful to be able to gain an idea of what is going within a project or a department at a glance. Let’s say you’re a manager who has just returned to your company after maternity leave. Imagine how helpful it would be to be able to get a feel for a project and team that you’re about to join by being able to see the work, ideas and discussions associated with the project, all in one place.

Discover hidden expertise

Sharing expertise leads to broader understanding and enriches the quality of work. Above all, the benefit of having everyone’s work in the open means that expertise is exposed too. No longer will skills go unnoticed. What’s more, knowledge sharing becomes simply a by-product of work: an added bonus indeed.

There are huge benefits to being able to see who works well with whom, who works most often on what, and being able to identify individuals’ strengths – such as finding out who is particularly good at report writing or who is better at analysing data. This information can be gleaned not only from individual bios on people’s profiles, but also from the transparency of individuals’ work and their interactions with other colleagues.

On the whole, enterprise social collaboration promotes meritocracy; it is easy to recognise those quiet hard workers who might otherwise go unnoticed, while also being able to identify those people who should be doing more.

The future of working

The transparency of people profiles allow colleagues to get to know one another and find out where expertise lies. Working in the open encourages productivity as people are motivated to work harder by the sense that their work is visible and colleagues are interested enough to look at it. Team collaboration is aided by working transparently and in one place, which allows colleagues to work together on ideas and documents. And knowledge can be easily shared throughout a company without any additional effort involved.

Now that enterprise collaboration software is becoming more prolific across industries, employees will need to get used to working in the open. However, it won’t take long to adapt to what is a far more efficient, collaborative, and satisfying way of working.

Susanna is Copywriter and Marketing Executive at HighQ. She specialises in social business and content marketing. Her expertise lies in helping companies streamline the way they work and improving how they collaborate through enterprise technologies and social tools.

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