How HR can foster collaboration at work

One business professor and well-known author discusses how HR can play a role in ensuring the business has the capacity for more efficient collaboration.

“Collaboration is an increasingly important organisational capability because individual skills are more successful when they combine to form productive teams,” said David Ulrich, leading HR specialist.
Ulrich, who is the Rensis Likert Professor at the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan and author of over 25 books on HR, talked about HR’s role in bringing collaboration to the workplace in an interview published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).
HR can ensure the business has the ability for collaboration by ensuring that this quality is ingrained into the business, he said. This includes how people are hired, which training is offered, how people are paid, and which decision making processes are used.
“In addition, HR leaders can participate in office design – helping to create open workspaces that encourage collaboration. Collaboration will not come from a single activity, but an integrated set of HR activities.”
Collaboration can even be encouraged amongst remote employees, he added. As technology lets staff participate in decision-making and gives workers a voice.
“For example, I was on a call today where the facilitator asked how each participant on a global call was doing, consistent with a value of engagement and caring for each other.”
In order to reach the goal of efficient collaboration while remaining flexible about how staff achieve these objectives, HR should set out clear outcomes, put in place processes that help achieve those outcomes, and clarify and share these details, Ulrich said.
“This means that all employees know what is expected of them to help the business succeed. HR can help translate an organisational outcome into a particular employee’s day-to-day behaviour.
“HR can also institutionalise outcomes (ends) and processes (means) by weaving them into the performance accountability and reward systems.”
Within this less centralised working environment, HR will become even more important, he said, provided that this method is the right way to move forward.
In the event that a distributed work environment makes sense, Ulrich suggests HR ensures the right processes for:
  • People: hiring & training workers suitable for a distributed setting
  • Performance: laying out clear accountabilities for outcomes & processes
  • Information: sharing the right information to ensure that work gets done
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