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How to avoid collaboration overload

Sharon Florentine | March 10, 2016
Collaboration can do wonders for your organization's productivity, but there's a dark side. With an increase in collaboration comes an increase in burnout and attrition. The good news: Technology can help.

"Due to the cross-functional nature of knowledge work, if you don't make those dependencies explicit, you have a lot of risk. If you have an employee, let's call her Janet, who gets burned out and then she leaves, that's one risk. If Janet has 18 things to accomplish, but she only gets 14 of those done, then there's a risk to the business, too. We know there will be certain people who will become bottlenecks if they're overburdened, so we need to identify them and give them support."

Using a data-driven approach to collaboration doesn't just help businesses meet their goals and strategic initiatives, it has a real impact on individual employee engagement and job satisfaction, says Deidre Paknad, CEO of goal-achievement and collaboration software company Workboard.

Being able to track and monitor your individual goals is great in and of itself, but being able to look at the big picture view of how your work impacts larger goals and initiatives is very powerful, Paknad says.

Look at the big picture

"Cultures that are super-collaborative are great, but sometimes what happens is that you end up over-collaborating and doing other people's jobs. You then have no idea what your individual contributions are, or a sense of what your impact has been," Paknad  says.

That capability empowers individuals not just to see how their piece of the puzzle fits into the big picture, but also allows them greater freedom to focus on what's truly important, instead of getting sucked into projects that aren't necessarily within their purview, Paknad says.

"This view gives them permission to focus on their own priorities, and vocabulary to say 'no' -- so they're not getting pulled into meetings they don't really need to attend, or they aren't pulled into a project they really don't have time for. They can point to the data within the system and say, 'I'm working on this, that and the other thing right now, and here's why those are important to the company and to me. I don't have bandwidth for anything else,'" she says.

That freedom to say no has been a huge boon to Hervé Coureil, executive vice president of global supply chain and his team at Schneider Electric. Schneider Electric uses BetterWorks to ensure the IT strategy is aligned with larger business goals, and to make sure "we're putting a priority on the right things, using the right people doing the right work at the right time, and also how each individual is contributing to their own departments as well as to the larger strategy," Coureil says.

BetterWorks allows Coureil and his team to clarify the overall strategy, and then find a good balance between necessary projects in adherence with organizational goals and opportunities for his IT teams to work on projects they're personally interested in, which also improves engagement and productivity, he says.


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