Many disciplines are seeking to tackle the effectiveness of work and realising the potential of people in organisations. It is time to coordinate these efforts for the benefits of organisations and our people.
The Frustrations of Silos
This year I have been to a number of conferences across a range of different fields: employee communication, collaboration, digital workplaces, future of work, innovation, learning, intranets, knowledge management, culture, design & employee engagement. Three things were evident from all those earnest conversations:
- All these disciplines are working on a similar, if not the same, problem – how to better help people to work more effectively, to achieve strategic business goals and to realise their personal potential.
- There are insights and solutions in each field that can contribute to making better solutions for organisations.
- Everyone struggles with the conversation to win and maintain support for their field or discipline. Most of these teams don’t even have a secure home in the organisational hierarchy and are constantly bounced around between People, Communications, Technology and functional businesses.
For people who talk a lot about the need to work across silos, it is remarkable how siloed much of the conversation is within these disciplines. Connections with related disciplines are often seen as a threat rather than an opportunity. The challenges of managing large complex systems that impact the functional goal are often ignored.
The lack of senior management support may simply be an outcome of the confusion that senior managers experience when they receive requests to support similar sounding work from multiple teams in an organisation. I have seen many versions of a CEO say something along the lines of ‘explain to me again what the community manager does? How’s that different from our collaboration manager, the knowledge manager or the learning team? Can’t someone just focus on employee effectiveness? After all we have a hiring freeze so I’m a big unsure why all these new roles need to keep appearing’
Organise Around the Problem
Changes in approach have already begun. People in the Learning function have reacted to the need to focus on on-the-job learning and already begun to describe themselves and operate as as performance consultants. At one health insurer, the knowledge management team is part of the innovation and design team to ensure effective knowledge is designed into customer and employee processes. Innovation labs are becoming the centres of collaboration and communities of practice in many organisations. Rather than targeting employee engagement as a goal, organisations are starting to see it as an outcome of a whole system of interactions. The boundaries of disciplines are blurring in the pursuit of greater effectiveness.
We need to go further in breadth of ambition and the disciplines involved. To achieve the needs of our organisations the goal cannot be we need to focus on the redesign of the employee experience for greater work effectiveness. That redesign must include all the functions that can contribute to a better and more effective work experience. We need to move beyond delivery of programs to design of systems that deliver better learning, knowledge, collaboration, experiences and effectiveness.
Let’s put aside the jargon, the silos and the disciplines and focus instead on what employees and organisations need. Their need is people who bring a cross-disciplinary expertise to managing the complex systems in organisations that shape the effectiveness of employees in delivering to customer and organisational goals. Driving step changes in employee effectiveness at realising business goals is the opportunity for all.