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A 3-step approach to drive collaboration in your organisation

By Sarah Gledhill and Lou Harris | September 20, 2021

In this article, one of our 12-part series, we explore how organisations can demonstrate collaboration. Is it a game-changer?
Employee Experience

Collaboration: an overused buzzword or a game-changer for organisational success? We believe it’s a game-changer. Why? Because of the equality it creates between the value to an employee and the value to a business.

For an employee, collaboration means knowing your ideas and efforts are encouraged and valued, by leadership and by your colleagues, no matter what your role or level. It means learning from your co-collaborators and having opportunities to build new relationships where you can develop and share knowledge.

For a business, collaboration drives value from within. It leads to the creation of new products, solutions and intellectual capital, better and more agile ways of working, faster problem solving and a more attractive proposition for current and future talent. Perhaps most importantly, though, our employee experience research shows that collaboration plays a large part in driving higher financial performance.

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SHISEIDO: Client success story on driving collaboration

We have worked closely with SHISEIDO, a luxury cosmetics innovator, in their transformation from a traditional manufacturer of products unchanged for 145 years into a market disruptor and leader. To achieve this aim, their CEO took a bold step to redefine their philosophy and values. ‘Think big, take risks, hands on, collaborate, be open, act with integrity, be accountable, and applaud success’ are behaviours now expected of SHISEIDO employees globally.

To help embed these behaviours at all levels of the organisation, we worked with SHISEIDO on a number of initiatives which are in the process of being rolled out across the regions in which they operate. These include:

  • A programme to train all managers in the new philosophy
  • A series of employee workshops - where ideas for innovation continue to be co-created and shared across their different regions
  • A new ‘Beauty Innovations Contest’ (launched and completed in 2019) to encourage collaboration and innovation
  • Engagement campaigns around the desired behaviours including a game
  • The communication of changes to how performance is assessed, to ensure collaboration is a key component of performance management and reward.

Over 90% of employees of SHISEIDO in Japan have accessed the tools and programmes. SHISEIDO are continuing to roll out the employee workshops, values and changes to performance management globally throughout 2021.

So, where do organisations start with building collaboration into the employee experience?

  1. 01

    Strategise and communicate

    Define a strategy and shared goal for collaboration and bring your employees on board.

    SHISEIDO’s strategy and approach was led by Masahiko Uotani, the CEO, and a training and communications strategy was used to light the fire with employees.

    There are a whole host of initiatives that organisations can implement to address their priorities around collaboration, but our experience shows that the most successful organisations first define and communicate why collaboration is important, just as SHISEIDO did. This means helping employees understand how collaboration will benefit them as individuals and the organisation; how working together will lead to better outcomes for everyone. By taking the time to engage with your employees in this way, they will feel a shared sense of purpose and be more inclined to embrace the changes.

    This works at a macro level, where we see organisations incorporate collaboration into their values and competency frameworks and define collaboration as a key driver and behaviour to achieve business strategy. It also works at a micro level for individual projects, where developing a holistic wellbeing framework results in an inclusive programme for all employees.

    By providing clarity on a shared end goal, and by clearly defining how and why collaboration is critical to achieving this, organisations are more likely to get buy-in and to drive better outcomes.

  2. 02

    Listen and learn

    Understand the opportunities and barriers for collaboration in your business today.

    Another critical part of bringing employees on board is involving them in the process of change. Once you’ve defined your strategy, you can quickly shift to action – and our recommendation is to start with gathering insights from your employees. This might take the form of employee listening through a Virtual Focus Group or a pulse survey. Listening enables organisations to understand where collaboration is done well and what they can learn from it; it also helps them to identify key gaps and to prioritise where the opportunities with the biggest potential for return on investment lie.

    Gaining a good understanding of how your teams are currently working together is another way in which you can discover where collaboration is most needed. Our Work Roles report highlights an individual’s most and least preferred roles in the workplace and details how to leverage these roles to collaborate more effectively with others.

  3. 03

    Prioritise and implement

    Build your roadmap of collaboration initiatives and put them into practice.

    Once organisations understand where the opportunities lie, the next step is to create the environment and space for collaboration to take place. Our experience shows that the following initiatives are the most effective in driving collaborative ways of working:

    • Talent acquisition – it is necessary to develop job descriptions that emphasise the importance of collaboration as a key behaviour and to explain how this can be demonstrated in practice. To help we have compiled four simple tips to create an inclusive job description.
    • Performance appraisals – you will need to build performance management approaches that enable your organisation to assess employees on how well they have demonstrated collaborative behaviours. To assess performance against these behaviours, we can develop competency frameworks using the Competency Atlas®.
    • Leader and manager guides – you can create detailed guides on how to role model behaviours, such as collaboration in ways of working, and how to talk to teams about the importance of these behaviours.
    • Collaboration initiatives and events – these are a very successful means of launching programmes that will encourage and celebrate collaboration (e.g. recognition schemes that reward employees for demonstrating organisational values, or innovation programmes that require cross-organisation teams to come up with fresh, new ideas).

    Creating a culture of collaboration requires action at every point in the employee lifecycle, because you are making the shift from one-off initiatives to developing a collaborative mindset that becomes embedded within an organisation.

Collaboration is a win–win approach

Our employee experience research shows that organisations with collaborative cultures drive better experiences for employees and could, ultimately, see higher financial performance. It’s a win–win situation for businesses and employees alike.

It’s a win–win situation for businesses and employees alike.

If you want to build a collaborative culture, start with our three-step approach. First, define your shared goals for collaboration and communicate these to employees. Second, identify the opportunities and gaps where collaboration could drive a better employee experience. And third, embed collaboration into your company’s culture through new ways of working and programmes that make it part of your employees’ day-to-day experience.

Collaboration might be seen as just a buzzword, or perhaps as a trend that organisations are following, but for us, it really is a game-changer that is undoubtedly a key part of the puzzle for high-performing companies.


Sarah Gledhill
Associate Director - Change Management and Communication
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Senior Director, Employee Experience, Pensions

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