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Team collaboration has taken team managers’ minds worldwide. As companies expect that team collaboration will bring multiple benefits, they keep implementing relevant tools and spread collaboration-centric cultures. This collaboration fashion has made the teamwork more transparent and facilitated the team management. At the same time, the overall employee engagement on the workplace hasn’t increased much.
The truth is that even within collaboration-driven corporate environments, a significant number of employees continue to be passive. State of the American Workplace report by Gallup shows that only a third of employees are stably engaged in their working process, while an active disengagement is characteristic to 16% of employees. If you look back at the early 2000s, you will see that the disengagement rate varied slightly at the level of 15-20%.
Employees have many reasons for being inactive at work, and such behavior often has nothing to do with their bad attitude towards the company. Some respondents highlight the existing misbalance of their work-life ratio; others report being unable to do the work they like or think they are overqualified for their current position.
So what is the place of team collaboration in this disengagement story? Let’s have a look.
How Team Collaboration Correlates with Employee Engagement?
Team collaboration is to make teams result-oriented and productive through the ongoing interaction of employees. However, like any other strategy, team collaboration has its downsides that affect teams and individuals at different levels.
If your team organizes a half-hour meeting once a week to discuss the working process, that’s fine. But if your team skips essential tasks in favor of daily meetings, wait for the repeating performance flops. Never-ending calls, discussions, and chats that go out of everyone’s control and become a working style — all this ruins the working process, along with depriving employees of an opportunity to focus on their activities.
Silent Listening or Aggressive Competition
In the ideal scenario, all team members take an equally active part in the teamwork. In reality, the balance is hard to achieve. First, enthusiastic people can suppress non-collaborators. The latter quickly transform into silent listeners being able neither to participate in the team life nor to focus on their personal tasks. Second, teams can consist of non-compromising people who only compete with each other. The second scenario can be even worse than the first one: activity results can be close to zero, and team members can end up with total misunderstanding or aggression, at worst.
Personal Development vs. Team Development
Employees’ vision of their professional involvement and development within the company can conflict with the team’s priorities and values. Thus, people striving for personal promotion can feel uncomfortable within the team boundaries and may never show their full potential. If employees don’t feel like teaming up, it will be hard to expect any positive outcomes from the teamwork or any engagement from their side.
We’ve described the major team collaboration deviations that affect employee engagement, although this list is not exhaustive. Let’s move on to the next point: how can you understand that team collaboration within your company took the wrong direction?
Analytics can Disclose Collaboration Weaknesses
How to measure something that by its nature is abstract and unmeasurable, like team collaboration? What KPIs would you use to assess the overall state of team collaboration and ensure its long-term monitoring to draw unbiased conclusions?
Overall, there are a plethora of software solutions created to evaluate personal performance and monitor employees’ development. However, those solutions can hardly deal with collaboration assessment, or they require substantial customization effort to handle such a non-trivial task.
Happily, big software providers have started to incorporate relevant functionality into their core systems to prevent organizations from investing in stand-alone solutions. For example, the Microsoft Corporation offered to monitor team productivity right within their existing collaboration suite, Office 365. The company came up with two applications, Workplace Analytics and MyAnalytics, which help organizations assess how their teams work. Companies that run any of the on-premises versions of SharePoint can try building the same solution within their SharePoint intranet by leveraging the built-in analytics functionality. Additional customization that companies have to take up can become an advantage: they can implement the metrics that the ready-made apps lack.
How can Workplace Analytics Help?
Team collaboration analysis is a long process, so don’t expect you will get the magic key to the employee engagement together with the tools you implement. However, monitoring team collaboration continuously, you will be able to reveal the present engagement issues and fix them gradually. Below, we list a few examples.
Misbalance in Team Activities
Analytics can show that a team who underperform regularly spend too much time on video conferencing. This can be a sign of improper time management and poor planning, which makes team members ignore their core tasks. Logically, a team leader can consider feasible measures to eliminate this misbalance and redistribute the time to fulfill core tasks and hit performance goals.
Team and Personal Overloads
Analytics will help teams see their typical load pipeline, thus revealing both overloads and underloads at the team and individual levels. In case of repeating overloads, the team leader will have to think about a better activity prioritization or team augmentation to reduce the overall pressure on the team. At the same time, underloads will be a reason for team managers to review the current team activities and fill the gaps.
Microsoft’s apps also offer the opportunity to track collaboration paths (who collaborates with whom). This functionality can help team managers pinpoint the most effective duos and trios within the team, or identify who falls out of the collaboration process regularly (which may mean that they require an alternative working approach).
Correlation between Team Behavior and Business Outcomes
In the end, the workplace analytics is to demonstrate how well the chosen team collaboration style corresponds to the business goals that the team needs to achieve. For example, if teams spend too much time on communication, they might show modest results. When team leaders understand the core issue that hinders their team results, they can take precise actions instead of sticking to a trial-and-error method.
Who can Benefit from Workplace Analytics?
When companies implement collaboration analytics, they should focus not on detecting and punishing lazy employees, but on revealing issues that affect personal engagement and slow down the team advance.
If you implement the Microsoft’s collaboration suite, you will also be able to offer your employees MyAnalytics, a personal productivity analyzer. The functionality is only available to a signed-in employee, so it can’t be seen or accessed by other team members. This way, every employee can control his/her activities, see the dynamics, and detect ongoing issues (excessive emailing, ineffective hours. With this objective data on hands, they will be able to make consistent improvements to their routine.
The Gallup report mentioned above says that the number of employees working remotely increased from 39% to 43% between 2012 and 2016, and the trend will stay for years ahead. Workplace analytics can help remote workers and their managers build a transparent working process where managers see the real productivity of employees regardless of their location, while employees control their load.
Workplace analytics can be a litmus paper showing up the overall health of the team. Deviations can point not only to lazy employees but also to a poorly managed or overcomplicated working process. They may also reveal the weaknesses at the personal level (for example, knowledge gaps that make an employee take counsel from colleagues).
Making Employees Data-driven Won’t be Easy
Implementing productivity analytics across an enterprise is a tough task: employees might consider it as an additional mechanism for managers to control them and apply penalties. However, unlike typical software that scans employees’ PCs or tracks their every step, workplace analytics is to guide the staff towards an optimal working process that is both engaging for every employee and beneficial for the entire team.
Still, making analytics an integral part of everyday team life will require substantial management effort. Big Data Executive Survey 2018 says that the greatest challenges of introducing data-oriented cultures come not from technologies but from people. Employees’ resistance to adopting the data-centric working process coupled with a painful change management process are the stumbling blocks that executives face regularly.
With this in mind, managers have to elaborate on relevant strategies and turn the workplace analytics into an employee or team assistant, instead of using it as a supervision measure. Team leaders will have to explain to their employees how the analytical tools work, what advantages they bring in the short and long perspective, and how they contribute to personal engagement.