Article: Building a culture of digital collaboration


Building a culture of digital collaboration

Jim Kalbach, Chief Evangelist of MURAL shared in his session at People Matters TechHR SEA 2021 on how to blend teams to collaborate in hybrid and remote contexts by keeping the social agenda in mind.
Building a culture of digital collaboration

The work from home saga continues amidst the current international health crisis that has been hovering for more than a year now. Remote working suddenly became the need of the hour for every organization’s survival. Undoubtedly, the pandemic has clearly been able to superlatively highlight the importance of how we can work together and the business world gracefully has showcased their strengths to a remarkable degree. 

In order to keep the engine of businesses and economy humming; organizations have resorted to experimenting with various new-age strategies and interventions accentuating the importance of how we work together, the means of interaction, and the methods we use. Technology has become the central driving force for every matter. But one thing that has to be blended with technology is the concept of an evolving new culture of digital collaboration – that will predominantly be a factor for survival and growth. 

Thinking digital first

Jim Kalbach, Chief Evangelist of MURAL explicitly reflected on key elements of building a resilient culture of collaboration by thinking "digital-first". He believes that ‘what you work on’ and ‘why you are working on’ are critical elements; however the pandemic showed ‘how you work’ is more critical to understand in the era of remote working. He clearly states that ‘digital-first imperative’ is what organizations will be looking to build to stay longer in the race. 

While thinking ‘Digital-First’ what comes to mind is the perceptual shift that needs to be made at every level - a mindset change towards ‘building a culture of digital collaboration’. As it is, we have been missing our normal working lives more than anything. The feeling of belongingness in an office set up, the spontaneity of meeting our colleagues and friends, communicating face to face in an office environment, the touch of the office coffee machine, the creative debates of learning – everything looks like a thing of the past. The only thing that has kept us together is the sense of collaboration. Having a strong culture of collaboration regardless of location and means of interaction is critical for business success. 

With the mission to bring in a culture of digital collaboration, Jim suggests some tips that will help to build a culture of digital collaboration:

• Use simple and small rituals to make connections with people in your respective teams. Social rituals of regular check-ins can connect people way better than just discussing the goals to be accomplished.  

• Add the angle of the social component of ‘human first. This plays a significant role in directionally aligning people. 

• Compassion and empathy are core to building a culture of collaboration. Express your feelings via emotional signboards. Seek the help of moodometers and other virtual tools. 

• Use stand-up strategies as practiced in MURAL that helps to transparently present departmental goals and help each team to priorities one task that needs to be achieved in the given week under the current remote working context.

Digital tools for a culture of collaboration 

It is imperative to address the social need of your workforce to keep everyone’s sanity in place. One can leverage digital tools to create a culture of collaboration focusing on the social aspect of the workforce. Creative thinking and meticulous planning can make it possible to have several touchpoints through social events that can be arranged throughout the year. For instance, Virtual Company Retreat can be a way to engage and collaborate digitally for filling the social gap. 

MURAL did experiment in similar lines with well thought out plan blending creativity and empathy in their intervention. The initial retreat was based on the theme of ‘Travel’– something that every human on this planet is yearning for since the onset of the pandemic. MURAL meticulously used digital tools like virtual whiteboards, virtual pre-formatted passports, and google maps to drive the intervention. Physical materials were sent to employees beforehand and social games were conducted during the retreat. Employees visited countries while being with their colleagues on a virtual plane adding to the social agenda. They got their passports stamped with check-ins while connecting with their teammates – all virtually. The retreat became so engaging and popular that they had to repeat the same with another theme ‘Magic’ that was spread out across three days for accommodating the global workforce across all time zones and culminated with several hours of sessions, learning courses, activities, magic tricks and management games.

The ultimate balancing act of blending digital tools and collaborative culture through various techniques as seen above will always help to reduce burnout and other fatigues of the remote work life. To be sure, leaders will need to take time to connect with people with empathy and compassion through social rituals and retreats. Team members must be supported to find their own sweet spot to make an impact on the company’s productivity chart. Finally, all these can only be achieved through a digital-first mindset that culminates into a fluid collaboration of culture and technology.

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Topics: Technology, Culture, #TechHRSEA

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