Esther op 03 September 2020

Looking for more clout during corona

Working from home: from luxury to necessity. The corona virus caused organizations to switch to remote working at lightning speed. This will proabably remain for a while. Many companies and institutions turned to solutions such as Microsoft Teams. But the technology that has been implemented has its limitations. There is a need for a broader solution. The following questions arise: how do we prevent tribalism between teams? How do we ensure engagement and connection amongst the employees?

A small talk, a lunch break and other small social interactions. From one day to the other, they became a thing of the past. The coronavirus revolutionized our way of working.

working from home seems to be here to stay, more or less. Even our government confirms that working from home is the new standard . And even though some of our colleagues slowly start to work in the office again, online meetings and remote collaboration remain necessary.

Contact with direct colleagues is still quite efffective online. Many people notice that working from home better suits their own social preferences, and admit that they work more efficiently than at the office and that they have more control over their working day. we gained that already.

Adjusting at lightning speed

The lightning-fast switch that many organizations had to make at the start of the corona crisis turned out quite well in the beginning, says Robert Jan Simons, partner at Sentensor. Sentensor helps organizations to implement change faster and better by adopting a new way of working. They also measure the change in mindset that goes with it to make it more transparent and manageable.

“Companies and institutions got to work energetically with solutions such as Microsoft Teams, ”says Simons. “That turned out to be a useful tool for many situations. But as employees spend longer at home and remote working becomes more and more the new standard, the sense of collectivity is under pressure. Hairline cracks appear in cross-team collaboration. Contacts with colleagues narrow to the circle of their own team and do not go beyond operational coordination. Good alternatives must be found for the spontaneous conversation in the hallway and the conversations about a connection with purpose, strategy and innovation.”

“Good collaboration is all about commitment; it is not simply an operational story, ”says Simons. “A philosophy is already programmed into the technology. At MS Teams, this philosophy is mainly operational: you can access your documents very quickly, you can work together in documents, and have a quick chat with someone. That is a certain level of cooperation. But it is mainly aimed at giving the individual the input to do his own work well. There is nothing wrong with that. But there are also situations in which people need to develop knowledge and explore what is possible - in addition to operational collaboration, you also have generative collaboration, in which you achieve more together than you as an individual thought would be possible. Our experience is that generative collaboration is very important in many organizations. Especially in the service-oriented and knowledge organizations. You don't support them by just organizing the cooperation operationally. Much more is needed for this and that requires a change in thinking.”

Plek heeft bewezen succes

Employees and tribalism

“More and more we hear from customers who use MS Teams that they have trouble sharing knowledge and making connections between teams, ”Simons continues. Employees lose sight of what is happening in the organization. All at the expense of the effectiveness of the organization, productivity, innovation and engagement.

The governments appeal to the Dutch in March to work from home, was the signal for Jaimy Ramdin and his colleagues to speed up a new internal communication platform. Ramdin is community manager at the National Health Care Institute , a government agency that advises the Ministery of Health on the basic health insurance package. “We check which treatments and medication are effective. We do this based on three pillars: affordability, quality and accessibility.”

Need for better knowledge sharing

The National Health Care Institute has about 500 employees, internal and external, spread over 6 departments. “When we started working from home from one day to another, we noticed that we had to stop using our existing intranet as soon as possible,” says Ramdin. “It was an outdated system. Responsibility for posting news items lay within the communications team. Employees could post comments, but that hardly happened. In the uncertain corona time, when most colleagues had to work from home, the interaction level had to increase and we needed better and simpler ways to share information.”

The choice for a new platform had already been made at the beginning of the year: Plek. Ramdin: “We actually wanted to take the time to set everything up properly. We were talking to the ambassadors of each team to post content and were planning to go live in mid-May. When we started to speed things up, we got it up and running for all employees within two weeks.”

Colleagues could easily get started with the new platform, Ramdin says. “We selected Plek because it is a platform that allows you to get started without much explanation. The timeline is similar to that of well-known platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook. When you see Plek for the first time, you already know roughly how it works.”

Plek is een intuitief platform

Positive about participation

According to Ramdin, the rapid switch has resulted in many positive things, especially in the field of participation. “Plek offers us the opportunity to enter into conversations with each other. It is truly a social platform. Everyone can ask questions and share articles that we find relevant to colleagues.”

The National Health Care Institute has set up about 50 groups of various sizes at Plek, from 5 to 100 members. “There are groups for existing teams of colleagues, but also groups based on expertise,” says Ramdin. “This is how cross-collaboration takes place. Because you are not only a member of your team, but you also have connections with other colleagues in the organization, based on areas of interest, projects and themes.” This is an important tool to be able to work across teams even without physical contact.

“In addition, we have been busy explaining why it is important to create a good personal profile at Plek”, Ramdin explains. “So colleagues can also find you more easily based on your expertise. Not everyone has done that yet, but we see that more and more people are able to describe their expertise and competences well. ”

Giving the right example

According to Ramdin, it is not a luxury having someone dedicating a lot of the time to the platform. “If you just do these things beside your daily job, it won't work. If you want a platform to be widely supported, you have to set a good example yourself. For example by tagging someone when a question has been set out to which he or she might be able to answer.”

“I also speak to many colleagues throughout the organization,” Ramdin continues. “If I notice that they have a question that can be solved via Plek, then I coach them in doing this at Plek. Everyone is also free to create groups. I regularly visit those groups to check: when was the last message posted? Is the group still relevant? And I discuss with those colleagues what their further plans are for the group. And whether they still need tips. That is also one of the pillars of our organization. Sharing knowledge is high on the agenda. That means: sharing more and getting better together.”

Conclusion: besides operational also generative collaboration!

Now that working remotely - partly out of necessity - has rapidly become the new standard, the term collaboration has a different meaning. Many organizations have experienced this firsthand in recent months; they had to make operational changes under time pressure. But collaboration, in and between teams, goes a lot further than sharing documents and organizing video calls. The next step is that of generative cooperation, aimed at increasing the effectiveness of the organization. The National Health Care Institute has already taken a big step in this with Plek.