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The average large U.S. business loses $47 million in productivity each year as a direct result of inefficient knowledge sharing, according to Panopto's Workplace Knowledge and Productivity report. But Sean Jackson, founder and CEO of Sift, thinks edge collaboration might be able to change that. Jackson describes edge collaboration as "eliminating the lag and the proverbial data transmissions back-and-forth between departments." In other words, by cutting down on the time it takes to get approvals and collaborate between departments, you increase your productivity, and, in turn, save money.

But that's not as easy as it sounds. For example, if you are in HR and need information from accounting, you might not even know the correct person to go to. So instead of collaborating with someone directly, you bring in your boss, who goes to the director of accounting, who finds the correct person to answer your question. However, that's a lot of steps. By eliminating the need for all these additional lines of communication, you can improve productivity and efficiency across your organization. Using edge collaboration, HR leaders can create a culture of seamless knowledge sharing that promotes productivity across their organization.

Get Rid of Your Silos

Many companies are organized into departments, resulting in small groups of people having total control over important information. These silos make it difficult for employees to collaborate and sometime even lead to larger problems. For example, in the GM ignition switch cover up, it was discovered employees hadn't communicated a safety defect to senior management. This lack of communication resulted in $2 billion in fines for the company.

People are often protective of their information because they've worked hard for it. And while some information needs to be kept confidential, there's a limit. The default should be to share information across departments. Cross-training and cross departmental team building exercises can help break down these barriers between groups.

Let Your Employees Manage Their Workloads

In order for edge collaboration to work, employees must be empowered to make quick decisions about their work and have visibility into their colleagues' workloads. For instance, if an employee asks her colleague for help on a project, and that colleague has time to help, the colleague should feel empowered to make that decision. But if the request cuts into this employee's ability to effectively do her other work, she should push back, or recommend another employee help out instead. Managers should only get involved if there's a conflict. By allowing employees to work together directly, you get time back to focus on other important projects.

Make Sure Everyone Gets Acquainted

One of the most challenging aspects of edge collaboration is that employees need to know who has the information they need, and how to access it. This can be difficult, especially if you have several employees in different locations. But, there are several ways to make this process easier. For instance, your company directory should include title and a brief job description under each employee's name. This will allow employees to easily access their colleagues' information, regardless of position. To take this approach a step further, you might even include information about a colleague's specific product or subject matter expertise. That way, if you need information on a specific product, you know who to contact.

Using edge collaboration will help ensure everyone at your organization gets the information they need, when they need it. By improving the way people work together, you can begin to build a stronger, unified and more productive company.

Photo: Creative Commons