A recent report prepared by Deloitte quantified the benefits of collaboration. It estimates increased collaboration will add a net $46 billion to the Australian economy, with potential for this figure to grow by a further $10 billion. It is critical to business success.
The Ranstad index showed two-thirds of Australian workers are now spending more time collaborating as part of their job.
Yet despite advancements in technology, the potential financial benefits – especially with Australia’s geographically disparate workforce - the country’s attitude to collaboration sits a long way behind its Asia-Pacific neighbours.
China (87 per cent), India (86 per cent), Malaysia (80 per cent), Hong Kong (74 per cent) and Singapore (70 per cent) have seen a greater increase in workforce collaboration over the past five years, with Australia and New Zealand (60 per cent) lagging behind.
The lack of uptake locally may come down to the fact that half of Australian workers fail to see the benefit of team work, with only 51 per cent claiming to work better in teams, compared to 75 per cent across the rest of Asia.
Moreover, two in five (41 per cent) of Australian workers still claim collaboration is not required as part of their job.
Countries such as China and Hong Kong, which are driven by relationship building and collaboration, sit much higher on the spectrum of increased collaboration than us. While they are located closer to the ‘rest of the world’, Australia can learn a lot from Asia and other markets.
Australia’s neighbours know how to build stronger relationships, both inside and outside an organisation, and how to leverage technological advancements to support goals of increased collaboration.
Certainly, Australian employers aren’t placing as much of a priority on collaboration as other markets – both in terms of the groundwork required for effective collaboration in the workplace or reward and recognition for the collaboration which is already occurring.
Only two-thirds of Australian workers say their employer currently provides the tools and training to facilitate working in virtual teams.
This number is significantly higher throughout Asia including China (84 per cent), Malaysia (77 per cent) and Hong Kong (72 per cent) where employers are already investing in programs which encourage and pave the way for collaboration.
Further, on average, 82 per cent of workers from China, India, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore say effective collaboration is recognised, rewarded and applauded in their current role, compared with just 61 per cent in Australia.
This suggests employers across Australia should be doing more to celebrate collaborative achievements and stimulate greater uptake of collaborative and innovative practices if it wants to keep pace with its neighbours.
As a starting point, many workers in Australia (83 per cent) believe knowing what motivates and drives their colleagues is essential to successful collaboration.
This sentiment is also held across Asia. Most workers in China (96 per cent), Malaysia (94 per cent) and Singapore (90 per cent) recognise that a lack of understanding of team members is a barrier to effective collaboration.
Employers and employee teams should be taking individual motivations and goals into consideration when working on projects or establishing collaborative processes.
This will result in better outcomes for all, including the organisation. In many cases, personal goals will be compatible with those of the team or wider business, while also motivating and driving the individuals within it.
Ultimately though, Australian businesses need to implement more effective, efficient and innovative ways for their staff to collaborate. They must provide the tools and training necessary to put those collaborative processes into practice.
Workers of the future will collaborate with teams at local, national and global levels and will be connected 24/7. They will need to feel connected to their colleagues and equipped with the skills necessary to allow them to collaborate successfully.
It’s essential for Australian businesses to embrace the trend, already popular in workplaces across Asia, and champion a ‘collaborative culture’ to best position themselves for the future economically, as well as create and maintain a competitive edge over neighbouring markets.
Steve Shepherd is an employment market analyst at recruitment and HR group Randstad.