Worker empowerment: 9 Cs of people-centric collaboration

The empowered consumer. The empowered worker. In a previous post we looked at customer empowerment and how to turn it into action. The key takeaway: customer involvement, direct or indirect. Time to look at the empowered worker in 9 Cs of people-centric collaboration. It will not come as a surprise that involvement and enablement are crucial here is well.

The term ‘empowered’ is used very often in this digital and social era. McKinsey talked about the empowered consumer in 2009, emphasizing ‘that outreach of consumers to marketers has become dramatically more important than marketers’ outreach to consumers.’

We are all consumers and the effects of empowerment can be seen all around us. Digital transformation, for instance, today de facto revolves around consumer-powered fundamental changes. In an integrated age, where different layers of the economy, business, consumer behavior, data, technology and new ways of working get connected into a giant collaboration opportunity, empowering the worker essentially boils down to the 9 Cs of people-centric collaboration:

9 Cs of people-centric collaboration
9 Cs of people-centric collaboration

1. Choice.

Just as consumers have more possibilities to get in touch with us – when and where they want – empowering the worker is about providing the necessary space and choices where collaboration, initiative and innovation can occur. Rigid working mechanisms and even communication choices and work processes obstruct creativity and production. Give your workers the opportunities to work where and how they work best. Enable and facilitate flexibility.

2. Confidence.

Mutual trust is essential in all human relationships and we see it all around us a challenge on different business levels. The trust of the consumer. Trust in institutions, CxOs and businesses. The confidence we have in our workforce and vice versa. It makes me think about Robert De Niro’s “circle of trust” in the movie ‘Meet the Parents’ where De Niro defined the extent of that circle and who could be in it and under which circumstances. Trust is open and transparent. It’s based on collaboration and at the same time a driver of it. Confidence is more than trust. It’s also the belief that we can achieve our goals and have the means to do so. Empower your workers to be confident.

3. Convenience.

Collaboration can only happen if it’s easy to work together. Nobody likes to work with systems, processes and structures that make life harder instead of easier. Just look at how we crucial it is to facilitate the buying journey of customers. Remove the hurdles and make it easy. Convenience matters. A lot.

4. Consistency.

While flexibility and agility are terms we use a lot – and they are more than buzzwords – consistency, as an enabler of agility, improves collaboration and empowers your workers as they know the processes, structures are streamlined and organizational silos don’t prevent continuity and success. Consistency is closely related with confidence and aims to avoid confusion and decreasing confidence. Make – and deliver upon – the promise of consistency to drive confident collaboration and creating the context for agility.

5. Continuity.

I just mentioned this one. Imagine you want your workers to collaborate on a long-term project. And optimizing your business and the experiences of your customer is a long-term project and even mission. You want their buy-in and commitment – another C – to succeed. They want your commitment too. If your corporate culture is one of continuously changing course – forgive me the many Cs and alliterations – when that’s not necessary (flexibility can require it), people don’t buy in. Continuity is not the opposite of change as you’ll read below. It’s the promise that you will not kill efforts because of corporate stumbling blocks or weak leadership.

6. Connection, a.k.a. connected/integrated communication.

Welcome in the social era where social technologies enable new, integrated, ways of working. Unified communications, social collaboration tools and connected platforms provide the inevitable connected infrastructure and processes to succeed in agile working and collaboration. At least, if they are convenient and focused on the other Cs. Communicate when and where it works best for the connected worker and provide choice across a connected communication and collaboration frame and culture.

7. Comprehension.

Collaboration is about technologies such as unified communications and collaboration platforms but it’s most of all a matter of processes of people. Perception of customers and workers is defined by a multitude of human relationships. Empathy and comprehension are essential to make any form of collaboration work. Understand what makes people collaborate and what doesn’t. Also understand that your workers act as they do today for reasons that have everything to do with the culture of your business, the ways in which you enable them to bring up the best in them and how they experience change. More about that in the last 2 Cs below.

8. Change.

People-centric collaboration requires change in many organizations. The ability to work across or through silos, reversing the view regarding work, getting a group of people to actually work together, etc. The tools and conditions are one thing, change and change management another. Many of us fear change and change as such is meaningless. It requires a common purpose and at the same time takes into account the individual’s purpose and context (remember comprehension). Change is not the opposite of continuity. People will change the way they work if there is a certain level of continuity and commitment or buy-in. When there’s a history of launching new things and killing them all too soon, this reflects on everyone. Change doesn’t happen like that and in social collaboration we often see good results when social business pilot projects are set up and a Center of Excellence temporarily paves the way for cross-divisional initiatives until the project is mature enough (read: the participants are empowered enough) to grow beyond a Center of Excellence. Obviously collaboration is not just about projects but enabling to think and work out of the box will almost always be crucial. Facilitate disruption with a purpose with change and transformation as the drivers for business. Unfortunately, change “management” is often overlooked, also in digital transformation projects.

9. Culture.

And this brings me to another “C”. Corporate culture is a vague term but it is a fact of business. A culture is defined by a past, present, ecosystem and most of all people. Change and good processes have an impact on people and thus culture. This goes for management too. A change of management can alter a culture beyond imagination. However, sometimes the traditional culture, based on a long heritage, can also make any changes impossible. Culture is related to all the other Cs.

A collaborative mindset and culture, whereby employee involvement is deeply embedded, is a huge benefit and a continuous goal. You might think that workers can’t change their attitudes and ‘personal culture’. Wrong. While change is hard to achieve, what you see of your workers is just a part of how they act and are within your corporate culture, a tip of the individual’s iceberg.

Involvement, respect, convenience, leadership, rewarding collaborative initiatives, enabling success and bringing in and highlighting the collaborative-minded, impacts the individual attitude of everyone and by definition also the culture. Change the culture tapping into the human potential that has the power to change traditions, no matter how rigid they are.

In the end collaboration is about community, context and bringing up the best in workers. They want to collaborate and connect by nature, without having to give up their personal space in which innovation can take place. Combine it all, comprehend and focus on enablement with purpose, processes, objectives, gratification, cooperation and meaning. It requires CxOs to work together towards a collaborative culture. Empowering your workers is providing them with the circumstances to assure client and employee satisfaction. Or is it?

10. The 2 Cs that connect it all

The  Cs mentioned all revolve around effective collaboration from the perspective of workers, people. Obviously, there are also dimensions touching processes and solutions. However, there are two Cs that are respectively the glue and the carriers of collaboration:

  • Channels: the networks and interaction channels of a digital economy that are increasingly fragmented and need to be unified again, just as we see in the overall consumer behavior where channels become function of intent.
  • Content: information and data that need to be unlocked and be at the disposal of your workers in order to fulfil their tasks when, where and how it is need. This is where information management comes in.