The Business World Post-COVID-19
by Heather Kluter
In this tumultuous time when things seem to be changing minute by minute, many businesses are seeing their teams pulling together and connecting in ways they never have before.This sense of being “all in this together” is allowing employees to be more of their authentic selves at work. They are now free to admit and share that they are juggling a lot – kids, pets, friends, partners, and general stress. Although the balancing act has shifted due to social distancing and sheltering in place, this juggling act is not new. But many have felt the need to hide it all when they are at work. With newfound empathy for each other, companies are reporting a heightened level of team collaboration that has not been seen before COVID-19.
Companies that are experiencing, nurturing, and fostering this increased closeness among their employees have a golden opportunity at their feet right now. It can be difficult and time-consuming to break down walls and create a culture of strategic innovation that hinges on cross-department innovation and communication. But companies that capitalize on the momentum stemming from this current crisis have a great chance to make a permanent (long-term?) shift in their corporate culture. One that is nimble, moves quickly and innovates rapidly. One where teams are willing to step in at a minute's notice to offer advice and guidance to others, almost acting as extensions of other teams.
We know that the benefits from cross-functional collaboration aren’t just nice to have. They are critical to success in today’s environment, and possibly even more critical to the success that is required to survive and thrive during and after this crisis. Teams that come together to help each other with new tools, techniques, and ideas are almost forced to act more like start-ups, where the environment is more unknown than known. We’ve seen time and again the game-changing innovation that comes from start-ups, who live daily in do-or-die mode. They move quickly, act strategically, and get results—and they do it by pulling together.
Today’s teams should feel a sense of freedom and risk-taking like they never have before. Executive management should foster this and reward the risk-taking teams, allowing honest conversations without fear of the elephant in the room. Quite simply, this requires open and honest conversations and ongoing internal ideation sessions.
We know from experience that bonded teams who practice cross-functional collaboration aren’t just nice to have. They are critical to success in today’s environment and offer a lot:
- They engage – siloed structures lead to burnout, which can often be severe and lead to billions of dollars of lost productivity. Cross-functional team-bonding can minimize apathy and energize employees.
- They create leaders – cross-functionality leads to faster learning and quicker skill-building. A series of small wins along the way allows employees to grow, or fail while growing, in a safer environment where they may feel more likely to take risks.
- They teach others – in close-knit teams, teaching one another and advancing team function becomes commonplace. Teams end up teaching within and teaching other teams, lending their expertise and experience to other groups throughout the company. This allows teams to display and share their knowledge and develop a deeper understanding of the entire business by collaborating cross-functionally.
- They respond rapidly – the agility created in this supportive team environment is measurably faster than in more traditional organizational structures, where teams are not well connected within themselves or across the organization.
- They produce – collaborative teams are more likely to produce high-quality products and services. Cross-silo projects bring continuous input from the variety of groups that touch a new product or service. Including such diverse knowledge at each step of development allows quality to be infused at every step.
Business leaders are beginning to realize that the way we work as teams may likely (hopefully!) be changed forever. As businesses struggle to survive today’s crisis and look to the future and the long-term business implications that will come out of all this, teams that are becoming closer than ever before have a huge opportunity within their organizations to help lead the way and help pivot toward future success in the post-COVID-19 world.
About the Author
Heather Kluter (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Senior Vice President at Decision Analyst. She may be reached at 1-800-262-5974 or 1-817-640-6166.
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