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Is Digital Collaboration the Missing Link to Your Bottom Line?

Masoud Rabie, Executive vice president of enterprise services, Reingold
Masoud Rabie, Executive vice president of enterprise services, Reingold

Masoud Rabie, Executive vice president of enterprise services, Reingold

With over 1 billion active users, Gmail has become a ubiquitous tool and one of Google’s signature products. But the idea for Gmail didn’t originate with a CEO. It didn’t come from a pricy consultancy or savvy think-tank, and it wasn’t part of Google’s strategic plan. Gmail came from a rank and file developer working in an environment primed to bring great ideas to fruition.

It’s a fact: If you encourage and enable employees to pursue their best ideas, you can increase innovation and enhance your position in the marketplace. But that can be a challenge for many organizations. According to Alan G. Robinson, professor at the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, the average U.S. employee’s ideas, big or small, are implemented only once every six years.

To transform your organization’s culture and establish a robust process for capturing and cultivating employee ideas, a simple suggestion box just isn’t going to cut it. Every organization’s leaders say they value employee innovation, but to take that commitment beyond lip service, you need a transparent process for not just inspiring and exchanging employee ideas but also bringing them to life.

That’s where the CIO comes in: establishing and optimizing digital collaboration. A digital collaboration platform is the perfect way to promote and foster innovation, creating fertile ground for nurturing ideas throughout an organization. The results not only keep organizations at the leading edge of their industries, but also boost employee engagement and retention.

  Today’s digital collaboration platforms are more customizable, user-friendly and scalable, offering the perfect conduit for elevating and channeling innovation. 

Tapping Your Collaboration Platform’s Potential

Today’s digital collaboration platforms are more customizable, user-friendly and scalable, offering the perfect conduit for elevating and channeling innovation. Here are just a few examples of effective ways to take advantage of digital collaboration:

• Create an Innovation Engine. Employees working in the trenches can be the best sources of solutions to the problems that impact their jobs every day. To tap their insights, we worked with a healthcare system that used its digital collaboration platform for a “Shark Tank”-style national effort to identify, vet, and replicate evidenced-based practices, submitted by employees working from local facilities to the national headquarters. This wasn’t about finding unicorns; the program identified solutions to real-world problems on the ground. One employee’s idea helped reduce a facility’s spread of flu and hospital-acquired pneumonia by 70 percent. Thanks to Shark Tank, this lifesaving solution was replicated across more than 100 other hospitals.

• Establish a Workplace Hub. We worked with an organization undergoing transition and transformation to increase organizational transparency and boost employee engagement with the new CEO and his vision for change. We used a collaboration platform to create a digital workplace “hub,” where employees at all levels could connect with the CEO’s office and contribute to a national transformation strategy. More than 11,000 employees across the country actively engage with this hub, participating in meaningful dialogue about the organization’s challenges and direction.

• Promote Rapid Replication. When employees in the field identify a game-changing process or solution, a digital platform can quickly disseminate it. We worked with an organization to implement 300 new practices across 100 locations nationwide through its collaboration platform.

• Streamline Business Processes. One of our clients used its collaboration platform to cut red tape and smooth internal processes for accepting and implementing edits to a high-profile manual. The staff cut the average editing time from almost nine months to about 20 days.

Looking at your own business goals, what’s possible for you?

If You Build It, Will They Come?

These initiatives sound great, but they’re possible only if you can get — and keep — your employees engaged on the platform. Chances are, you’ve already invested in some type of internal platform to support communication and collaboration across your organization, but that’s just one piece of the puzzle. Are you getting the most value from it? Have you set specific goals and objectives, mapped to your broader business goals? Are you seeing the results that you want?

I’ve worked with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and health care systems to develop, manage, and grow collaboration platforms to meet their unique needs. The key is creating a strategy to support the platform’s rollout and growth, based on their specific challenges, opportunities, and goals.

• Establish a concrete vision for the platform — one that your entire leadership team is bought into.  
• Identify those benchmarks and key performance indicators.
• Conduct regular assessments to gauge the platform’s performance.
• Let data drive decision-making. Identify a long-term plan to scale.

Investing in Success

In my experience, it absolutely requires an investment from leadership committed to three pillars of successful platform growth:

• Technology: Customization and ease of use, integrated with actual workflows
• Community management: Keeping users apprised of exactly where — or from whom — they can find assistance
• Marketing: Growing a network of champions and advocates by allowing them to tell the story for you

Through smart investments in these three areas, we helped one client build its digital platform to over 100,000 engaged employees, all while saving costs on legacy systems and increasing employee performance and morale. When it comes to your bottom line, the question becomes not “Can we afford an initiative like this?” but rather “Can we afford not to do this?”

There’s no single approach to maximizing the value of an employee collaboration platform. Your method should reflect your organization’s size, culture, and goals. But it will succeed only if it’s backed by a strategic investment.

Your organization’s own version of Gmail could be right under your nose. So get out there and find it.

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