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Why Southeast Asian businesses should foster a collaborative workplace

Minhaj Zia, Vice President - South East Asia, India & SAARC | Dec. 22, 2016
Organisations should start collaborating to create a healthy work environment.

This vendor-written piece has been edited by Executive Networks Media to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favour the submitter's approach.

While we have been 'collaborating' since the dawn of time, today's collaboration takes place in many ways and over many mediums, anywhere in the world. Driven by globalisation, ubiquity of access and the consumerisation of communications technologies, workplaces have been evolving to suit how people want to work.

In Singapore, a number of organisations have already moved towards collaborative working environments. The Singapore government recently announced that all public servants they will be using Workplace by Facebook, a social and collaborative service designed for enterprises. Another move towards workplace collaboration was DBS Bank, the first bank in Singapore to adopt cloud-based productivity technology in the workplace in hopes that it will enhance collaboration and facilitate working on the go.

Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, the Thailand government has begun developing the island Phuket into a high-tech start-up hub, with the aim of incubating at least ten thousand start-ups by 2018.

Similarly, Malaysia is set to introduce the world's first digital free trade zone and digital hubs, which will provide additional online and digital services to facilitate international e-commerce and invigorate Internet-based innovation in order to support Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and digital entrepreneurs. The move is an initiative to empower Malaysians to use digital technologies to enhance the workplace, foster collaboration and inspire innovation.

We've seen many collaboration trends come to life - particularly when it comes to technology solutions that put the user at the centre of innovation and design, by reducing complexity and enabling more natural collaboration across environments and locations.  With that, workspaces continue to rapidly shift; for example the emergence of the 'huddle room' (or small group meeting spaces) not only encourages more impromptu catch-ups but also better use of real estate. Market forces are at work to transition organisations from a traditional workplace to highly collaboration organisations in order to tap into the best talent, to be agile and to provide a superior customer experience.

In the same way, the workforce is transitioning too, driven by the same forces. It's symbiotic and if built right, your workplace and workforce of 2017 and beyond will be the catalyst for success.

The essence of highly collaborative organisations

According to a recent study by Accenture, more business owners are recognising the benefits of having a highly collaborative workplace environments fuelled by technology. However, only 48% of Southeast Asia organisations encourage employees to use internal social media platforms for greater knowledge sharing.

Today, effective collaboration is the make or break difference in collecting and sharing knowledge, pooling together skills and resources, and working towards shared objectives over any geographic distance or cultural barrier. Indeed, in a business and organisational sense, collaboration also means optimising budgets or improving productivity, hastening a product launch or project completion, or putting your company at the top of the innovation game, but ultimately it's the human connections that will matter the most. With this in mind, I see the following major hallmarks common to highly collaborative organisations that are essential in establishing such a culture.

  • Bridging the generational divide: Organisations are placing a lot more emphasis now on bridging the quad generational workforce, an amalgamation of Baby Boomer, Gen X, Gen Z and Millennial. To be successful, businesses have to identify the unique technology and workspace needs of each demographic. Equipping the workforce with the right collaboration tools will be the crux of establishing a more connected and engaged organisation and this is certainly the direction organisations committed to innovation are heading.
  • Non-verbal cues are important: Understanding cultural differences has become a crucial component in successfully conducting business internationally. In Malaysia for example, meetings often start with small talk and appropriate business dress is considered very important, while in Singapore small talk is not widely observed until good rapport is established and decisions are made very quickly. To be effectively inclusive in a highly globalised world, organisations are engaging technology to collaborate across borders visually to have the ability to see when team members in another country may not quite understand or be too polite to speak up over a phone conference.
  • Embrace a culture of inclusion: A supportive environment breeds the best teams and to be truly collaborative, organisations need to embrace a culture of inclusion. Meeting face-to-face or being a key participant in a meeting should not be limited by location, job or contract-type, or device. From home-based workers to freelancers, a collaborative organisation will offer the same opportunities to them as to employees based at an office or project site to be valuable contributors and consultants in any communication. The same principle should be applied in extending the collaboration experience to employees at every level, department, or site.
  • Allow employees to work the way they want: We are also seeing a major cultural shift in the blending of work and life in collaborative organisations. With the proliferation of video and the right collaborative technology people can still enjoy family holidays but still be connected to meetings, view presentations, and join meetings when called for. In a collaborative organisation, the individual is as important as the team and this type of work/life harmony goes a long way in making employees happier and more fulfilled.


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