Whilst reading a McKinsey Quarterly document recently, I decided to add some more practical thoughts to the four barriers workers face in their daily interactions.
Their analysis focuses specifically on Knowledge Workers, which make up more than 40% of the US work force. I was quite surprised to find that they didn’t list as a key barrier “distraction”, which is the #1 enemy of productivity in any workplace.
In addressing these 4 barriers, you will bring about greater alignment & cohesion amongst your employees, increasing retention & strengthening company culture.
Step 1; Physical and technical barriers
In addition to social media tools, company intranets, yammer, etc., create Communities of Practice made up of people who could benefit from one another’s advice. Encourage your staff, and allocate time, to communicate their experiences and benefits gained through such practice communities. Encourage you team to have virtual & non-virtual lunch breaks with colleagues across disciplines with your organization by getting them outside of the comfort zones.
Bridge any physical distances through the usage of electronic tools with viedo-conferencing and occasional in-person meetings.
Step 2; Social or cultural barriers
Engagement is key to success, so start with your new hire orientation, and then rehire your existing employees all over again. Create a series of case studies by having your team share practical examples that shine on your company Values, Mission, Vision, and how your processes & norms contribute to their integrity. Encourage a culture of knowledge sharing and collaborative problem solving, including these items within your periodic performance reviews and ensure team leaders clearly communicate what’s expected, whilst setting an example. Foster & leverage communities of practice which will help your staff be more engaging.
Communicate & keep all of these successes highly visible! In addition to technology tools like an intranet, hang signs, post bulletin boards, white boards, flip charts, etc. Make it visual!
Step 3; Contextual barriers
Rotate employees across teams and or divisions so that they get a wider understanding for what’s going on outside of their own silos, and a better comprehension as to what activities they can influence with this added clarity. Create company forums, online through your intranet, or off-line where your staff can share knowledge & experiences across disciplines. Encourage your team to have lunch with a colleague from a new area of your organization on a bi-weekly basis & watch the contextual barriers come down like a house of bricks.
Step 4; The barrier of time
Perform an analysis of where people are spending their time. Ensure that job roles & responsibilities are updated, understood & appropriate for the results you expect from your staff (teams & individuals). Then quantify the gap between expected activity / results vs. actual activity / results. Take the respective learnings & transition them into new habits.
How are these barriers impacting your current environment? What steps can you take to start addressing them immediately? Remember, the longest journey starts with a first single step.