Achieving productivity through alignment and collaboration

Modern work is more complex and collaborative in nature than ever before

As a nation we have had 28 years of uninterrupted economic growth. Compared to other Western economies, this puts us in a very rare and fortunate position.

However, many argue that this prolonged and steady growth has resulted in us becoming complacent. According to the Business Council of Australia, productivity growth has been sitting at 1.2 per cent a year — down from 2.2 per cent in the 1990s. As a result, real income growth has faltered and many economists predict we are in the midst of our weakest rate of growth in 10 years. 

It’s clear Australia needs a kick up the proverbial. The growth of yesterday cannot be banked upon for tomorrow. Being a productive country will help guarantee future growth and competitiveness.

Collectively, our mindset needs to shift. For instance, the five largest global firms by market capitalisation were founded in the last 50 years — think the Apples and Amazons of this world. These are forward thinking businesses with clear aims and aligned workforces that actively practice effective collaboration. By comparison, the top five Australian firms today were founded more than 200 years ago. This isn’t to discredit the likes of Westpac and BHP — we just shouldn’t be relying on them to continue underpinning our growth for the next 200 years.

Not only are we not producing enough new and fast growing businesses, the way work is done within the majority of Austalian businesses also leans toward the past.

As many of us can probably appreciate, modern work is more complex and collaborative in nature than ever before. We rely on a range of tools, platforms and systems and often work with countless teams spread across multiple time zones around the world. Coming together to achieve a singular aim can be challenging at the best of times.

In order to do their best work and be as productive as possible, workers need a clear vision and alignment with  that vision to thrive.

Research by McKinsey, has shown that publicly traded companies with strong organisational health — which they define as the ability to rally around a common vision, execute effectively, and create a culture of innovation — deliver roughly three times better returns to shareholders.

It’s clear, team collaboration and a unifying sense of purpose — or an aligned workforce — is a key driver of workplace productivity.

Through Slack’s own State of Work report, we found that aligned workers are those who feel connected to their company’s vision and strategy. Equipped with this insight into the bigger picture, they approach their work with optimistic purpose and feel empowered to take action.

Unaligned workers, by contrast, are disconnected from their company’s strategic objectives and more pessimistic about its future. In fact, Slack’s research found that unaligned workers in Australia were 7 times more likely than aligned workers to expect a decline in their company’s workforce growth and 4 times more likely to expect a decline in their company’s revenue growth. Overall, they are more likely to operate in silos and feel less empowered to seize business opportunities.

In this sense, aligned workers are productive workers.

For example, in Australia, 60% of aligned workers feel empowered to make business decisions or to pursue new business opportunities. Imagine having a workforce dominated by empowered workers looking to pursue new business opportunities. This is what Australia’s economy needs.

For organisations looking to tap into and leverage the strengths of aligned workers. Businesses need to nurture alignment through a clear strategy, frequent communication of that strategy, and a thoughtful approach to information overload — something that a smart use of tech can help with. In fact tech, that enables collaboration can also lead to greater transparency among teams. Having access to this additional context and increased knowledge both enables alignment and by extension boosts productivity. 

Productive workers tend to be happy workers and vice versa. When people understand how their work fits into the larger whole, organisations can tackle even the most difficult challenges. 

Tackling difficult challenges will be key for ensuring consistent economic growth for Australia’s economy. To boost productivity and secure future growth, we need to not only embrace innovation but also adapt to a more agile way of working. Ensuring alignment among workers will be key. Organisations that are quick to move will move forward significantly and those that do not risk being left behind. 

Similarly, if Australia is able to adapt and be agile, as a country, we too will continue to move forward.

Arturo Arrarte is head of growth, Asia Pacific, at Slack.

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