Gallup’s 2017 report, State of the American Workplace, showed that employees with strong friendships in the office are happier, enjoy their work more and are seven times more likely to work effectively than others. A recent Forbes article reports recent studies that indicate collaboration drives workplace performance; “Simply feeling like you’re part of a team of people working on a task makes people more motivated as they take on challenges,” said researchers involved in one of the studies.

Positive relationships at work matter.

So how can we break down barriers and silos at work and adopt a more collaborative way of working, beyond bowling nights and evenings in the bar?

Our research leads us to recommend the following:

    1. Leaders must connect in a way that builds engagement and creates a sense of joint endeavour
    2. Build trust
    3. Shift towards open innovation and crowdsourcing enabled by technology



Organisations that establish a culture in which colleagues feel they are kindred spirits working towards a common purpose, helping to shape, deliver and share in success, have a great competitive advantage.

By aligning around a shared goal to enable agile decision-making, it’s possible to create a culture where people feel a sense of joint ownership and empowerment. Leaders within organisations must create a ‘Golden Thread’ throughout the organisation, ensuring everyone acts in alignment. Purpose, vision and values provide a rallying call for the organisation, with strategy and goals as the high-level plan. This gives mandate and meaning, builds trust and encourages loyalty in employees and customers alike.


Despite the numerous collaboration apps and software now available, connecting with customers and employees has become more challenging than ever as individuals fiercely defend their individuality and lose trust in the establishment (“management”).

How can organisations drive a culture of collaboration and connection throughout the firm?

In any relationship, trust is the most important component, and according to the Center for Creative Leadership, it is critical to team success in business.

We trust colleagues who keep their promises and make decisions for the benefit of everyone, rather than for personal gain. Trust can’t be pitched, or artificially created. It develops from consistent actions that show colleagues you are reliable, cooperative and committed to the success of the team.

Another way to build trust and demonstrate collaboration is to bring in customers and work together on addressing a specific customer need. Equally suppliers or organisations who may in some circumstances be competitors can become collaborators on specific issues.


A shift towards crowdsourcing and open innovation enabled by technology has made an impact not just on business but in all parts of society. UNHCR Ideas, led by the UN Refugee Agency, for example, aims to bring people together to find innovative ways to improve the lives of millions of refugees. Such platforms can be a powerful way to drive engagement and change with and within organisations, and represent a significant step forward from the token employee suggestion box of days gone by. Most companies now recognise the power of developing two-way relationships with their workforce and customers, positioning the organisation or its leaders as kindred spirits with a shared sense of purpose.

Enable everyone to collaborate with anyone. Ignore artificial barriers like departments or hierarchies. Talk to your CEO. Talk to leaders throughout the organisation. Collaborate with whoever will help solve a problem for the benefit of the whole company the fastest.

This simple but effective practice makes it more likely that innovation will be sped up, communications and collaboration will increase, and that can only be good news for productivity.

To learn more about our research into 21st century businesses, leadership, culture and collaboration, business transformation and change, feel free to download our free research papers or get in touch for a discussion about making change successful in your business.

Sian Dodd
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