The future of HR is social: about teams, brokers & connectors

5 february 2018

One of the sessions at the Merit Summit our #dreamteam attended last month in Lisbon was about 'The Social organization' by Jon Ingham in which he addressed the urgent need for companies to shift their focus from developing individuals to enabling networks and relationships between employees in order to increase organizational performance. Despite all the evidence available nowadays that focus should be on the teams, HR leaders continue to focus HR on the management, measurement, development and reward of individual employees.

In order to move forward in organizations,
it’s better to spot the social talents because they are the ones that will get things done.

Triggered by the topic of social collaboration, successful teams, communities and networks, we decided - for this week’s #ConnectWithContent - to explore the topic of effective teams and teamwork and their impact on organizational performance and success.

Enjoy the read, have a great week at work and feel free to share your thoughts and insights in the comments below or share this piece of curated content with your network.

Google Spent Years Studying Effective Teams. This Single Quality Contributed Most to Their Success:


What matters isn't so much who's on your team, but rather how the team works together.

The best companies are made up of great teams. BAM!

Teamwork has become the keystone of successful business, which is not as easy as you would think, especially as the company grows and teams tend to diverge. And according to this article there are 5 things that great teams do:

  1. They have leaders that champion collaboration.
  2. They offer their time and expertise freely: collaboration depends on shared knowledge and experience. And the best teams all have less formal processes baked into everyday activities.
  3. They support a sense of community: collaboration happens when people feel connected. If your office building doesn't encourage collaboration, you will definitely lose a lot of innovation sparked by serendipity (oh how we adore this word). And even when working remotely, you can still encourage people to post whatever is on their mind. Although this might seem unproductive, it’s exactly those little things that help build real relationships and that can spark big ideas.
  4. They have project leaders who are task- and relationship-oriented: Instead of obsessing over the details and hitting goals, it is key to also take a pulse of how your team is feeling along the way and to start with clear individual goals and then finish with teamwork.
  5. They understand the balance of role clarity and task ambiguity: to collaborate effectively, we need to be confident in where we stand, what our responsibilities are, and how we can work in relation to everyone else.

Companies full of A-players will not succeed if those A-players aren’t able or willing to work together.

That's why Google set out on a quest to figure out what makes a team successful. They code-named the study Project Aristotle, a tribute to the philosopher's famous quote "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts."

They analyzed dozens of teams and interviewed hundreds of executives, team leads and team members and then evaluated team effectiveness in four different ways:

  1. executive evaluation of the team
  2. team leader evaluation of the team
  3. team member evaluation of the team
  4. sales performance against quarterly quota.

Here’s what they found: what really mattered was less about who is on the team, and more about how the team worked together.

What mattered most: Trust and psychological safety.

In a a team with high psychological safety, teammates feel safe to take risks and they feel confident that no one on the team will embarrass or punish anyone else for admitting a mistake, asking a question, or offering a new idea. and to build and disagree and commit, to be humble and transparent and to commend sincerely and specifically

Great teams thrive on trust

Read the whole article here

The role of networks in organizational change

Companies shouldn’t focus so much on formal structures that they ignore the informal ones.
While searching for content on the importance of networks and teamwork in organizational change and effectiveness, we also came accross this masterpiece, written in 2007 (!) It shows that the idea of networks and influential ‘brokers’ is not such a novel idea...

Companies exposed to organizational dysfunction often respond without fully thinking through its causes. So reorganizations come and go often without significantly boosting organizational effectiveness.

A key part of the problem is that the boxes and lines of formal organizational charts mask myriad relationships in networks that crisscross the borders of functions, hierarchies, and business units. These networks define the way work actually gets done in today’s increasingly collaborative, knowledge-intensive companies.

According to this article, companies that invest time and energy to understand their networks and collaborative relationships will greatly improve their chances of making successful organizational changes. 

It is key to map networks and identify the key points of connectivity where value is created or could be destroyed.

A network approach can help companies to make change stick by working through influential employees,
to focus on points in the network where relationships should be expanded or reduced, and to measure the effectiveness of major initiatives.

Identifying brokers and connectors

Conducting a network analysis will reveal a fragmented set of relationships, a surprising number of interactions based solely on reporting structures, a great deal of one-way communication, and employees who are completely isolated from the group even when working in an open area. This information is key to decide who will reside where with special attention to employees working on important strategic projects with knowledge that is valuable for others.

Especially important are the brokers who serve as bridges across subgroups and networks and who often are very influential. These brokers tend to have the best perspective on what aspects of a reorganization or change project will work best. And - if they can be persuaded to be early adopters and proponents of change - this will boost the odds that a change project will succeed.

A company tends to overlook its brokers because they tend to occupy the “white space” of an organization.

Next to brokers, there are also connectors in every organization: they are the ones, that people in the organization reach out to for information, expertise or help in decision-making within a network.

Information sharing between departments and especially across geographies is often limited because of the structure and hierarchy of a company: experts at its lower levels are mostly communicating with superiors rather than with colleagues across the organization, whose knowledge might be very useful. One effective solution is to create project-management teams that cut across traditional geographic and business unit boundaries and that focus on a few key functionwide initiatives, that’s exactly what we see happening in successful organizations nowadays and we call those ‘new kind of teams’ squad teams :-)

By understanding the networks that employees use to get their work done, executives leading organizational-change efforts can harness, rather than bump up against, the power of invisible but highly influential webs of relationships.

Read the whole article here

The network always wins...

Peter was right when he wrote his book in 2015.

Although we tend to think it’s more about connecting than it is about networking.

Connectors are those people that when you meet them for the first time, within 15 minutes, you're talking with them like you're childhood friends. Connectors are smart and funny, with a likable touch of self-deprecation, genuinely interested in everything, curious and true learnatics.

As Gladwell writes in The tipping point, "sprinkled among every walk of life are a handful of people with a truly extraordinary knack of making friends and acquaintances. They are Connectors." Gladwell describes them as having an ability to span many different worlds, subcultures and niches.

So if you want to thrive as an organization, it is key to focus on teams instead of on individuals and to make sure you know who the brokers and the connectors are accross your departments and branches.

This also means that HR will need to change its people and management practices to become more social. HR will have to focus on social capital, or the value of people’s connections, relationships and conversations, rather than just on individuals. HR also will need to work with other functions, as well as other business leaders, line managers and organizational change agents in order to develop this new role.

The future of HR is social!

The future of HR is exciting isn’t it? Looking forward!

Talk to you next week!

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