An age-old truism: tools help (sometimes to a great degree), but organizational dynamics trump technology in terms of establishing effective collaboration efforts.
The article below makes some credible points but I would disagree on how much direct influence HR organizations have on how well employees engage each other. There are many areas where HR activities can be derailed by line management, local supervisors or even sabotaged by conflicting agendas across business units. HR is a critical part of the organization often overlooked when collaboration strategies are put together - that is clear from my experience. And HR can certainly help set the context for cultural change and address broader workplace issues through different HR-related programs. But the organizational dynamics, of which culture is one aspect, need to be recognized and addressed by everyone (senior management, local management, employees themselves, etc.). The opportunity for HR teams to redefine themselves (from an administrative function to a strategic partner for other business units) is immense given shifting employee demographic trends and the battle for talent in the marketplace that will occur over the next decade.
In the May 2007 issue of Harvard Business Review, James R. Detert of Cornell University and Amy C. Edmondson of Harvard discuss reasons employees are reluctant to share creative ideas to improve products, processes or performance. Based on 200 interviews, they conclude that many employees, without justification, feel uncomfortable sharing their ideas: "Making employees feel safe enough to contribute fully requires deep cultural change that alters how they understand the likely costs (personal and immediate) versus benefits (organizational and future) of speaking up."
Research suggests that to achieve collaboration results, knowledge-sharing companies must assess their culture, no matter what technologies they adopt. If not, "you are going nowhere," says Smith. HR has a clear role to play in that endeavor, says Bob Armacost, national knowledge leader at KPMG International, a Swiss cooperative whose members provide audit, tax and advisory services.
Top HR executives must be involved when companies design collaboration strategies. "They can think of incentive programs, educational programs and change management to facilitate knowledge management and collaboration," says Armacost. KPMG's top HR executive is a member of the firm's knowledge advisory team, Armacost notes.
In the years ahead, the winning organizations will be those that learn to be collaborative and share employees' knowledge.