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Candidates Practicing Collaboration Are Highly Sought After But How Real Are Hiring Companies?

Collaboration can be defined as “to work jointly with others or together” or the “action of working with someone to produce something” 

Collaboration is definitely in fashion with hiring companies. Of course it has always been of mega importance and always will be, but of late it has received a lot of attention in the media. I have read many articles recently on hiring companies across all industries and disciplines talking about collaboration and how they want to hire candidates that understand and practice collaboration at work . Every business that walks the face of the earth is interested in building a work force of collaborators. From supply chain businesses, to legal firms, tech companies, recruiters - collaboration is universal across disciplines, industries, geographies , religion & nationalities. It is a very powerful advantage for companies who foster a collaborative workforce. 

The old saying goes “ 2 or more brains are better than 1” 

There is a lot of talk around this trait and interviewees should prepare for questions on when they have demonstrated working collaboratively. Such interviewees should be mindful when hiring companies preach collaboration. How real is it? Collaboration is super easy to talk about but much harder to practice inside an organisation. Is collaboration really practiced and bought into by the current workforce or are senior management just fantasising about it? Important that senior management are honest about where they are today on the collaboration scale. It’s ok to be far from perfect. Most companies have lots of work to do in this area. But best not to over promote and be unrealistic about where you are today in terms of collaboration if your current team members are not onboard in practicing collaboration. Are the senior management of hiring companies speaking about collaboration in sync with the current workforce on this topic or is there a huge disparity between what is being talked about and actually practiced? Or are the current workforce generally achieving success in working collaboratively but are threatened by including new hires? This happens all the time and is often highlighted by candidates in our interviews. 

New hires can go into their new companies expecting to collaborate , be open, sharing and working collectively to achieve goals. But only be disappointed when they learn few are willing to engage in collaboration. Current employees can be cold and not open to sharing ideas , become defensive and territorial. But this was not how the picture was painted during the interview. New hires with new ideas quite often can be ignored by the majority of the current crop of employees who guard the status quo. 

The challenge is that collaboration is a two way street between new hires and the hiring company. The hiring company must have an organisational culture that embraces collaboration or at least is work in progress and on its way. Senior Managers and HR professionals therefore have to be proactive and create systems, processes ,reward behaviours to embrace and promote collaboration. Collaborators inside the company shouldn’t feel vulnerable or that they are going against the tide or that they are the minority if a company wants to create a culture of collaboration. Hiring compares that get this wrong will be left behind and hit with astronomical levels of staff turnover damaging their employment brands and market share. It will be a sow and painful death over years but will eventually happen. 

The first recruitment firm I worked for in Beijing had collaboration down to a fine art. They were ahead of their time in the collaboration field. Shared assignments and referrals from one individual or team to another were always highlighted and praised. It was constantly talked about and the benefits for all highlighted.Every quarter there were so many shared deals and shared commissions and other rewards between colleagues because collaboration was strongly encouraged. Conference calls were set up for the sole purpose of sharing information and asking colleagues for help and ideas. This benefitted the company due to the fact not only did it offer healthy profit margins, but employees were engaged as they worked collectively and got on well forming productive relationships. Needless to say, the customers benefited by receiving a great service as the teams pulled together in the same and right direction. During interviewing of new hires to expand teams collaboration was definitely preached but it worked fine because the culture, systems and processes were ready. It actually got to the stage where a colleague could feel left out and away from the action if they wanted to go it alone and not embrace collaboration. 

Candidates hearing stories on collaboration for their next employer must learn how to qualify their next employers collaboration level should they be talking about it and demanding collaborators to join them. 

My point is collaboration must work both ways. Hiring companies in the market to recruit employees who have collaboration traits must give them the right culture and platform to work and exhibit collaboration. This takes time and many hiring companies go through a transformation which can take years. It’s OK for a hiring company not be anywhere close to perfect, as long as they are aware and realistic about where they are and want to be in the future. It is when hiring companies are oblivious to the above and ignorant to the long term damage that can occur… 

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