[Video] Tech at Work: Collaboration in the Workplace

Amy Leschke-Kahle Tech at Work 2023 graphic image

Collaboration isn't necessarily what we think it is, according to Amy Leschke-Kahle, VP of Performance Acceleration Management at the Marcus Buckingham Company, an ADP Company. She shares how to achieve actual collaboration success through intentional, frequent connections.

Below, watch this segment from Washington Post Live sponsored by ADP. Amy Leschke-Kahle shares insights from an ADP Research Institute (ADPRI) study, which found that remote and hybrid workers respond more favorably when asked about topics around career and career development, and to feeling like they are paid fairly. She also discusses the difference between the terms "teamwork" and "team membership" in today's world of work, and insights on collaboration.

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Video Transcript

Suzanne Kelly (SK): Hi, I'm Suzanne Kelly, CEO and publisher of the cipher brief and national security focused media organization. Today we're talking about tech at work and specifically collaboration in the workplace. And joining me to discuss this and Amy Leschke-Kahle, vice president of performance acceleration at the Marcus Buckingham Company which is an ADP company. Amy, welcome.

Amy Leschke-Kahle (ALK): Thank you. Thanks for having me, Suzanne.

SK: I'm excited to dig in on this topic with you because I feel like so many of us have some kind of connection to this issue. We've all accepted the idea really, that teamwork and collaboration are both important in the workplace. But they're both very broad topics. What do we actually know about teamwork and collaboration?

ALK: Well, let's start off with teamwork. And, first of all, there are so many myths in the world of work around teamwork. What is teamwork? And how important is it?

One of the things that we've learned through our data in our research and frankly, through our experience as well, is there's this notion of teamwork. Remember the old poster with people rowing in the boat in the same way? There's this notion or there's a myth out there, that when we're talking about teamwork, we're talking about a whole bunch of people coming together. I mean, teamwork makes the dream work, right? Well, not really, actually.

Think about when you were back in school, and you did the group project. Most of us hated the group project. So, from that we have this notion that we're going to be doing all this stuff together. What we know from our data, however, is it's not teamwork, as we typically think about it, it's actually team membership. That is kind of the magic thing that really drives a lot of productivity and output and work.

Same thing goes for collaboration. We often, again, believe this myth that everybody needs to be collaborative. And when you think about that, well, what does that actually mean? Again, we perceive being a whole bunch of people on a call or a whole bunch of people in a room together, when in fact, collaboration oftentimes works best when we're doing work sometimes independently, reaching out and connecting when we need to, and then coming back and doing more work, and thinking about it more iteratively … than really a whole bunch of people doing the same work at the same time.

SK: I love that idea. I mean, you laid it out. Thinking about it more as being a team member, you know, with so many people working offline or working hybrid. Does it change the way that the organization needs to be thinking about actually practicing team membership and collaboration?

ALK: I love how you just said team membership. I think that's such a great switch to how we talk about this so we're gonna use that going forward. I think we're gonna start talking about team membership rather than teamwork. And with the way that work is working right now, it does kind of change that, but maybe not in the ways that you would think.

One of the things that we know from some recent research that the ADP Research Institute did is that folks who are working hybrid or off-site actually respond more favorably to topics like career and feeling like their career is developed, and feeling like they're paid fairly, for example. And when you think about why that is, when it comes to being a member of a team and collaboration, it's that oftentimes those interactions that we have with some of our most important people at work, they're a lot more intentional.

And it's really that intention, those connections, that make the difference and the frequency of those connections. That doesn't mean they have to be long – for example, with your team leader or your boss or your manager, or however you refer to them – they don't have to be a big, long conversation. But the intentionality of that connection, that's a game changer. And when we're working off site, those connections oftentimes are more intentional. You have to make a point to connect with someone who's important to you at work. That intentionality and frequency are really the thing that make not only teamwork, but quite frankly, productivity, work.

SK: Yeah, I understand exactly what you're saying. For a long time, organizations have looked at collaboration as being a sign of something that is truly increasing employee productivity. Do you see that connection there? Is that the outcome?

ALK: Well again, I think we have to be clear about how we're defining collaboration. If it's the assumed definition of a whole bunch of people getting together on a call or in a room ... actually, a lot of times no, that doesn't lead to more productivity. It doesn't lead to more of a feeling of team-ness, if you will, more of a feeling of connection even. Because it's really difficult to get good work done in those big groups.

So, if we redefine collaboration, as being reaching out to the right people at the right time, knowing who those connections are; if we think about collaboration like that, then yes, it is definitely a lever towards productivity and letting people work in a way that works best for them. Kind of like going back to what we talked about just a minute ago. It's like the, why do hybrid workers or offsite workers oftentimes have more favorable feelings towards things about work? It's because we're treating them more like grownups and trusting them more.

SK: Yeah, yep. I think there's a very important point, you know, kind of quickly here. I wonder if we can wrap our conversation up today with a few insider tips on how organizations might be able to sustain best practices when it comes to this topic?

ALK: Yeah, the best practice is, by the way, the same for productivity and feeling like a member of a team and collaboration. There is one thing we see the best leaders doing and the best teammates doing. It is what we talked about before—the super frequent connections, and not just drive bys. Or how was your weekend? But really intentional connections about the work that needs to get done. And doing that through the lens of "I see you" for the best of you. In other words, how do we lean into each other frequently for those unique gifts that we bring to the world of work through outside of work as well as inside? We just need to embed that practice in the fabric of our work and fall into that process.

SK: I think that's great advice -- coming from being a leader of a small organization that works hybrid, I definitely appreciate that. Amy Leschke-Kahle is the vice president of performance acceleration at the Marcus Buckingham Company which is an ADP company. Amy, thanks for spending time and talking about this today.

ALK: Thanks so much for having me, Suzanne.