University of Wisconsin–Madison

What Does Our Productivity Have to Do with Collaboration?

The cowboy mentality is part of our cultural inheritance in the United States. We are taught from a young age to be independent, and are rewarded when we are the smartest and highest performing person in the room. It’s no wonder that many of our work environments are full of competition, rivalry and dysfunction. The problem is that these behaviors foster an inability to collaborate with one another.

Why should we care about collaboration? Because its lack is costing us our productivity – our ability to solve complex problems quickly and innovatively.

Business leader Margaret Heffernan’s compelling Ted Talk, Forget the Pecking Order at Work, sheds light on three characteristics that make some groups more productive than others. Perhaps surprisingly, productivity has less to do with an individual’s intelligence or ‘superstar’ performance than the group’s social connectedness. One element of social connectedness is social sensitivity, which researchers measure by the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test. “Bringing out the best in others is how they found the best in themselves,” Heffernan recalled from one of her interviews.

Bringing out the best in others is a habit that is exemplified in our ability to collaborate. This ability is critical if we are to facilitate a transition from transactional, compliance-based Human Resources to one of consultative partnership with each other and our wider stakeholders. The theme of our inaugural HR@UW Conference, Developing a Culture of Collaboration, was an intentional effort to begin guiding our way of thinking in this direction.

So, how do we do this? Collaboration is one of seven competencies emphasized in UW–Madison’s HR Competencies Program. For more information about how we’re thinking of measuring collaboration at UW–Madison, please review the rubric for collaboration. HR and Payroll professionals will be supported in the acquisition of these abilities through participation in the program.

The first HR Competencies learning cohort will kick off in early 2017. If you are interested in being part of the first cohort, please email HR Communities of Practice. Capacity is limited to 18.