More is involved in this strategy than milk and cookies. This ecosystem involves the intersection of technology platforms, data, people and well, yes, milk and cookies.
Consider how sales and engineering teams engage each other in-person as well as remotely and virtually. These teams collaborate with each other to solve complex B2B problems in engineering, manufacturing and sales.
Are these teams being rewarded for collaborating well with each other?
- There are discrepancies between legacy departmental-based compensation models which impede the willingness of employees to engage with each other.
- There are discrepancies between technology platforms utilized between departments which impede the capability of employees to collaborate with each other.
Collaboration compensation is an important consideration in B2B workforce development. Collaborative teams are more productive and profitable for their organizations.
Respective workforce development and compensation strategies vary tremendously.
Sales teams participate in quarterly and annual contests. Sales people are compensated via a tiered commission structure based on various KPIs and quotas to be fulfilled each quarter. Sales compensation programs offer higher incentives for new business acquisition than customer retention. There are some terrific examples of highly successful compensation programs. However, sales people often remain too competitively focused on hunting down next quarter’s contracts so they can make quota and possibly win a sales contest. As a result, sales teams have short memories when it comes to last quarter’s sales contracts.
Where does cross-functional collaboration come into this sales equation? Sales compensation models focus on sales and competition. Where is the focus on collaborating with other company teams responsible for strategic and tactical implementation of that sales contract?
Project managers (PMs), particularly in the manufacturing, engineering and architecture space, sit at the intersection of the sales-engineering interface® between What is Sold and What Needs to be Made. They often have a legacy function of directing Project Management Office traffic, attempting to prioritize orders and schedule resources, throughput and output to engineering, operations and logistics teams. Sales teams rarely see that won contract once it seems to disappear into the black hole of the Project Management Office (PMO).
Where does collaboration compensation come into this equation? PMs may not receive compensation from sales teams for the PMO impact on customer experience, customer success and customer retention. This legacy model keeps everyone safe, sound and non-collaborative in their respective departmental silos.
IT and manufacturing engineering teams are on the receiving end of won contracts once a project manager is assigned. Often, these teams detect insufficiencies and gaps in over-promised sales contracts which do not stand a chance of being delivered on-time, under-budget and at the highest output quality level by engineering, operations and logistics teams. Often, these “producer” teams must rework design specifications and working drawings, collaborating retroactively with the PMO and the sales rep. These corrective actions in business, sales, engineering and operations process management are time-consuming and costly to the organization.
Where does collaboration compensation come into this legacy, linear process equation? These highly-compensated, extremely valuable engineering, operations and logistics teams often are late or marginalized entrants into discussions critical to organizational productivity and profitability.
Technology platforms can impede – or enable – workforce collaboration.
Depending on where your cross-functional teams sit around your business table, they “see” collaboration differently. Their own professional experiences with the collaboration process bias their willingness to collaborate. Now throw various workplace technology platforms into this collaboration equation.
Technology and big data platforms can be effective tools encouraging collaboration, or they can create barriers to communication.
Sales teams, PMs and engineers, operations and logistics folks use their own specific technology platforms to perform their professional functions. These platforms are highly specific, offering little opportunity for cross-functional collaboration. Often, valuable data which can impact other departments is sequestered in departmental fiefdoms, data kingdoms and data silos, rather than being shared cross-functionally across your organization.
If your workforce technology platforms are not used to collaborate, how to you expect your workforce to learn how to collaborate?
Within the same discipline, technology platform skills gaps exist within sales teams, PMs and engineers. These gaps hamper the right information being utilized at the right time to make the right decisions. Across disciplines, when data is not shared in a collaborative workforce environment, your teams are unable to make the right decisions based on the right data sets.
If you want to engage employees to be collaborative and cross-functional, compensate them for their willingness to take that risk. Move your workforce beyond their professional biases towards technology as well as towards each other’s respective disciplines.
Developing a collaboration compensation strategy to catalyze a more collaborative B2B workforce.
- Consider the benefit of rewarding employees for continuously collaborating across departmental silos.
- Consider the impact of technology acquisition and utilization across your entire workforce, not only in relation to the specific department for which it is being purchased.
- Consider a workforce-wide strategy focused on creating more productive, profitable, data-driven, collaborative and innovative solutions.
What do you think?
Babette Ten Haken is a management consultant, strategist and coach. She is the Founder and President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC. Babette has one of the most distinctive voices in today’s workforce, professional development and customer success communities. She traverses the interface between human capital strategy for hiring and developing collaborative technical and non-technical employees. Babette’s playbook of technical / non-technical collaboration hacks, Do YOU Mean Business? is available on Amazon.
Image author: Andrey Kuzmin. Image source: Fotolia.