Should your C-suite be collaborating more?

 A recent human capital survey shows a need for increased executive team collaboration, which doesn’t always seem to be happening quite as it should.


One of the major findings of Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends report, The Rise of the Social Enterprise, points to the need for a ‘symphonic’ C-suite – a team-based, cross-disciplinary approach for executive teams to tackle complex issues.

The report, which was released in April, surveyed human resources (HR) and business leaders from around the world, including New Zealand, and found that respondents overwhelmingly – 85 percent (83 percent of New Zealand respondents) – called this trend important or very important.  But despite this being necessary to advance the enterprise, 73 percent (77 percent in New Zealand) say their executives do not regularly collaborate.

Deloitte partner Sonia Breeze explains that ‘symphonic C-suite’ is essentially a way of saying that leadership teams need to work across their functional areas to address complex and high stakes business problems as a team. 

“We call this ‘symphonic’ because leaders need to be working like an orchestra – each having their own part to play but being led by a conductor (CEO) to move at the same pace and in the same key to create a shared sound (or in this case, vision).”

As to why this is important she says organisations with a collaborative and aligned leadership team tend to grow faster (globally, up to 10 percent more). Today’s most complex business problems affect multiple, if not all, parts of an organisation, and must be addressed by all leaders in concert. Leaders visibly working together also influence and inspire stronger networks of teams throughout their organisation.

She says that an example might be an organisation wanting to explore the ‘future of work’ by integrating robotics and artificial intelligence. A CIO alone could implement the technology, but they would need a COO to help them decide what processes to automate. They would also need to work with the human resources chief to redesign work in a way that creates meaningful jobs, careers and development opportunities for human workers. If only one of those functions addressed the issue, it could negatively impact the other areas of the business. 

Asked what it means that 77 percent of New Zealand respondents do not regularly collaborate, Breeze says that as the business environment becomes more competitive and digital disruption continues, organisations have become more team-centric, networked and agile. “However, despite these changes occurring in the rest of the organisation, leadership teams are often still working in silos and behaving as independent functional experts. 

“This doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t talk together, but it may be that they are not actively working together collaboratively to solve problems. Each leader may be working to their own strategy and dealing with the problems that they think affect their immediate functional area, without involving others in the discussion.” 

She says that a possible reason for this might be that organisations were typically structured by separating out functional areas, and leaders were each given responsibility to own his or her domain based on his or her background. 

“Because of this specialisation, the individual CxOs [executives] did not closely work together. This made sense in a static, predictable business environment, where most problems had identifiable root causes, were limited in scope and required deep functional expertise to solve. 

“However, nowadays more and more problems are of the ‘wicked’ variety, meaning they have multiple roots and drivers and can’t be solved by one party working alone – although they still require deep functional expertise to solve.” 

Added to this is that one driver of this unprecedented level of complexity is the need for executive teams to consider broader societal issues.

“Organisations are increasingly being judged on the basis of their relationships with their workers, customers and communities, as well as their impact on society at large – transforming them from business enterprises into social enterprises.”  

“This year’s report is a wake-up call for organisations to look beyond their own four walls and reimagine their broader roles in society. Integrating the C-suite to build a more social enterprise will be a differentiator for businesses to attract the right talent, drive customer loyalty and sustain long-term growth.”

Breeze suggestions for how the leadership team could collaborate more include: 

• A first step is for CEOs to review priorities for each leader and determine how each can have an impact more broadly across the organisation.
• Cross-disciplinary projects should be prioritised so that CxOs can form alliances and align efforts to drive success. 
• Executive teams need to promote cross-disciplinary projects to the wider organisation, increasing visibility of their collaboration to the rest of the workforce as a model to follow. 

The actions in the human resources area could include: 
• Ensure performance management systems and career paths facilitate teaming and give leaders cross functional experiences. 
• Update leadership profiles to build a pipeline of future-ready executives and shift the organisation’s culture to encourage greater collaboration across business units, functions and geographies.  


Impaired at work?

Could your employees be under the influence at work, endangering themselves, other employees and your clients?

In the United States and Canada there is reportedly an opioid crisis which has seen a rapid increase in the use of prescription and non-prescription opioid drugs. And the corporate sector is not immune.

Kirk Hardy, CEO at The Drug Detection Agency (TDDA), sees this as something New Zealand businesses need to be keeping an eye on, as opioids and other prescription drugs have an impact on someone’s ability to make sound decisions and may affect reaction times.

While his company does a lot of work across multiple industry sectors,  there is also increasing interest from the corporate sector at a senior level where they are testing for methamphetamine, cocaine, cannabis and prescription medications in a pre-employment situation.

If someone is going for an executive role, hair testing will show a pattern of drug use, not one-off use. It is habitual use of a drug they are looking for and this, says Hardy, can be cause for a conversation before the person is hired.

This is common practice offshore and TDDA also undertakes urine testing which is where they have seen a rise in positive tests coming back from the lab with prescription medications with the likes of opiates such as tramadol and oxycodone showing up, which are commonly used for pain relief. The use of other sedatives and anti-anxiety medications is also on the rise.

Hardy reiterates that this is something the business sector in New Zealand needs to keep a watching eye on.

“The more drugs are being talked about the better off everyone is.”

And as the population ages, people will be experiencing more aches and pains, especially if their industry is a physical one. A GP might not ordinarily check the occupation of someone they are prescribing these medications to.

TDDA runs drug education programmes including employee training on the dangers of drugs, management workshops around how to deal with volatile situations and a high level technical programme.

The company has launched its Comprehensive Substance Identification (CSI) programme which helps in drug abuse recognition. TDDA has adapted it for the workplace from a sophisticated programme used by law enforcement agencies in the US and it helps leaders and managers assess if someone is under the influence of a substance.  

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