The Future of Work is Cross-Functional

Gone are the days of siloed, bureaucratic workplace cultures.

An increasing number of studies over the last decade show that people and performance outcomes improve when companies enable workers and management to collaborate, interact, and even execute strategy with colleagues outside of their immediate departments and hierarchy.

At larger enterprises, who is ultimately responsible for fostering strategic collaboration throughout the organization?

HR might say they are.

Human Resources, in tandem with people managers, are responsible for providing the guidelines, support, and training that employees need to collaborate and work effectively (especially in times of change). Through initiatives such as business partnering, learning academies, and development programs, HR supports both individual contributors and their managers to stay connected and model ways of working that align with organizational objectives. Though historically measured on things like retention rates and employee survey scores, HR has become a critical player in managing not only the engagement of the workforce, but also its effectiveness.

IT might say they are.

They provide the workplace technology infrastructure that enables employees to interact- whether in-person or virtually. IT is responsible for enabling collaboration across multiple channels and mediums, including the actual hardware or software used to access offices, make calls or send emails, schedule meetings, and measure and optimize the usage or adoption of supportive tools. This also includes the management of the data generated by these corporate-owned mediums. For technology leaders, finding and implementing the best, most efficient collaboration tools and ensuring their effectiveness is a core responsibility, and they are often measured on adoption rates compared to the (often significant) returns on their technology investments.

The Workplace / Real Estate teams might say they are.

In a world that is increasingly hybrid, face-to-face connection has become even more valued within organizations. Corporate Real Estate’s central role in fostering these connections includes planning, designing, and rolling out physical workspaces or hybrid/remote strategies that help employees collaborate and do their best work from anywhere. They are responsible for determining how many offices are needed (and where), which types of physical workspaces to invest in, which groups or departments should be assigned to which physical assets (ie. floors, campuses, offices, or desks), and providing (or outsourcing) all the supplemental amenities and services that support workplace productivity and engagement. Corporate real estate leaders ultimately need to ensure that the company’s workplace strategy and workspaces align with corporate objectives, but also how, where, & with whom different groups throughout the enterprise work best. Though their effectiveness has historically been based on cost-per-square-foot or other cost-savings measures, workplace strategists are now also considered a critical influencer of culture and collaboration. As a result, they too are now expected to measure and report on the impacts of their decisions on key organizational outcomes.

Ultimately, the CEO also owns effective collaboration, because if an organization collaborates effectively, it makes better, sustainable use of its resources and outperforms the competition. CEOs are measured on a company’s overall performance, and effective collaboration is one of the key components and drivers of organizational effectiveness.

Why it needs to be all of the above:

While neither IT, CRE, and HR exclusively “own” collaboration, each plays a key and interconnected role in ensuring it happens effectively at the individual, team, and enterprise level. This is why it must be a collaborative, cross-functional effort. If well-coordinated and aligned, these three departments have incredible power to positively influence organizational behaviors, the employee experience, and business performance. Together and with the CEO’s strategic vision in mind, these departments can cohesively design supportive, data-driven infrastructures that include tools, technologies, and processes or training to execute on that vision. For example, HR can lead a hybrid work policy for varied virtual and in-person work, CRE can ensure all physical office environments can accommodate the expected usage based on that policy, and IT can facilitate seamless collaboration across virtual and physical environments using technology infrastructure.

If misaligned, however, each department will executive strategies in a vacuum, contradict the others’ efforts in pursuit of their unique KPIs, and bleed money or miss key opportunities for improvement. For example, IT may spend most of their yearly budget on a cost-effective conference call technology to support hybrid meetings, only to realize that corporate real estate decided to cut their cost-per-square-foot and reduce the number of available meeting rooms in the new corporate headquarters. This results in employees not being able to find an available meeting room when they need it, which impacts their productivity and reduces the value of coming into the office. Because of HR’s flexible working policy and the lack of available meeting rooms, most employees stop going into the office as often and prefer to take calls from home, impacting their engagement levels and causing them to feel more disconnected from the company or team. Not only does office attendance drop, but people do not bother learning or adopting the new conference system. In response to low engagement scores, HR decides to implement remote happy hours to encourage more informal connection between teams. Because the IT department had not enabled certain features in their employee intranet and calendar system, however, employees have difficulty finding the invites and signing up for happy hours, so the program doesn’t take off, and those who did attend feel even more discouraged, leaving them even less motivated to go into the office.

Thanks to rising trends and technologies like people analytics, however, this doesn’t have to be the case. By investing in powerful data analytics capabilities throughout the enterprise, companies are starting to unlock the power of workplace data to understand the real value and impacts of different organizational behaviors, decisions, or initiatives.

The key to avoiding scenarios like the one above is coordinated measurement from the top down. If IT, Corporate Real Estate, and HR have aligned and cohesive KPIs, they will be more incentivized to coordinate efforts. New workplace analytics/people analytics tools are enabling business leaders to understand how different groups across the enterprise do their best work, as well as how different technologies, workplace strategies, or initiatives impact key organizational outcomes like performance and employee retention. Since Workplace Analytics quantitatively measures behavior and is agnostic to the competing interests of each department, its metrics can be used as objective, high-level KPIs to ensure each department continues to take coordinated action toward the same goal. This can only work, however, if there is a guarantee that one department’s interests won’t overshadow the others, either by housing the measurement tool in the office of the CEO or by assigning ownership of the measurement tool’s implementation and maintenance to all three departments jointly and equally.

To learn how you can successfully leverage People Analytics/Workplace Analytics within your organization, contacted



Last Updated 12 September 2023