by Jason Richmond, CEO and Chief Culture Officer at Ideal Outcomes, Inc.
Collaboration is one of the pillars of a healthy workplace culture, but it doesn’t happen by accident. Not only do you need to consciously foster a culture that values teamwork over competition, but you also need to create the right conditions for employees to work together effectively.
In this blog post, we’ll look at why team collaboration is important to organizational success and share some tips for building a collaborative culture in your company.
An Overview of Workplace Collaboration
Collaboration occurs when people come together to complete a project or solve a problem. By sharing their skills, pooling information, and bringing various perspectives to the table, a collaborative team can achieve more (and achieve it more efficiently) than individuals working alone.
Today, employees don’t have to sit around the same conference table to collaborate successfully. Collaboration tools such as file-sharing platforms, online project management systems, and video conferencing make it easy for people across different locations and time zones to work together on the same project.
Benefits of the Collaboration in the Workplace
Here’s how team collaboration can impact your company’s success:
A team of people is a lot more efficient than individuals chipping away at a problem independently, and it’s not simply a question of task management. Effective team collaboration plays to everyone’s strengths and promotes problem solving and creative thinking. This can drive innovation and productivity while giving you a competitive edge.
Every employee brings something different to a project, whether it’s their education, a recent training course, or a process they’ve used in a previous role. A collaborative environment lets people share knowledge and skills so that they can learn from each other, ultimately creating a stronger, higher-performing team.
Sense of Belonging
Workplace collaboration fosters a strong sense of belonging, something that’s key to job satisfaction and employee retention. A recent survey by the World Economic Forum found that 54% of employees would leave their job if they didn’t think they belonged at a company. Working on a large or complex project as part of a team connects employees to the big picture—the goals you’re trying to achieve as a company.
Barriers to Collaboration in the Workplace
Team collaboration isn’t always perfect; there are potential blockers that can trip you up along the way:
- Micromanaging: Collaborative teams thrive on trust, so resist a top-down approach. Take a step back and empower your team to co-create their solutions.
- Poor project management: Whether it’s a lack of clear processes, too many communication platforms, or a deluge of notifications, inefficient project management can derail the best-intentioned efforts to improve collaboration. Set your employees up for success by establishing ground rules or meeting best practices and balancing special projects with their day-to-day responsibilities.
- Blame culture: Blaming another team member when things go wrong is the enemy of collaboration in the workplace. It’s important to promote accountability.
- Lack of inclusion: Everyone must be heard. Encourage quieter voices to speak up, and use digital workplace tools to include workers in different geographic locations.
Strategies for Building a Collaborative Work Environment
Just like company culture, collaboration is an ongoing project. Here’s how to lay the groundwork for a collaborative work environment:
Start at the Top
Workplace collaboration starts at the top, and company leadership can set the tone for the entire organization. Sharing information, making time for one-on-one meetings, and listening to new ideas can all help demonstrate collaboration in action on a day-to-day basis.
Establish Collaboration as a Core Value
Successful collaboration relies on a combination of soft skills including empathy, problem solving, communication, and accountability. To establish employee teamwork as a core value, train team members on best practices and help them understand its importance.
Encourage Active Listening
Effective collaboration depends on equal participation—and that can’t happen if individual team members are more concerned with getting their point across than listening to others. Encourage teams to truly listen to what other people are saying. You can also embed active listening in your organization through training and demonstrating this behavior.
Recognize Successful Collaboration
One of the most powerful ways to foster collaboration is to recognize teams who do it well. If employees from different departments have successfully worked together on a project, recognize their achievement in your next company newsletter or all-hands meeting. It’s important to recognize everyone involved in a project, not just the team leader or spokesperson. “Please pass on my thanks to anyone I’ve forgotten” won’t cut it; if you’re sending a thank-you email, make sure to include everyone.
Maximize Skill Sharing
Fresh thinking is the lifeblood of successful workplace collaboration, so mix things up when you’re putting teams together. Build project teams from different departments to maximize skill sharing and ensure that everyone brings something unique to the party. A bonus? You’ll be breaking down silos and helping employees make stronger connections.
Work in Small Teams
Something special happens when a group of people works smoothly together to reach a common goal. It’s a great feeling and easier to come by if you’re part of a small team. Keeping the numbers down allows everyone to contribute and streamlines task management and communication.
Set Clear Goals
Great managers know that individuals thrive when they have clear expectations and outcomes, so why should teams be any different? Set your team up for success with clear deliverables and deadlines, and ensure that you have defined processes in place.
One of the biggest benefits of workplace collaboration is that it sparks innovation, and a brainstorming session is a tried-and-tested way to encourage employees to share new ideas. Create a safe space where everyone feels they can contribute, and remember: No idea is a bad idea.
Collaborating on a project with people from different teams can feel energizing, but it does require employees to step out of their comfort zone. Give them the confidence to speak up and take risks by creating a safe environment and building a culture of trust.
Start Working Better Together
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to transforming your company culture into a collaborative workspace, but with careful planning, you can lay the groundwork for an efficient, open environment that encourages teamwork and creativity.
At Ideal Outcomes, we help companies create a thriving company culture that gives them a competitive edge. Many companies we work with put collaboration near the top of their wish list when planning their ideal culture. Through a combination of training, resources, and consultancy services, we help them achieve it.