How to Improve Collaboration in the Workplace
Many people recognize that collaboration is a key factor in a successful business. Workplace collaboration occurs when at least two colleagues work together, share ideas, and solve problems to achieve a common goal. Collaboration can be seen throughout various industries, including sales, construction, and the food industry. Only one cook in a restaurant kitchen could prove to be problematic for the cook and patrons alike. Additionally, no one has heard of a “one-man” construction company. Even for jobs that require large amounts of autonomy or independent work, employee collaboration is crucial in the modern age.
Why Is Collaboration Important?
For many businesses, collaboration is one of the most important but overlooked aspects of the workplace. A Stanford study examined cues that provoke collaboration among employees. They found that productivity, enjoyment, and persistence increased when these “collaborative cues” are present. The results suggest that collaboration can inspire employee motivation in the workplace.
Workplace collaboration also facilitates other important practices like:
- Providing value;
- Equal partaking;
- And self-analysis.
If collaboration can help workers think critically, pool talent together, and teach other employees to communicate more effectively, then projects, and ultimately businesses, can thrive off this variety of strengths. Ultimately, collaboration should strengthen the process as well as the end result.
Often, businesses have many means of communication, data stored in different places, and employees working all over the world. With so many moving parts in a company, collaboration is not just beneficial — it’s a necessity to keep your employees connected and empowered to do their jobs.
Challenges & Benefits of Collaboration in the Workplace
While there are many benefits of collaboration in the workplace, there are also challenges that can make it more difficult to achieve.
The most common challenges associated with implementing collaboration efforts include:
- Current culture: It can be difficult to teach employees to work a different way than they are used to. They might resist change, especially if new practices are sprung on them. It is better to phase in new methods to create a smoother transition.
- Multiple starting positions: Unfortunately, universal collaboration practices are not likely. This is because all teams and individual employees work differently. Being mindful of comfort level and individual interpretation will help bring collaboration to everyone in the workplace.
- Power struggles: Collaborative workspaces means there will be a variety of opinions, personalities, and work ethics. Teams still need clear leadership to stay on task and guide them in proper decision making.
- Slow savings: It might be hard to see the return on investment of collaboration. It’s important to track certain metrics to understand the results.
- Silos of information: A company has many moving parts that don’t always communicate with others. For example, the customer service department may not see the benefits of talking with the marketing department, or vice versa. Yet both departments have information that is valuable to the other. Opening up lines of communication with collaboration allows departments to work together better.
It is important to note that collaboration is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution. Businesses often assume that this single practice will solve all their problems. In reality, when collaboration is used in tandem with other practices, like project management, businesses can really reap the benefits.
Some benefits that are commonly associated with collaboration include:
- Employee engagement: Collaboration creates a space where employees feel valued, which can increase their engagement. Keeping employees happy is also known to increase retention.
- Improved efficiency: Employees feel more productive and efficient because they can use online tools for collaboration. This is especially true for remote teams. By using cloud-based software and tools, remote employees can stay updated and actively participate in work day-to-day. Better collaborative cultures make these progressive technology solutions more practical and effective.
- Greater innovation: Employees working together also unites multiple viewpoints and strengths, which improves problem-solving. New projects can also create dialogue and solutions among colleagues.
- Satisfied customers: If employees are able to create better solutions to projects more quickly, then a business’s bottom line could be impacted, along with their customers.
- Increased learning opportunities: By working together, employees can learn from each other in a comfortable environment as well as bolster cross-departmental relationships.
Tips to Improve Workplace Collaboration
It can be overwhelming to implement such practices in the workplace, especially if there are a large number of employees. Luckily there are many things company leaders can do to improve collaboration among employees.
Create a Collaborative Culture
Building a company culture that welcomes and encourages collaboration among employees and their superiors is a key element. A few ways to implement this type of culture include:
- Communicating a clear vision;
- Hiring collaborative leaders;
- Creating opportunities for collaboration;
- Reinforcing collaboration efforts.
Transforming work culture can be tough, but if employees are given clear, specific guidelines, then leaders can successfully change their office environment.
Give Employees the Right Tools
Employees need the right tools and information to do their jobs and work together. In fact, 83% of business professionals depend on technology to collaborate. Luckily, with advancements in technology and a reinforced look into online software, these tools are easily accessible to the average worker. Common collaboration tools include:
- File sharing;
- Instant messaging;
- Video conferencing;
- And project management software.
These are just the basic necessities a business can start with. Over time, a realization may occur that more specific software is needed. This is normal, as every work environment is different. With the help of the internet, there are many collaboration tools available to customize collaboration. One tool that is becoming increasingly important is Microsoft Teams, an all-in-one communication and collaboration tool that enables files sharing, IMs, and powerful app integrations that allow for deep customization and workflow optimization within organizations.
Focus on Communication
Communication is the foundation of many aspects of businesses, including collaboration. Promote healthy communication among your employees, as well as a variety of means to communicate with each other. By taking the lead in meetings, asking questions, and listening to employees, leaders can foster productive and efficient communication. This can show workers that their opinions are valued and should be heard, which can make them feel like they stand out in a large company.
It is important to note that different people have different communication styles, and what works for one employee might not work for others. For instance, one employee might love talking face-to-face while another is more eloquent through email. Instead of treating employees exactly the same, it is beneficial to learn the different communication tactics employees are comfortable with.
Lead By Example
Many employees will look to their leader as an example, so if the boss is collaborating, odds are that workers will follow suit. Company leaders set the tone of the entire organization, and should “walk the walk” if they wish their employees to as well. This will help with consistency throughout the organization and help raise expectations for individuals.
Leading by example also means taking feedback and criticism well. If a project doesn’t go well, a leader should listen to points of view from the employees and implement feedback — which is a form of workplace collaboration.
Though implementing workplace collaboration practices might seem difficult, using online software and best practices can help ease the process. Many companies are realizing the value of collaboration, which can help a business become more productive and, in turn, jump ahead of the competition.
Boost productivity and maximize collaboration between your employees. Explore how to launch and streamline a Microsoft Teams activation for your organization here.