Collaboration in the workplace — which simply means people working together — boosts morale, empowers teams, and increases productivity.
Collaboration in the workplace pertains to how people come together to achieve common goals that benefit an organization and its market, stakeholders, and overall mission. Collaborative events vary, ranging from employees brainstorming initiatives and ideas to working together to any extent on projects, reports, data collection, and analytics and other assigned duties.
However, work styles associated with workplace collaboration have significantly evolved in the 21st century, following the advent of technology and its subsequent heavy integration into modern work environments. And while in many ways technology is positive, its deficiencies must not be overlooked by organizational leadership.
This article will look at poor vs. successful collaboration, the benefits of teamwork and collaboration in the workplace, and how to improve it. By promoting effective collaboration on the job, you can boost employee morale, empower people to work together, and increase overall organizational productivity.
How can lack of collaboration hurt the bottom line?
Employers who don’t encourage collaboration often end up struggling to meet team goals in the long term. You want to get everyone on the same page and actively communicating, so the collaborative skills of your teams are crucial. An inability to achieve this as a team develops and progresses can result in negative and/or problematic issues, such the ones below.
Issues like task duplication and cross-purpose interference are examples of misdirected attention that wastes time, creates bottlenecks, and breeds frustration.
When an entire team is ineffective at communicating, the results can be disastrous and costly. Issues like task duplication and cross-purpose interference are examples of misdirected attention that wastes time, creates bottlenecks, and breeds frustration.
For instance, employees who aren’t actively collaborating may unwittingly duplicate tasks, wasting time and other resources on multiple people having done the intended job of one. And employees who don’t practice active listening might quickly end up on completely different pages. Examples abound, and you may have witnessed a few.
For instance, in a conversation about a timeline of objectives, one employee may be talking about this year’s goals while his colleague is referring to next year’s. The details may be quite different. How can they accomplish the intended mutual milestones if they’re not reading from the same map? Or consider what’s lost when 2 customers have the same name and it’s not clarified internally which account is being worked on. The wrong customer could be contacted or an incorrect order gets fulfilled.
When conflicts arise in the workplace and are not adequately addressed, they can lead to resentments, high levels of toxicity, and an unnecessarily stressful environment. If employees are disputing the distribution of responsibilities or otherwise upset with one another and issues don’t get resolved, work may go neglected and important deadlines may be missed. Regardless of the particulars, when a workplace lacks team collaboration or the ability to practice open communication, things tend to quickly fall apart, resulting in unnecessarily costly situations.
The benefits of effective collaboration
On the other hand, if you’ve promoted teamwork and collaboration, this means that people are effectively talking and likely on the same page. If successful, this means you’ve achieved a strong sense of teamwork and a healthy work environment, along with greater transparency and better accountability.
Effective collaboration involves both in-person and remote teams. Those organizations that have mastered the art of communication position themselves to achieve higher employee retention and the ability to attract top talent. Employers who invest in promoting collaboration find themselves reaping the aforementioned benefits and much more.
How do companies foster collaboration in the workplace?
Understanding and appreciating the value of a collaborative workplace is the easy part. For many, the next challenge becomes identifying the best approach to foster and promote collaboration in the workplace. This often involves identifying collaboration tools and team-building strategies to effectively connect onsite and/or remote workers. Just keep potential technology deficits in mind.
From the ever-expanding universe of tech tools, be sure to select and implement those that further streamline, not overwhelm, the efforts of your teams. Getting it right will go a long way toward the gaining ability to improve communication and workplace collaboration.
Establish clear goals and expectations
It’s hard for team members to accept or practice collaborative team initiatives if they are not clear about what to do. To help foster collaboration, strive to improve verbal and written communication, establish clear goals, and outline expectations of all involved. Imagine you’re providing your team with a blueprint for how to move forward and build upon accomplishments. (Or effectively learn from failures — which aren’t necessarily a bad thing!)
To help foster collaboration, strive to improve verbal and written communication, establish clear goals, and outline expectations of all involved.
Offer continuing education
Providing employees across departments with continuing education opportunities helps them gain new skills, knowledge and confidence to benefit all. Teams can even attend sessions together, gaining more opportunity to bond.
Keep teams small
Keeping teams small can be big when it comes to collaboration. While collaborative work is important, overdoing it can result in “too many cooks in the kitchen,” and less actually gets done. Keeping teams small enables colleagues to get to know other team members well and become a cohesive team that consistently “cooks up” accomplishments with flavor and finesse.
People who take pride in their work appreciate receiving recognition for it. For many, recognition for a positive contribution is a morale builder and its own intrinsic reward. Appreciation and acknowledgment lead many to greater job satisfaction while inspiring others who might also strive for positive recognition. People quickly learn that if they contribute to teamwork, they make a difference.
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Update company intranet
Keeping the company intranet updated helps onsite and remote workers stay up-to-date on assignments, workflow and deadlines. Make it easy for them to share documents, ideas and other assets, and watch as your team develops great things.
Build your collaboration strategy
Like anything else in life and business, building something new takes time. The trick is to know what’s worth building, why and how. Ultimately, let the determining factors be your organization’s mission, its people, its customers, and its bottom line.
If you’re looking to refine your internal communications plan and to build stronger collaborative teams, contact Zenefits today to learn more about how we help HR professionals and leadership teams to encourage cultures of collaboration that benefit all aspects of an organization.