Businesses are finding it increasingly difficult to encourage team collaboration. Their challenges include getting team members to know each other better, removing competition and enhancing communications both within departments and between individual employees. As more companies expand to multiple locations or go fully remote, the scope of these challenges will only continue to grow.
Collaboration has long been a characteristic of high-performing organizations. To encourage it, many companies broke down cubicle walls and pushed employees to work in a communal space. Although this approach succeeded in some cases, many employees felt hindered.
When collaboration and team skills are absent, businesses can end up as a collection of competing silos and individuals. Other factors that can reduce a team’s efficiency and lead to poor performance include:
No team governance. People tend to resent collaboration when they aren’t given clear objectives and key performance indicators or don’t understand what their teammates bring to the table.
Lack of transparency. When you have team members whose work depends on others, they need to share their progress, concerns and obstacles. Without transparency, teams can’t establish trust.
Competition. Turf wars discourage collaboration. In fact, one of collaboration’s main benefits is that people, even those with vastly different skill sets, can mentor and teach each other. Competitive barriers prevent knowledge sharing.
Poor engagement. Developing a collaborative group starts with the team itself. This includes buy-in concerning process, direction and expected outcomes. If teams aren’t engaged, they won’t be able to identify problems or collaboratively find solutions.
According to the 2017 Workplace Productivity and Communications Technology Report, over two-thirds of employees’ time (more than six hours out of almost nine hours worked) was spent communicating with other people. So much time devoted to communications clearly demonstrates it is an essential need for effective collaboration.
Growing companies must understand the value of collaboration – it’s not just a buzzword – to find ways of encouraging it within their teams. Here’s how:
Team collaboration starts with the mission
To create collaboration, team members need to have a convincing reason to be a part of the company mission. The more compelling the mission, the easier it is to inspire team members to collaborate. When they’re given a clear and gripping cause to be involved in, team members naturally become as passionate about goals as their leaders are. Huge benefits result when collaboration permeates an entire organization, from engaged employees to increased retention, stronger attraction of talent, faster time to market and improved profitability.
Team collaboration promotes positive change
To strengthen a company, create a values-based culture—a culture driven by collaboration and professionalism. When you treat employees as people instead of cogs in a wheel, and ensure their managers focus on positive interactions, you remove stress that can lead to toxic workplace conditions. When employees are happy and collaboration improves, so does an organization's ability to handle sudden disruptions. Teamwork makes it easier to pivot when customer preferences change or new technologies enter the scene.
Leverage team member strengths. To empower each team member, focus on their strengths rather than working around their weaknesses. Ask each member to take a personality test and share the results. This is a great team-building exercise because the results allow each person to get to know their colleagues in a much deeper way.
Foster a culture of innovation. For teams to grow, they need to feel they have the ability to be creative, brainstorm and question the status quo in an open and non-judgmental environment. It’s also important to ask team members for their ideas and reasoning on a regular basis. The more connected and understood they feel, the more motivated they’ll be to perform, think outside the box and exceed expectations.
Collaboration starts with communication. To improve collaboration, communication is critical. Leverage technology to strengthen internal and external communication via channels such as instant messaging and video conference calls. Collaboration tools help keep departments and decision makers on the same page at all times. This is even more crucial as companies become increasingly distributed.
Team collaboration is the main ingredient your organization needs in order for every other element –talent, innovation, productivity and profitability – to fall into place.