Team collaboration is the cornerstone of any successful business. Collaborative workplaces see increased levels of trust, a more engaged workforce, and improved performance.
One study has shown that collaborative teams are 5X higher-performing because they feel motivated towards a common goal.
However, despite the known benefits of effective teamwork, it's rarely prioritized by managers. A recent study from Salesforce has revealed this to be the case. Of the 1,400 executives, employees, and educators surveyed, 86% noted a lack of collaboration was responsible for failures in the workplace.
Running a collaborative team environment is no simple feat. It takes a concerted effort to integrate co-operative values throughout your whole company's ethos. Here are some strategies to give you a head-start toward managing your support team for collaboration:
- Share the company's mission over and over again.
- Communicate your expectation for collaboration.
- Define and communicate your team's goals.
- Highlight individuals' strengths.
- Promote a community working environment.
- Foster honest and open communication.
- Encourage creativity.
- Share knowledge, insight, and resources.
- Lead by example.
- Get out of the office.
- Invest in collaboration tools.
- Celebrate and reward successful teamwork.
1. Share the company's mission over and over again.
Everyone needs a reason to show up each day -- a cause to be part of, and a broader objective to work towards.
Defining your company's mission is the first step towards bringing people together under one common goal and working together towards making it happen.
Your mission should be simple but meaningful. The more compelling the better.
It's your job to give your employees a reason - beyond the paycheck - to show up each day and get passionate about their work. And the more passionate they are, the more likely they are to work together with their teammates to achieve the company's mission. And make sure you're bringing it up often to make sure everyone is clear on the mission -- to the point where everyone on your team can repeat it on their own. That way, when confronted with conflict or challenges, they'll be able to keep the mission in mind to stay focused.
2. Communicate your expectation for collaboration.
Similarly, if your team doesn't know that you want them to work together, you can't expect them to do so.
From the start, set your expectation for collaboration as a minimum standard. Even better, it should be part of your onboarding process so that potential recruits know you prioritize teamwork.
Employees' job descriptions should include details about their own individual roles, as well as roles they're expected to carry out collaboratively. By differentiating these, you're setting clear boundaries between what they should be taking personal responsibility for, and what they need to work on collectively.
3. Define and communicate your team's goals.
Letting your team know what their goals are is not a monthly conversation. Not even weekly. Ideally, you should be discussing your team's goals on a daily basis.
A team that knows their individual -- as well as collective -- goals helps to reduce silos and keep everyone productive.
Morning huddles held at the same time each day can help to foster the idea that everyday team members are working towards something specific together.
Even better, you can take a step back and let your team define their own daily goals.
4. Highlight individuals' strengths.
Recent research by OfficeTeam shows that 66% of employees would quit their jobs if they felt unappreciated. This number jumps to 76% among millennials. People start to look elsewhere if their unique set of skills aren't being used, and their value isn't being recognized.
Not everyone is a leader. Not everyone is a confident public speaker. But a successful team thrives when each member is able to bring their own set of skills to the table.
As part of your recruiting process, you'll have already identified your employees' specific strengths. Make sure you build on these strengths and emphasize them in collaborative environments.
When I was growing my content team, it was important for me to focus on the specific strengths of each person I was hiring and how those fit not only the duties of their distinct role but the collaborative efforts of the content team as a whole.
You can build on this by getting everyone to take a personality or skills test and share the results in a group setting.
5. Promote a community working environment.
A sense of community is crucial for collaborative working environments. 54% of employees state that a strong sense of community led them to stay at a company longer than was in their own interests.
When people feel that their opinion matters, they are more likely to apply themselves more. Conversely, when people know their opinion doesn't count for anything, they feel redundant and team-playing disintegrates.
But it can be tricky to get the conditions right. You don't want to inundate your team with endless meetings and insist on collaboration for collaboration's sake. After all, not all tasks need to be worked on as a team.
A daily morning huddle is a good starting point. At the same time each day, invite your team to get together and discuss their goals, tasks for the day, and opportunities where teamwork would be beneficial. These environments can help teams to align themselves and avoid duplication or oversights.
6. Foster honest and open communication.
Good team collaboration relies on open and truthful communication. The more people feel they can contribute, the more ideas can be shared, the more productive the team will become.
However, for the more introverted team members, this part of the process might not come naturally.
If you create a psychologically-safe working environment in which team members feel safe from judgment, they are more likely to speak openly and contribute their ideas freely. The safer the environment for communication, the more collaborative that space will become.
7. Encourage creativity.
A collaborative team is an innovative one. Likewise, creating the space for creativity will help foster collaboration. It's a virtuous circle.
Brainstorming sessions can be a great way of opening up your team to creative thinking. An environment in which they can put forward and challenge ideas will help employees feel like they have a stake in the company's mission.
I often find that for some team members, brainstorming sessions can be daunting, especially if it's sprung on them without warning. To work around this, I give my team a heads-up the day before to allow everyone to prepare their thoughts in advance.
8. Share knowledge, insights, and resources.
Knowledge, as they say, is power. And if knowledge is shared amongst your team, they will feel more empowered to contribute on an even playing field.
File-sharing software can help your team access the resources they need to do their jobs -- as can internal collaboration software.
But further than that, create spaces -- both physical and virtual -- where your team can share their insights, discuss their failures, and give each other constructive feedback.
9. Lead by example.
You can strategize for collaboration as much as you like, but if you're not exhibiting collaborative behaviors yourself, then this will filter down to your employees.
As a leader of a collaborative team, you need to demonstrate cooperation at every turn.
One-to-ones are a great place to start. Focusing some one-on-one time at regular intervals with each of your team members demonstrates that you are ready for dialogue.
The way you deal with requests and the way you make promises also indicates how you really feel about collaboration. When your employee comes to you asking for support, then honor their request. And only make promises that you know you can keep.
The more your team can trust you to have their back, the more that trust will filter down through your team. And, in turn, the more productive they will become.
10. Get out of the office.
I'm not just talking about corporate event after corporate event, but offsite team-building works.
Getting out of the office regularly helps teams build relationships based on mutual interests rather than what they share in common within working hours. It helps employees see each other as humans rather than just colleagues.
But this doesn't need to wait for offsite events. An impromptu morning coffee or a beer after work can help to solidify relationships and get your team gelling. Some smaller companies adopt a more regular arrangement, in which members of the team "buddy up" and go for lunch one-to-one, rotating amongst the team.
11. Celebrate and reward successful teamwork
How you measure the success of your team will send out signals about what kind of company you are. If you reward effective teamwork and successful collaboration then you are communicating the values that underpin your business.
When you design your employee appraisal metrics, focus on team collaboration as well as individual successes. Make it clear that your employees' team efforts will be noted and collaborative successes rewarded.
12. Invest in collaboration tools.
Creating a digital workplace is the most practical thing you can do to ensure long-term collaboration among your team. And uptake is increasingly high, with 80% of businesses using social collaboration tools to advance business processes.
Given that nearly 3.3 million full-time professionals in the United States consider their home as their main workplace, it's worth investing in the right tools to enable teams to work together without being in the same physical space.
A recent survey conducted by Queens University supports the assumption that social tools assist in workplace collaboration. Predictably, millennials support the use of collaborative tools the most: 49% of the millennials surveyed back social tools for collaboration, with 31% of baby boomers and 40% of Generation X agreeing.
Your digital workspace can look like whatever you need it to be. You don't have to go all-out right away, and your spend can be modest at first. The trick is to try different tools and see what works best for your team.
Speaking of tools, let's dive into a few team collaboration tools in the section below.
Team Collaboration Tools
- Google Drive
- Google Calendar
Team Collaboration Tool: Video Communication
Loom is a video communication software that records actions performed on your computer. You can walk through a task, explain its steps out loud, and Loom will use your computer's microphone and camera to capture the entire technical process. So, if you're describing a complicated task to your customer service team, you don't have to meet in-person to demonstrate the process. Videos are easily edited and uploaded so your team can quickly share recordings as soon as they're finished.
This is also particularly useful when onboarding new employees. You can record training then save it your knowledge base for later use. That way, you don't have to set up a formal meeting for company-wide training.
2. Google Drive
Team Collaboration Tool: Shared Documents
If you haven't tried Google Drive, it's one of the best options available for creating, collaborating, and sharing documents. You can create word docs, powerpoints, spreadsheets, forms, and many other types of team-based resources. And, Google Drive has unlimited storage, so you can create as many documents as you'd like.
Google Drive is great for teams who want to work together on projects. Every document can be shared via email, or you can create a link that takes coworkers directly to your project. If you don't want certain users to make changes without approval, you can also control permissions over who can edit the document. Additionally, coworkers can leave comments and suggestions that can render automatically on the piece once they're accepted.
Team Collaboration Tool: Project Management
Asana is a project management platform that can help your team effectively manage projects. It has tools that can assist engineering teams when planning sprints, advise marketing when composing their editorial calendar, and track deals that are nearing close for your sales agents. Needless to say, it has something for everyone at your business.
One cool feature that makes Asana stand out is its "Workload" monitor. This tool analyzes how much work is assigned to each employee involved in your project. It lets you know who's working on what and whether their workload will take more than their scheduled work-hours to complete. These types of alerts prevent employees from burning out and keeps them happier over time.
Team Collaboration Tool: Project Management
Teamwork is another project management tool that helps teams complete tasks on time. It creates project timelines and sets milestones that are triggered as your team moves closer towards your goals. These recurring incentives keep employees motivated to complete the project before the deadline.
Source: Finances Online
Teamwork also has reporting tools that you can use to improve your project management over time. It has real-time reports and dashboards that monitor your KPIs and highlights the overall strengths and weaknesses of your project. This not only shows you if your project succeeded but also helps you learn how you can improve it for next time.
Price: 9$/month as reported by GetApp
Team Collaboration Tool: File-Sharing
Dropbox is a file storage and sharing software that's used to distribute and keep track of documents. You can compose a document on your computer, upload it to Dropbox, and your entire team will have access to that file. That saves you a lot of time from having to email PDFs and powerpoints to everyone individually.
And, once those documents are shared, you can track who opens and views them on your team. You'll know who's engaging with your content and who may be falling behind on updates. This keeps employees accountable and ensures everyone is up-to-date on the most current information.
Team Collaboration Tool: File-Sharing
With Hightail, your team can securely distribute files both within and outside your organization. That's because it has unique guest features that let people who don't work at your company upload and share resources. So, if you have a third-party employee temporarily working on your team, you can include them on the same platform as your in-house coworkers.
Another cool feature that Hightail offers is a secure download link. You can require recipients to log into their Hightail account before gaining access to a document. This way, if you do send a link to the wrong person, they won't be able to see any sensitive information.
Team Collaboration Tool: Internal Communication
Slack is a popular team collaboration tool, and for good reason, too. Informally dubbed, "The instant messenger for businesses," it lets you communicate with anyone at your company via chat. Employees can set up team channels where they can continuously chat with each other and ask questions in a casual, collaborative environment. Instead of calling meetings or scrambling across the office, teams from every department can work together right from their desks.
One great feature of Slack is that it's very customizable. You can integrate new tools and adjust the interface to behave exactly how you want it. For example, you can create a personalized onboarding message that launches whenever a new user is added. This message can contain information and tips on how to use the app so your new employees ramp up as quickly as possible.
Team Collaboration Tool: Internal Communication
Like Slack, Flock is another powerful communication tool that many businesses use to chat internally. However, where Flock differentiates itself is through its additional features. It has a variety of specialized tools that take its platform to the next level.
One example of this is its video conferencing feature. If you're chatting with someone you can seamlessly transfer the conversation over to a video call. That way, remote employees can interact with people at your office in a face-to-face setting.
Team Collaboration Tool: Intranet
An intranet is a private communication network that businesses use to communicate internally. It hosts every tool that employees need to collaborate with each other during their workflow. This keeps the company's information organized since all of its communication passes through a centralized interface.
Samepage is an example of an intranet provider that businesses use for communication. It combines chat, video conferencing, screen-sharing, task management, and file-sharing all into one platform. It's a great option for larger teams that don't want to lose time jumping between software.
10. Google Calendar
Team Collaboration Tool: Calendar-Sharing
Productivity slows down if you're not sure when people are available to meet. Especially if you're trying to organize teams across departments where schedules don't always align.
Google Calendar solves this issue by providing a shared-calendar experience for your employees. They can log when they're busy and when they're free, then make their schedules accessible to their coworkers. You'll know exactly when to hold a meeting because you'll see whether team members are available or not.
Team Collaboration Tool: Calendar-Sharing
A rival to Google Calendar is Outlook, which stands toe-to-toe with Google when it comes to its shared-calendar features. Outlook's calendar syncs to your email, so any events you accept in your inbox will automatically show up on your schedule. And, you can view your schedule side-by-side with a coworker's, which can help you decide whether or not to accept a pending invitation.
Team Collaboration Tool: Video Conferencing
If you're looking to speak with remote employees in real-time, Zoom can help with all of your video conferencing needs. With Zoom, employees from all over the world can speak with each other in a face-to-face setting. You can launch meetings instantly, or schedule them ahead of time via your digital calendar.
Zoom also has screen-sharing features. If you're in a meeting and a remote employee wants to present, they can share their screen so that every person in the meeting sees their presentation. This is really beneficial for management as they can record these sessions for employees who may be sick or couldn't make the meeting. Between the recording and visual aide, these employees won't miss a beat.
Collaborative teams are more productive teams. And companies that know this invest time and resources in creating environments that are conducive to teamwork.
These environments are creative, open and trusting. They are inclusive and praise individual contribution towards common goals. They value knowledge-sharing and information transparency. And they invest in the tools and technology that make collaboration happen.
Whether you're a large corporation or a small startup; whatever your industry, product or service; you can make steps towards a collaborative setting today and start seeing results from a happier, more valued -- and valuable -- workforce.
To learn more, read our tips for improving team communication next.
Originally published Nov 21, 2019 8:00:00 AM, updated June 15 2021