Collaboration is not just a buzzword that we keep hearing now and then. In fact, it is an important component for a better, healthy, and thriving workplace.
As people gain more specialized skill sets, the need for practicing collaboration increases. But first…
What Is Collaboration?
In simple words, collaboration is the result of teamwork. It is when a group of people come together to share their ideas, opinions, and expertise to achieve a common objective or complete a mission or project. For instance, a photographer works in collaboration with a designer to create creative images. An HR business partner works with top management to achieve organizational goals, and so on and so forth.
Did you know that collaboration is a learned skill? Although some people may be innately good at it given their personality, others have to learn the art.
Collaboration has been so well embedded in our minds, that we are doing it almost all the time without even thinking about it. That said, let’s pause here and take a step back to understand why is collaboration important.
Why Is Collaboration Important?
Before we take a deep dive into the importance of collaboration, you should know that organizations that practice collaboration are more culturally aligned, have stable financials, and have a higher employee engagement rate.
What do you do when you’re stuck at a certain task? You’ve made a great deal of progress in a certain project but encountered a roadblock that has you stalled. You’ve run out of ideas, the project has come to a standstill and the deadline is hovering over your head. What do you do? Do you give up?
Of course, you don’t. You call in a meeting with your team and discuss the problem at hand. Your team brainstorms ideas, pools in their knowledge, expertise, and ideas. You suddenly feel relaxed and much lighter.
Not only have you found multiple feasible solutions, but also got a chance to look at the problem from a different perspective. The project that had come to a halt is now up and running again.
Do you see the significance of collaboration there?
However, collaboration isn’t something that you should practice as a last resort. It should be an important part of whatever project you do. Even if you have to work on a project all b yourself, try keeping your team informed and involved. Keep having biweekly or weekly discussions with them on the progress and roadblocks. You will be pleasantly surprised by how constant collaboration adds value to your work.
Binds People Together
If you notice that certain teams within your company do not interact much and work in silos, you may want to step in. Generally, developers tend to work in isolation and rarely collaborate. So, what can you do here?
The solution is to come up with a project and create ad hoc teams. So for instance, you can form a team that has a few developers, graphic designers, a marketer, and a content writer. It is more like creating a diverse team where members from different departments with diverse skill sets have gathered together for a shared purpose.
Do you see how you’ve used collaboration as a tool to break the walls within your organization? You’ve also paved a way for people from various departments to form connections with each other.
Source of Learning
One of the benefits of working collaboratively with people who bring diverse knowledge and skillsets to the table is learning from their experience. Whether you collaborate with your team or other departments, you must try and make the most out of it. Wonder how?
They are a vault of insightful knowledge, ideas, opinions, and feedback. Learn and listen to their way of collaborating and approaching a problem. Pay attention to how you can benefit from their mistakes, successes, and failures. Try seeing things from their perspectives while learning about their pain points and priorities.
Keep in mind that collaboration builds a culture that fosters learning, development, and transparency.
Opens New Channels for Communication
When you work with people from different departments, it opens up new channels for interaction. Daily communication is vital to the success of an organization as it resolves many ongoing issues. Interacting frequently with team members opens a gateway to gaining valuable insights and knowledge that would have otherwise remained closed. Collaboration brings everyone closer, strengthens the bond between departments, and brings everyone even closer to fulfilling the organization’s mission and vision.
There are various collaboration tools like an intranet. It keeps the communication doors open, keeps everyone informed about what is happening within the workplace, and above all, maintains transparency.
With changing times, employees prefer to work in open more engaging workplaces. Naturally, when people work in collaboration with each other, a sense of trust and loyalty grows. Even when people work with peers from other departments, they are more prone to trust each other. They feel comfortable working alongside one another and are always ready to help when needed.
This, in turn, boosts employee morale across the company.
Increases Retention Rate
In continuation to the last point, higher morale means a higher retention rate. An open, engaging, and a connected workspace not only retains employees but also attracts new candidates.
Connection is integral to employees. They want to work in an environment where peers trust each other, respect others’ views, and get along well with each other. And this is only possible through cross-team collaboration.
Working independently has its own benefits. You can stay focused and invest all your time in one project. You don’t have to worry about how much time you waste as your work is not dependent on anyone. Also, you don’t have to think about how to get a team to complete a task in a short time period. Therefore, if a task at hand requires you to work independently, then dive in by all means.
However, for some projects, there is no other option but to work collaboratively. If a project is complex, time-consuming, and requires diverse skill sets and opinions, then you must collaborate. You must admit that it is group work and requires a team effort. Also, it will divide the work, invite creative solutions and inculcate a sense of ownership in everyone.
Challenges of Workplace Collaboration
Now that you have reminded yourself of the significance of workplace collaboration, it is now time to start implementing it in your business. However, it is important to note that attaining workplace collaboration is not like taking a walk in the park. It comes with certain challenges. So before you begin strategizing, take a glimpse at the possible challenges that you might face during the process.
Hindrance to Communication
Sometimes, collaboration is hindered because of two reasons:
- When people feel they cannot communicate openly
- No platform where everyone can share their thoughts and opinions.
With that said, employees will not communicate if they feel disconnected, leading to multiple project failures.
So, what’s the way out?
Top management must actively work towards building tools and platforms that support open communication. They must engage with their team members and subordinates to express their opinions, share ideas and encourage them to be high performers.
Leaders Who Work in Silos
Having CEOs and leaders who remain cooped up in their offices can be demotivating to employees. Having that air of superiority prevents employees from approaching their managers and executives. As a result of which employees hesitate to collaborate.
Have an open-door policy in place that keeps the communication between different hierarchies seamless. Managers should break free of their silos and work alongside employees. It is important to keep in mind that collaboration is not just limited to a part of a company It should be reflected within all roles and across the hierarchy.
The more the managers are visible to their employees, the more the collaboration. CEOs and managers should effectively collaborate with their subordinates so that employees feel more productive and valued.
An unclear goal is difficult to achieve. Without having a clear focus, team members might work mindlessly which may hinder productivity, efficiency, and collaboration.
An undefined goal may make it difficult for leaders and managers to delegate tasks and responsibilities. Employees feel averse to collaboration when there aren’t given key performance indicators.
The solution lies in keeping employees in the loop. Team members must meet regularly to discuss projects and analyze processes so that everyone can stay on the same page. As a result of this transparency and openness, people find it easy to collaborate with each other.
Lack of Diversity
No two employees have the same working styles. Some prefer working all by themselves while others prefer working in teams. People come from diverse backgrounds and employees may find it hard to collaborate with them.
In order to encourage collaboration, there should be open interaction. This will make the workplace more inclusive. Moreover, conflict resolution plans should be in place when people from diverse backgrounds work together.
Fear of Judgement
One of the obstacles that prevent employees from collaborating with each other is the fear of being judged and rejected. This is prevalent in companies that follow a top-down approach and where top executives prefer to maintain their distance. This frustrates employees who then hesitate to express their ideas and creativity. As a consequence, employees take a back seat and do not participate and collaborate actively.
However, there is a way to overcome this challenge. Organizations should develop a culture that is welcoming and judgment-free. Cultivate a culture that is open to ideas regardless of how crazy, big, small, creative, or weird they are. Also, management should refrain from imposing too many guidelines as they can stifle creativity. Emphasis should be placed on the liberty to create, innovate and collaborate.
Employees can not be expected to collaborate with each other if the company’s goals and objectives are kept hidden. Nobody likes to stay or work in the dark. When this is a common practice in an organization employees do not give their 100 percent leading to chaos and conflicts.
So what should be the action plan?
No one’s asking the management to share confidential information with employees. But, they should be kept in the loop about major decisions being taken in the company. It is important to make employees feel connected to the organization so that they feel valued and collaborate effectively.
Ensuring openness and transparency creates trust and loyalty within an organization. Employees should be able to see the bigger picture in order to collaborate effectively n a daily basis.
Most importantly, managers should avoid favoritism. That is sharing information with some while hiding it from others. This gives birth to unnecessary conflicts and resentment among employees. Employees may become vengeful and refuse to work in collaboration.
Lack of Employee Appreciation
Employees are humans and all humans require appreciation. Employee appreciation is the fuel that keeps people motivated to perform their best. However, if it’s missing, employees show less enthusiasm when working in teams and feel demoralized altogether.
Everyone desires rewards for attaining success. Even the most dedicated ones too. While individual successes are rewarded all the time, don’t forget to appreciate team effort as well. When teamwork receives positivity, employees feel more inclined to collaborate with each other.
Of course, sometimes ideas that come in are not feasible. But it is still advisable to provide feedback.
Lastly, instead of management responding to ideas all the time, team members should be encouraged to provide constructive criticism to each other. These are ways to incorporate collaboration within a workplace.
Creating a collaborative workspace takes time, energy, and effort. It does not happen overnight. A good starting point is, to begin with, new hires. New hires are hesitant in the beginning and prefer to work in their comfort zones. To begin with, having one-on-one sessions with other teams is an ideal opportunity for them to form connections with people outside their department. Assign them projects that require collaboration with people from other departments. Place them in ad hoc teams so that they can overcome the initial awkwardness.
It is not necessary that you follow this strategy. You can develop a strategy that suits your company’s needs and culture. However, to inculcate collaboration in a company’s culture is a tedious process but produces results that are worth sweating for.