How to improve collaboration in the workplace in 5 simple steps

Posted by Niall Sullivan

17-Jul-2017 08:00:00

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With 75% of employers rating team work and collaboration as “very important,” you would presume that they are investing a great deal of time and resources into improving collaboration within their organisations.

Sadly, this is not the case. The same survey has suggested that 39% of employees believe that people in their own organisation don’t collaborate enough.

Much of this is down to the culture of the company. But thankfully, that’s not the only reason. There are certain practices that you can implement yourself. In this blog post, we’re going to explain how to improve collaboration in the workplace in 5 simple steps.

What does it mean to be collaborative?

Before we start, do you actually know what it means to be collaborative?

It’s an important question that has a relatively simple answer. It involves individuals working together to achieve a common goal. However, this splinters off into three slightly different types of collaboration:

  • Team collaboration – A group of people in the same department that work closely to achieve their common goals.
  • Community collaboration – According to Hunter College, community collaboration brings individuals, agencies, organisations and community members themselves together in an atmosphere of support to systematically solve existing and emerging problems that could not easily be solved by one group alone.
  • Network collaboration – A network collaboration consists of organisations and people that are largely autonomous and diverse in terms of culture and operating environment, but collaborate together to achieve common goals.

You should now know what type of collaboration that takes place within your organisation. With this in mind, we're now going to show you some tips on how you can increase participation within your team.

Master these collaboration skills

Looking for a new skill to learn? Forget learning a foreign language or to juggle, instead focus on improving your collaboration skills.

This could be a never-ending task. Here are just a few examples:

Examples of collaboration skills

For further reading, here is a comprehensive list that has been put together by The Balance

To save you time, we have summarised a few of our favourites below:

  • Actively listening to the concerns of team members – Taking their views on board is a great way to engage your team.
  • Ask for help – Nothing shows that you’re willing to work with others more like asking for help.
  • Work hard to fulfil obligations to the team – No-one likes a slacker. Work hard and the rest of your team will be more inclined to collaborate with you.
  • Building consensus about goals and processes for group projects – What’s the point in working together, if you all don’t know what the end goal is?

Promote teamwork

This is the central theme of collaboration. If individuals cannot work together for the collective good, how can they possibly hope to achieve their goals?

There are two elements to this:

  • Build an effective team
  • Look at ways in which teamwork can be improved

First you must put together a strong and productive team.

Here, diversity is key. Statistics suggest that a diverse team can outperform a top performing, homogenous group by up to 6 times.

You want each individual to each bring something different to the table. They should have skills in different areas, so that they can assist other team members when required.

Once your team is in place, you should look to promote teamwork within the group.

Lead from the front. Define each team member’s responsibilities so it’s clear who has expertise in each area. Provide instructions and clarity where needed, but allow them to manage their time and work without too much interference.

Excel at collaborative communication

collaborative communication

No doubt you will already know the importance of having a thorough project communication plan.

If you don’t, you should. A Project Management Institute survey discovered that 56% of money spent on a project is at risk due to ineffective communications.

But how does this work in a collaborative environment? For a start, you should provide them with the platforms they need in order to work together most effectively.

If everyone is based in the same office, this could be encouraging them to hold meetings. With an increasing number of people working remotely, you may want to look at using an online collaboration tool. Which leads me nicely onto….

Use an online collaboration tool

If you haven’t used an online collaboration tool before, you’re missing an opportunity to improve the output of your team.

Don’t take my word for it. A study by McKinsey&Company found that improved communication and collaboration through social technologies could raise the productivity of interaction workers by 20 to 25%. Who wouldn’t be happy with that?

But what are the advantages of using an online collaboration tool?

  • Engage your employees – Create surveys and forums to allow team members to raise concerns, give feedback and reach out for help.
  • Share information – Keep all of your files and documents in one secure location. Work together on them in real-time within the software to end long trails of emails.
  • Improve communication – Create tasks, send private messages and comment on content to ensure that everyone is staying on track.
  • Think outside the box – Need input from external stakeholders? Invite them into your online workspace and change permissions so they can only view content that you want them to see.

10 Questions to ask an Online Collaboration Supplier

Topics: workplace innovation, collaboration tools, improving productivity, online collaboration