“Alone we can do so little, together we can do much”. – Helen Keller
Collaboration in the workplace is very important to propel the business towards success. Working together in unison towards common business objectives is only possible through collaboration.
According to a joint study done by the Institute of Corporate Productivity and a Professor of the Global Business at Babson College, companies who promoted collaborative working were five times as likely to be high performing.
The results of the study proved that simply feeling like you are part of the team enables you to stay motivated and face any challenge that may come your way.
Collaboration in the Workplace
Collaboration is said to occur when different individuals or a group of people work together by sharing their ideas and skills in order to accomplish a common goal. And it can take place irrespective of whether you work remotely as virtual teams or in a traditional office space. Thanks to advancements in technology, with several tools and programs that enable sharing files and communicating, collaborating in a virtual environment is also possible.
But what ties all the strings together is a strong purpose to collaborate and work together. Therefore, all organisations should adopt collaboration as part of their organisational culture and encourage employees to collaborate.
Why Collaboration Matters the Most?
When individuals work on a project, they are often interdependent and need inputs from others to go forward. With collaboration, different departments with different skills can be pooled together to help the project become more successful than it might be otherwise.
Collaboration at the workplace leads to happier employees and also a well-educated workforce. Employees feel like they are part of a family and cultivate a sense of community. This helps them to absorb more knowledge and put their efforts towards the greater goal.
Here are some of the important benefits of a collaborative work environment…
Collaboration enables team members to communicate their views, ideas and opinions in an effective way. It brings different people on a common platform wherein different perspectives are brought together to design the right solution or solve a problem.
#2 Problem Solving
When a group of people come together with all their varied knowledge, skills and expertise, they can quickly solve the problem at hand, sometimes identifying and addressing a loophole before it turns into a problem. The more eyes on the project from the inception, the easier it becomes to identify the problems and come up with a solution.
#3 Promotes Self Analysis
Collaboration challenges people to think anew. Employees can articulate better and also know more about their competencies. It gives them a glimpse of their own strengths and weaknesses. This way they are able to work better together and fill each other’s gaps.
#4 Providing Value
When all work together for a common goal, it instills a greater sense of purpose among your employees. Employees see more value when collaborating and this gives them a reason to strive hard. Collaboration is a mutual win-win value proposition for both the employee and the employer.
#5 Knowledge Sharing
Two heads are better than one because collaboration gives rise to greater learning opportunities. Employees can continually learn new things within a team as opposed to when they work individually. Collaboration can help your organisation to become an embodiment of continuous learning that helps each other’s growth and development.
Advantages of Collaboration
1. Higher Retention Rates
Contrary to organisations that are siloed and disconnected, a collaborative workforce lays the premise for an open, connected and engaged workplace. This goes a long way in ensuring that your employees don’t look for greener pastures.
This is because connection matters to people in the workplace. Employees tend to work well with others who trust, respect and understand their point of view. Working collaboratively makes this possible.
2. Higher Productivity
Working independently has its share of advantages when the individual is equipped with all the requisite skills and there is no scope for distractions. But in the real world, nobody possesses the perfect skill sets.
As projects become more complex and demanding, a pool of disparate skill sets can make up for flaws and imperfections that inevitably result from them. It helps to divide a heavy workload and see the bigger picture.
3. Foster Creativity
Ever tried locking yourself in a room hoping that ideas will simply start coming to you? It’s not realistic, and not an efficient way of thinking either. Most good ideas result from brainstorming and bouncing ideas off a group of people.
This is where collaboration comes into play. With the power of many, listening to other people’s insights might just ignite powerful ideas and thoughts that individuals may not be able to come up with. Collaboration is the central theme of innovation that results in creative ideas.
4. Achieve More in Less
A problem that might take months to get resolved by an individual, can be resolved comparatively quickly when working together. Collaboration greatly speeds things up. Members can share their talents and viewpoints to come up with the best possible solution that will augment the business to accomplish more in less time.
For instance, one member may not be adept in presentation skills but can be well-versed in technical skills. This can lead to a lot of struggles and bottlenecks in the progress of the project. However, with effective collaboration, employees can combine their varied strengths and achieve the goals of the project.
How to Achieve Collaboration in the Workplace
Developing a culture of effective collaboration is easier said than done and definitely not a one-off solution. Rather collaboration should be seen as a continuous and consistent development that is maintained with an interactive and disciplined mindset.
You need to combine the right talents in a team so that they are able to supplement each other’s energy, passion, and creativity. The power of collaboration lies in creating an open communication channel that encourages the team to present their honest views and stoking the team’s creative fire. This will result in a team that not only performs well but is also more engaged and loyal to the organisation.
Here are simple ways in which you can cultivate collaboration at your workplace:
Step 1: Account for the Individual Strengths and Weakness While Building Teams
You need to start with a fresh perspective on your employee’s strengths and vulnerabilities. Once you begin with this realistic view, you can set up a team with individuals that work cohesively, reinforcing each other’s strengths and weaknesses. A compatible team is very important to get it right or else it will be a team with bickering personalities lashing out at each other.
Step 2: Set Team Goals and Communicate the Expectations
To enforce strong cohesion in a team, employees should be provided with a compelling cause and purpose of the company mission. When the objectives are clear, the members are naturally inclined to be passionate and accomplish the goals.
Also, communicate the defined individual and collective roles and responsibilities they hold within the unit. When expectations are communicated clearly, each member will be geared to work effectively without stepping on each other’s toes and creating conflicts.
Step 3: Spread the Delegation of Tasks
You don’t want to give responsibility to the same set of people. Else, individuals start to feel like they are contributing less and have no impact on the organisation. Instead, share responsibility and spread important tasks across a wide range of people and if possible, rotate the responsibilities periodically as well.
A collaborative environment will not be able to thrive when only a few people account for responsibility and everybody else has no decision-making power.
Step 4: Encourage Team Spirit
You cannot force people to collaborate. Instead, incentivise teamwork and encourage teams to engage in productive collaborative behaviours. Instead of rewarding the individuals alone, recognise the team effort by giving out small incentives like “The Best Team of the Month”. This way team members will not just care about their own success but the success of those around them and the organisation as well.
Step 5: Encourage Open Channels of Communication with Feedback Loop
Ask your teams to approach every situation openly. Since the team will include a diverse set of personalities, open-mindedness will help individuals understand each other and create a sense of belonging within the group.
Subsequently, also collect impressions and feedback along the way from every team member to assess its effectiveness so that every individual input is treated as a priority. It is the individuals that make a team, so a proper feedback loop is essential to maintain an effective and disciplined collaboration.
Step 6: Encourage Innovation
Encourage team members to brainstorm and think outside the box by challenging the status quo in an open and non-judgemental manner. By fostering a “can do” attitude, you can inspire your team to live up to those “can do” expectations.
All ideas and thoughts of the individuals must be shared regularly to come up with new solutions. The more connected and open the organisation, the more motivated your employees will be to perform, be creative and surpass expectations.
Step 7: Create Opportunities to Socialise Outside of Work
At times we yearn to have a time-out from our busy work lives and, attending a corporate event is the last thing we want. However, creating opportunities to socialise outside of work with casual and frequent team outings will serve as an ice breaker. It will create a better understanding and a connection between the team members on a real basis. This will also help to decrease individual bias, stereotyping and misconceptions in the team.
Achieving Collaboration With Co-working Spaces
When you work alone or within a select group, you start to limit your innovation and your growth. The greater the interaction with a diverse set of individuals, the more fresh ideas and thoughts that lead to innovation and a successful business. Environments that give off such positive energy are a key reason why coworking spaces are growing rapidly. Coworking spaces create a whole new dimension of collaborative workspaces.
A setting that brings together different groups and individuals and encourages interaction is exactly the type of environment that is well-suited for collaboration and spurs entrepreneurial growth. More cities in India are offering co-working spaces that are great for startups, individual contributors, and even large-scale organisations.
The benefits of such co-working spaces are many, including greater interaction, collaboration and innovation. After all, humans are social beings and gain new insights by interacting, collaborating and competing with others.
Perhaps creating a coworking space at your company or encouraging your employees to work out of coworking spaces can provide an opportunity for discussion, collaboration, networking and learning opportunities.
Take IBM and its Corpoworking Spaces for instance. This disruptive workplace is an open space where employees can freely collaborate, sharing and applying their outstanding ideas. It is a neutral space with 40 desks, several coaches, large tables and stools with movable furniture that can be changed almost every day.
Your coworking space can take the form of an experimental hub, a shared interaction space, a creative studio or a concept platform. The main thing is to utilise the inherent openness of coworking spaces that offer a great scope for collaboration at the workplace.
Establishing a collaborative work environment is just the beginning of success. For collaboration to be successful in the long run, be consistent and purposeful devoting more resources and effort to make it work.
Improve the productivity of your workforce with collaboration. When employees feel that they are part of something exceptional, they are more passionate to work and achieve their goals. Collaboration is the way to go because there is nothing more impactful and resonant than a shared win.