In a small business, your people are the core of your organization. But even if you hire the best talent, it won’t matter if they can’t work well together. This can impact productivity and effectiveness, specifically in projects needing team members’ input.
Effective collaboration is crucial in driving employee engagement and performance for small businesses and large operations alike. Collaboration is crucial for remote teams, too, where geographic distance can make communication more difficult. This, according to Forbes, is one of the top five skills every employee must have to succeed in the workplace.
Defining collaborative work culture
While collaboration transpires in every organization, not everyone imbibes it as part of their culture. Team members’ cooperation is intentional and regular in a workplace with a collaborative culture. Collaboration doesn’t happen from the beginning. It’s baked into the process of how people do their work every day.
At the heart of collaborative culture is the idea that the team is “better” together. It focuses on the concept that the collective intelligence of various team members delivers the most effective solutions.
According to a survey, 75 percent of employees place high importance on teamwork and collaboration. Respondents also reported being “more satisfied” in workplaces that promote a collaborative culture, making them more engaged in their tasks. The inclusivity of being part of a team motivates people to work and take on challenges.
The challenge now
Why is it essential to invest in a collaborative culture? The challenge now is keeping workers from saying, “I quit.” The past year’s “Great Resignation” was a wake-up call for companies to pay close attention to their employees’ woes.
The remote work option has changed everyone’s perspective to start thinking about what’s most important. With remote work, employees have the flexibility to handle business on smartphones and enjoy a work-life balance. This led to the growing number of hybrid work options – which made things like team communications a challenge. This is where collaboration plays a crucial role: allowing teams to work together regardless of distance and time.
Not everyone has the skills to devote themselves to a collaborative culture. Employees who may be willing may not participate when they feel unsafe speaking up. Unfortunately, most organizations love to proclaim collaboration as a value, but it’s something they only practice and emphasize occasionally. It must be consistent and intentional.
Tips for increasing collaboration
Even if it’s a hybrid working environment, there’s something you can do to make sure your cross-collaboration efforts remain successful. Here are tips to help you improve employee collaboration in today’s evolving workplace.
1. Prioritize empathy as a value
It’s hard to encourage empathy in the workplace if it doesn’t start with the leaders. An empathetic leader can help struggling employees improve their skills and excel at work. Provide them with a safe space where they can voice their thoughts and opinions.
In hybrid work environments, work and personal lives get tangled up. You must ensure each employee can manage these challenges properly. Show empathy by being accessible and visible to your team.
How? Start by hosting a weekly open-dialogue virtual meeting. Make sure to set a convenient schedule for most so they’ll be more comfortable discussing their concerns.
2. Choose proper tools for cross-collaboration
For cross-collaboration to be successful within teams, you must start from the ground up. Establishing “empathy” as a top workplace value is a good start. But from there, you have to build an effective structure that’ll facilitate your employees’ ability to collaborate.
Cloud-based project management and communication tools are perfect for hybrid teams. Efficient tools make information accessible and eradicate the silo mentality. This attitude, which signifies one’s reluctance to share information with other employees, can reduce your organization’s efficiency.
To ensure your teams can do their best work, take advantage of the best tools available today. Using an intuitive project management platform for software development like Shortcut can maximize and promote efficient cross-collaboration. From project planning to implementation, the platform automatically keeps your documents and ongoing work in sync.
Another preferred tool by small and medium-sized organizations is Google Workspace. Previously known as G Suite, it’s a set of communication tools, office productivity apps, and a cloud storage platform. It allows you to create documents, slides, and spreadsheets – and easily share them with others.
Employees need efficient tools to collaborate well with colleagues. But remember, just because you bought new software shouldn’t be a “cure-all” for collaboration. It should be much more than that.
When choosing collaboration tools for your organization to boost productivity, consider the following:
- Company Requirements – Pick platforms that can solve specific challenges, work best for your clients and employees, and meet business goals.
- Features – Gather insights from employees to ensure that you’re buying tools that can provide what they need. It shouldn’t complicate processes and not create more work for your people.
- Cost – Think about the return on investment (ROI) and ongoing expenses associated with the upgrades for collaboration tools. High productivity is crucial, but you should also ensure cost-efficiency in the long run.
- Technical Support – A reliable software vendor should provide excellent support to help you maximize workplace productivity. They must resolve issues quickly to reduce workplace disruption.
3. Create collaborative spaces
Buying tools and creating collaborative environments aren’t enough. You should also have a strategy for collaboration, like setting up in-person meetings. Spending time together and meeting in person is the best way to build a solid, long-term relationship.
Isn’t it nice to work somewhere that is comfortable and appealing instead of a cramped-up conference room? Building spaces where employees can mingle and work together will promote collaboration.
See what workspace improvements can bring people together. For instance, bumping into a colleague on the terrace or pantry can inspire conversations leading to collaboration.
Try to set up periodic meet-ups where remote workers can come together. It can be a seminar or a team-building event.
4. Set clear expectations
Remote team members may need some help to get on the same page. Setting clear expectations is critical for each project.
Use a specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based (SMART) process for your goals. A SMART goal is a useful guide for goal setting to focus your efforts and increase your chances of success.
If you break down SMART goals, they mean:
- Sspecific: Goals are clear and well-defined – meaning stakeholders can easily understand them.
- Measurable: Goals have specific criteria whose progress can be measured towards accomplishment.
- Aachievable: Goals should be attainable and within the capacity of involved team members.
- Rrealistic: Goals are within reach and relevant to your organization.
- Timely: Goals have a clearly defined timeline with a starting and target date.
Setting and aligning goals unifies your team’s efforts. Often, organizations set themselves up for failure because they decide on general and unrealistic goals with no sense of direction. The SMART method pushes your team to collaborate with a clear understanding of what they need to achieve.
Other important goal-setting factors to consider:
- Define who bears each specific role in a team.
- Outline the purpose of collaboration.
- Set communication budgets, resources, and meet-up schedules.
- Define the objectives and key results you want to achieve after the collaboration project.
- Review the results regularly and keep your team updated over time.
5. Schedule time for follow-ups
Collaboration isn’t a one-time activity. It’s a recurring business approach that may take days or years. It needs constant check-ups to assess participation and efficiency.
After setting the stage and creating goals, make collaboration a full-circle activity. This means you should include follow-up activities. These may include things such as:
- Celebrating important milestones achieved by the team
- Planning public recognitions for moments of great collaboration
- Asking each team member for feedback on the effectiveness of cross-collaboration activities
- Using analytics and data to track the strengths and weaknesses of collaborative efforts
Data and feedback improve virtual workspaces well in a hybrid and remote workplace setting. Take advantage of your remote work tools to celebrate moments in the organization, too. With team members scattered in different locations, making them feel they’re not left behind is especially important.
6. Don’t be a lone wolf
Leaders must practice what they preach. You can’t tell your employees to use new tools or any collaborative framework but ignore it yourself. Team members should see leaders using them to follow by example.
Don’t do everything alone. It can be humbling for leaders to admit that they don’t have the answers and solutions. Leaders should also be part of the learning process. Seek opinions from employees and listen to their views. They may have the best ideas waiting to be explored. Doing so makes you and your team work better.
The bottom line
There are countless ways to improve workplace collaboration. But the crucial first step is recognizing its importance. Use the tips mentioned in this post to address the weak points in your organization’s collaboration projects. Effective collaboration doesn’t happen overnight. It needs constant work and input from team members.