All great businesses have one characteristic in common: they reach the pinnacle of their industry together, as a cohesive team.
Teams that collaborate well are those that work with the company’s purpose in mind. They communicate well with each other, they use each other’s strengths to their advantages — and they respect each other enough to take criticism on board.
It’s apparent that working together as a collaborative team is a crucial part of improving the standing and functioning of any business, and there are a number of methods to achieve this.
Let’s take a deeper dive into the 5 most important tips for increasing team collaboration.
1. Encourage Social Interaction
One of the most important things you can do to increase team collaboration is to encourage social interaction among team members.
When team members are friends outside of work, they’re more likely to trust and cooperate more effectively with one another on projects and tasks.
A greater level of openness and comfort with each other is a natural precedent to a much deeper level of collaboration and a significantly higher quality of work. Ideas flow seamlessly and the company consequently becomes more innovative, with a better chance of success.
This can be done in a number of ways, such as having regular team lunches or happy hours, planning group outings, or simply creating an open and welcoming environment where people feel comfortable interacting with one another.
Group outings where a team goes and does an activity together, think along the lines of minigolf or bowling, can be highly effective bonding exercises. Although these events can sometimes be awkward at first, especially with team members that don’t usually communicate outside of work, they can pay off extremely well in the long-run.
Due to the increased levels of social interaction with each other, these team members will eventually find themselves more familiar and relaxed around each other. As a result, they are much more likely to be open regarding improvements to each other’s work, and will be more forthcoming with work advice they wish to offer.
Such familiarity can breed a much deeper level of collaboration — and the biggest, most successful companies are not afraid to spend their hard-earned money to achieve this. One study found that, on average, companies spent more than $380 per employee on team building activities.
It’s certainly not cheap, but money is a small price to pay for a collaborative team.
2. Promote Communication And Innovation
Another key way to increase collaboration within a team is to promote open communication, which is a precursor to promoting innovation.
This means creating an environment where people feel comfortable sharing their ideas, thoughts, and concerns without fear of judgment or retribution.
It can also involve setting up regular team meetings where everyone has a chance to voice their opinion and be heard. When team members feel like they have a say in how things are done, they’re more likely to be invested in the success of the team as a whole.
Google is a great example of encouraging open communication between employees and the company — and they take it one step further. Google allows its employees to spend 20% of their time working on ideas that ‘may not pay immediate dividends’ but can change the landscape of the industry in the future.
This 20% rule encourages communication between employees and the company, and gives workers the opportunity to innovate and put forward their ideas — no matter how junior they may be on the corporate ladder. They are encouraged to collaborate with seniors which leads to new ideas and concepts sprouting left, right and center.
Google employees truly feel like they are an integral part of the company. They believe that they have the potential to revolutionize the company for good, which can only lead to a more collaborative work environment.
3. Use Technology To Boost Collaboration
In today’s day and age, technology is prevalent in all areas of our lives. It seems an obvious idea to use it to our advantage when attempting to increase team collaboration.
The use of project management software, video conferencing and even something as simple as Google Docs, can help teams work together more efficiently.
Project management software can aid collaboration through the use of tasks and deadlines in your project timeline. It can also improve clarity and communication by giving every team member a clear understanding of what needs to be done.
The right project management software can vary depending on what your company’s specific needs are, with some of the most effective tools highlighted as below:
- Asana – a classic project management tool for companies of all sizes.
- Workfront – developed in mind for larger organizations with additional features, such as timesheets and advanced analytics.
- Trello – ideal for smaller businesses with linkages available to Google, Slack, Dropbox and more.
- Wrike – known for its ease of use, free tool for companies with less than 5 employees.
- Basecamp – best for medium to large companies as an all-in-one project management tool.
In the modern age, a significant number of us have been given the opportunity to work from home. Although this has its benefits, it also means we get very little face to face contact with our fellow employees, so it can be difficult to create that bond and hence difficult to collaborate effectively.
Fortunately, we can leverage technology to alleviate this problem. Video conferencing can help team members feel more connected to one another and build better relationships. It allows team members to match faces to names, and gives them the opportunity to talk to a face rather than messaging a name on a laptop screen 24/7. It humanizes teams, and means they will be more familiar with each other. This can lead to them working more comfortably and collaborating more often as a result.
Google Docs is another piece of software that can improve collaboration, by allowing for real-time editing of documents, which can be extremely helpful when multiple team members are working on the same project. Its comments feature allows for instant feedback to be received, and can be utilized especially well for time-sensitive tasks.
4. Encourage Feedback
Encouraging feedback is another excellent way to improve team collaboration. This means creating a system where team members can give each other honest feedback on their work, without fear of retribution or negative repercussions. It’s important to note that feedback should be constructive, and should be geared towards helping the team member improve their performance. Simply put, feedback should be seen as a positive tool to help employees grow, rather than a way to point out negative aspects of their work.
A culture of feedback is essential for team collaboration. Feedback helps team members understand what they’re doing well and where they need to improve. It also allows managers to see which team members are struggling and need additional support.
Some methods to encourage a culture of feedback include:
- Encouraging team members to give feedback regularly, in both formal and informal settings.
- Making it clear that all feedback, positive or negative, is welcome. This can be communicated clearly in department-wide or firmwide meetings.
- Giving people the opportunity to provide feedback anonymously, if they feel more comfortable doing so. Anonymous online surveys are a great way to achieve this.
5. A Sense Of Belonging
If employees feel like they belong to a company, that the company is their company — then it means they are much more likely to work together as a collaborative team.
Companies with a purpose and a common cause are more likely to have employees who feel this sense of belonging. It’s paramount that every team member feels like an integral part of the company in order to create a collaborative environment.
Introducing a company motto, slogan or mission statement can be a great way to remind everyone what the company is working towards, and why each employee’s individual role is important.
Not only does it help motivate employees when work gets difficult, but it means they work together as a team for a common purpose. Teams that are striving towards the achievement of a common goal are much more collaborative as they want the best for their company.
The ideal mission statement should be short — no longer than 3 sentences. It should encapsulate what it means to work for the company, and what the purpose of the company is. If your employees come into work with the mission statement in mind, then they know what their purpose is, and will collaborate with each other to do their best in achieving it.
The bottom line
Bringing your team together to improve their collaboration is priceless, as it is an inevitable precursor to helping a company achieve better results.
Whether it be organizing team social events, investing in better project management tools, or even something as simple as encouraging feedback — improving team collaboration can be achieved via a number of methods as detailed in this article.
Consider the above tips to improve your team’s collaboration, so they can become and remain a well-functioning, innovative cog in the machine.