If one of your new year’s resolutions is to foster team collaboration within your organization, look no further. With the pandemic still being a threat, most offices opt for fully remote or hybrid work environments, and experts say this new work culture is here to stay in 2023, regardless of whether or not there is a deadly virus out there.
While remote work has its benefits, such as reduced commute time, added flexibility, and increased productivity, it can also hinder collaboration among team members, so we are here to talk about why your team should focus on successful collaboration this year and how to achieve it.
Benefits of fostering team collaboration
First of all, successful collaboration in a team leads to better communication. Without strong communication, it will be challenging to establish a collaborative work environment and strengthen professional relationships.
Team collaboration is also necessary for increased productivity and efficiency. Some studies have found that, on average, employees spend about 2.5 hours a day on gathering information for the work they need to do rather than actually working on getting it done. Therefore, collaborating with team members can reduce that number and ensure they have the tools to be more productive.
A collaborative team also allows collective and individual growth, as team members can learn from each other’s experiences. According to a survey done by Gallup, a heaping 87% of millennials find professional and career growth opportunities a crucial part of their jobs, so that is a benefit you should be striving to provide.
Another benefit of team collaboration is having engaged employees. When team members have to rely on each other and honor commitments they’ve made to others, they are more engaged and feel more motivated to help the team succeed.
Improved problem-solving skills is another positive that stems from effectively collaborating with your colleagues. Collaborative environments often include solving problems as a team, so it is a great way of making obstacles appear less daunting, because the responsibility lies with the whole cohort, rather than a single individual. In the process, employees can test their abilities and sharpen their own personal problem-solving skills as well.
Finally, a collaborative team is a team that is more adaptable to change. Change is an inevitable part of any project, so the more secure your team members are in their collaborations, the easier it will be to quickly adapt to change and move forward with new solutions.
10 strategies that will help you build team collaboration
How exactly to achieve impactful team collaboration? We’ve put together 10 best practices that will transform any team to its best collaborative self.
1. Define clear goals and expectations
Without clear goals and expectations, your team will not be able to function properly. Team members need to be on the same page about the organization’s goals and have a clear understanding of what the expectations are from upper management.
One 2020 study found that having a well-defined company mission may not be enough for employees to succeed, and organizations must ensure workers clearly understand the meaning of objectives and goals they are working toward. Therefore, it is important to emphasize having a fully shared direction as a team.
2. Encourage open-mindedness
An effective collaborator is one with an open mind and capacity to welcome new perspectives. Having open-minded team members will hugely impact the success of your organization, because they will be more likely to incorporate new ideas and be open to alternative solutions from one another.
If open-mindedness is not encouraged, it can build mental roadblocks that will keep employees set in their ways and interfere with successful collaboration.
3. Build a diverse team
Having a collaborative diverse team will only improve the experiences of your employees and will help them to foster the open-mindedness mentioned above. Having team members that are of different genders, come from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, as well as bring different skill sets, expertise, and personal characteristics to the table, will enrich the organization’s collaborative environment.
Employees from different backgrounds can offer different points of view and, therefore, make the team more dynamic. According to Harvard Business Review, diverse teams are smarter because they focus more on facts, process those facts more carefully, and are overall more innovative, boosting the organization’s joint intellectual potential.
4. Cultivate open and transparent communication
This should be a no-brainer. As a manager, you should cultivate a collaborative work climate in which employees feel safe and encouraged to bring up any ideas or issues that need to be verbalized, and it all starts with transparent leadership.
Not all employees will have the same communication style, therefore, it is crucial to ensure multiple channels of communication, so that every voice is heard and it is easier to collaborate. For example, if some employees don’t feel comfortable expressing themselves in a group setting, ensure one-on-one check-ins, or provide an option for anonymous feedback.
Transparent communication will assure there are no misunderstandings and the team as a whole has all the necessary information to collaborate effectively.
5. Use collaboration tools
As remote work is going to stick around, collaboration in this day and age looks a little bit different than sitting around a table and brainstorming ideas in a meeting. Collaboration has fundamentally changed, as modern-day collaboration happens more synchronously, collaborators need to hunt down information themselves, and collaboration altogether is considered a business strategy, rather than another objective for the HR department.
With the rise of technology and opportunity for more frequent and efficient communication, online collaboration tools can make or break your team’s accomplishments. Tools such as Google Workspace, Slack, Zoom, etc. are allowing teams to instantly connect and collaborate more productively.
DeskTime is another tool that will help your team’s collaboration efforts, as it not only tracks time, but also oversees the team’s overall progress, aids to optimize your resources, and helps to run your office more smoothly.
Be smart about your time!
Use DeskTime for time management, and always stay on top of your team’s efficiency ratings.
6. Nurture positive work culture
We spend about a third of our lives working, so it is important that every work day does not start with dreading being around your co-workers. Nurturing a positive work culture will encourage employees to collaborate and make the work process more pleasurable overall.
Positive work culture entails feeling respected by your peers, having support from leadership, following similar core values, accessing growth opportunities, and creating a welcoming atmosphere in general. The power of kindness at work goes a long way, so a positive work culture will foster meaningful and collaborative relationships.
7. Promote flexibility
No project or client will be the same, and sometimes the team will need to adapt to using new technology or strategy to make progress, so promoting flexibility within a collaborating team is a must.
Flexibility closely ties together with the concepts we have already discussed — adapting to change and keeping an open mind — and will help form a baseline for a positive and productive work environment in which employees feel empowered to tackle new challenges as a team.
8. Cultivate cross-team collaboration
Collaboration often goes beyond the immediate members of a team, and in order to provide employees with a well-rounded understanding of what is happening within the whole organization, you can cultivate cross-team collaboration.
This way, teams will not only have a better understanding of what different teams and departments are working on, but also strengthen interpersonal relationships and make employees feel their work has greater, more significant impact, rather than just being a cog in the machine.
9. Encourage innovation
If you’re a manager, you should regularly remind your employees that creative, innovative ideas are welcomed on your team and everyone should feel comfortable to share new perspectives without a fear of criticism from the rest of the team. Encourage your team to ask questions and foster curiosity as a part of the collaboration process.
Fear of rejection might be holding your team back from a substantial breakthrough and hindering great ideas, so make sure to create a work setting in which no questions or ideas are irrelevant, regardless of anyone’s position within the organization.
10. Celebrate and reward success
Only working for a paycheck is not enough motivation to keep employees engaged at work, so celebrating and rewarding the success of the team should be a priority to fuel the motivation to continually collaborate.
Whether it be significant milestones, completed projects, or small successes, embolden team members to celebrate their victories and show them their work makes a difference. Sometimes a simple thank you will be enough, but don’t hesitate to implement a reward system, share their success with the rest of the organization in a special way, or plan work get-togethers or events to praise the collective and individual achievements.
Avoid collaboration overload
While team collaboration is essential to foster, keep in mind that it is easy to create collaboration overload. Collaboration overload happens when team members engage so frequently that it negatively impacts their productivity and work satisfaction. Holding too many meetings, sending unnecessary emails, or having too many people collaborate on a single project can lead to workers feeling overwhelmed and less engaged.
For example, if someone is sharing their holiday pictures in the team chat that is meant for work-related messages or someone checks in that they are back from the dentist in the middle of a hectic work day, receiving that notification can significantly impact one’s productivity. One study found that it takes 23 (!) minutes to refocus after being distracted. And that’s only a single distraction.
Try to strike a balance when it comes to team collaboration, allowing for some deep, individual work as well. Actively listen to your employees and see if there are any areas of collaboration that perhaps need some scaling down.
Team collaboration is all about the people, so it is important to build systems that include defining clear goals, encouraging open-mindedness and flexibility, having diverse perspectives, cultivating transparent communication, nurturing positive work culture and innovation, as well as celebrating shared success.
That being said, keep in mind not to overwhelm your employees with too much collaboration, as it can negatively affect their well-being at work.
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