Workplace collaboration is central to business success. It drives creativity, innovation, and productivity.
Research shows that over the last two decades, collaboration at work has increased by 50%. Employees are 17% more satisfied with their jobs when they collaborate at work.
Although humans as a species rely on cooperation to survive, somehow collaborating in the workplace doesn’t always happen. There are reasons for this.
As an employer, it’s your responsibility to promote employee collaboration. To do that successfully, you must know the barriers to effective collaboration and how to overcome them. That’s what this article is all about.
Let’s get into it:
1. Fix Your Workplace Culture
Workplace culture is the beliefs, values, attitudes, systems, and even unwritten rules/policies that people in an organization share. It has a big impact on teamwork and collaboration.
Does your workplace culture support employee collaboration?
Sometimes employers and workplace managers create well-intentioned structures and policies but end up fostering an environment that inhibits collaboration. For example, you may decide to build an office plan because you believe it leads to more employee interactions, but it can actually discourage collaboration.
It’s time to evaluate how the various facets of your workplace culture are either separately or collectively affecting employee collaboration. Conduct a survey and gather your employees’ opinions. You’ll have a clearer perspective of what needs to change to build an environment where collaboration thrives.
2. Team Setup
Perhaps you’ve done the most to build a positive workplace culture, but you’re still seeing a low rate of employee collaboration. What could be the problem?
The answer could lie in the setup of your teams.
People are different. Some naturally thrive in a team environment and others prefer working in isolation. If you don’t keep this in mind when building your office teams, don’t be surprised if there’s little to no collaboration among team members.
As an organization that’s big on teamwork in the workplace, start by bringing in workers with great teamwork skills and who enjoy working in groups. If you’re hiring loners and putting them in group environments, don’t expect to have a collaborative workplace.
It’s also important to consider the professional skills of your employees when constituting teams. Putting employees with similar skill sets in the same team works against collaboration. They’ll feel that there’s nothing new to learn or gain from one another and they won’t collaborate as much as you’d like.
A good office collaboration practice is to put employees with complementary skills on the same team. Organizing team building events regularly will also help your employees learn about each other’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as create lasting bonds.
3. Define Roles and Expectations
Every worker in your organization has a role. You hired them because you needed them to fill a certain position. So it’s understandable that when you’re creating office teams, you assume that everyone knows their role.
However, that doesn’t always apply. Your employees know their role in the realm of the organization as a whole, but in the context of a small office team, they may not have a clear picture. This is why a poor definition of roles and expectations in a team environment is a major barrier to effective collaboration.
When setting up teams, flesh out roles and responsibilities for each member, as well as for the team. When team members know what the collective goal of a team is, and how their roles complement each other, they’re more inclined to collaborate.
4. Workplace Diversity
Diversity is one of the elements of workplace culture, but even on its own, it holds a lot of weight. We’re not talking about diversity in terms of employee skillsets. Our focus is on diversity in terms of gender, age, race, national origin, and other socio-cultural characteristics.
A recent Zippia survey shows that 60% of the U.S. workforce is white, 16% Latino/Hispanic, 10% Black, and 7% Asian. 70% are women, and the average office worker is 47 years old.
If your organization’s workforce follows this pattern, then it’s not as diverse as it should ideally be. If that’s the case, you’re going to have a hard time fostering employee teamwork.
A diverse workforce encourages collaboration because everyone feels they belong or that they aren’t a minority. Picture a scenario where you have a team of 10 workers and 7 of them are white and 3 are black. Of course, people can collaborate regardless of their race, but you have to face the fact that it’s harder for minority groups to overcome real or perceived racial microaggressions.
5. Provide Collaborative Technology Tools
Gone are the days when team collaboration was all about sitting around a table and bouncing ideas off of each other. As the modern workplace evolves and remote work takes root, organizations are relying on technology to drive collaboration.
Email has existed for years as the primary collaboration tool, but it’s now being replaced with more powerful tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams. Unfortunately, many small businesses are not providing the right tools their employees need to collaborate.
Yes, you can set up your teams on Slack, but if you aren’t using the paid version, you’re missing out on features that will unleash a collaborative spirit among your teams.
Lead by Example to Foster Employee Collaboration
The benefits of employee collaboration are well-documented. You want your business to enjoy them, but you must put in the work. Use these strategies to drive collaboration and above all, lead by example. Involve your employees in organizational decision-making and set the tone for them.
There’s a lot that goes into effective workforce management. Keep tabs on our blog for more tips and insights.