What is Collaboration in the Workplace? Benefits & Strategies

Collaboration in the workplace is a work style that helps employees work together to achieve a common goal in ways that benefit a company and its employees. Discover essential strategies to improve collaboration and teamwork in your digital workplace:

Collaboration and Teamwork in the Workplace

Employee collaboration is much more than just a trendy phrase. It describes a work style that puts employees on track to work more diligently and efficiently to achieve a successful outcome on their assigned projects. A study conducted by Stanford University found that participants who worked collaboratively were able to stay with a task 64% longer than those who worked independently.

This approach to project and task management is more than a trend. It is a work style that is here to stay. This article dives into some of the benefits of collaborative working and specific strategies for introducing it in the workplace.

Teamwork and Collaboration in the Workplace

How would you describe collaboration in the workplace? According to indeed.com, the definition of collaboration in the workplace is “working together with one or more people to complete a project or task or develop ideas or processes.” In a workplace setting, the people who are collaborating must communicate clearly and share knowledge effectively.

Teamwork is just one of the skills required for collaboration and necessary to accomplish tasks as a group. It also includes several soft skills that can be developed over time and with experience.

 

“What We’re Doing” versus “How We’re Going to Do It”

 

Collaboration is an essential part of teamwork and helps a successful team function most effectively. If the team can’t get on the same page about what it is doing (i.e., the “what” it wants to accomplish), it isn’t going to be able to work out the details of what each team member’s role will be in reaching the team’s goal (i.e., “how” it is going to get there).

 

Examples of Teamwork in the Workplace

Teamwork is a strategy that has worked exceedingly well to help organizations of all types and sizes reach a common goal. The following examples of real-life problem-solving show what can be done by a team that collaborates and works well together.

 

NASA Apollo 11 Mission to the Moon 1969

The Moon landing in July 1969 was a “giant leap for mankind,” in the immortal words of astronaut Neil Armstrong. The entire world was fascinated by the journey of Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins as they traveled to the moon, landed on its surface and then returned safely to Earth.

Many hours of work and several years of research led up to that moment when the crew splashed down in the ocean. There were multiple teams of people at the top of their respective fields who worked to ensure the best outcome possible. NASA stated there were approximately 400,000 people who worked on the moon landing project. Many of them had never worked on aerospace applications before. However, they were able to apply their knowledge to this new field and work closely with the astronauts.

 

Starbucks Store Expansion Early 1990s

Starbucks is a well-known coffee brand that is familiar to most consumers. You don’t have to travel very far in any major urban area to find one of their stores. Over the years, the Starbucks product line has expanded to include breakfast, lunch, and snack items as well as a variety of hot and cold beverages.

The company opened its first store in Seattle in 1971. By 1990, it had expanded to a chain of 84 stores, according to the company timeline. At that time, the company announced its new mission statement: “To inspire and nurture the human spirit — one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.

Starbucks also introduced a stock-options plan for employees (including part-time workers) at around the same time. However, the company still had some issues around customer service and a lack of communication between employees working in different roles.

In 1995, Howard Behar came on board as the company President. He took steps to change the work environment to make it more responsive to employees’ needs. As a result, overall customer service improved. Mr. Behar took the position that the company was selling an experience, as opposed to just coffee, and encouraged team members to successfully collaborate around that mission.

 

Teamwork Example

 

Why do Companies set Collaboration Goals in the Workplace?

This working style helps employees feel engaged in what they are doing by building relationships between people and encouraging them to grow in their professional life. Tasks that would be far too big and challenging for one person to take on can be divided between several people and successfully completed by a team.

 

Which Skills are Essential for Successful Workplace Collaboration?

Working as part of a group is not something that comes naturally to everyone. It takes time and effort to develop the skills necessary to be able to put collaborative working practices into place. Keep in mind that everyone has strengths and weaknesses. But by working as a team, the group can capitalize on its strengths and find ways around the areas its members find more challenging.

Some of the soft skills required when teams collaborate include active listening, empathy, problem-solving, and accountability.

Read More: 8 Types of Collaboration to Use in your Digital Workplace

 

Is On-Site Collaboration More Effective than Virtual Collaboration?

When Marissa Mayer took over as Yahoo’s CEO in September 2013, she made a decision that was controversial to the company employees as well as many observers: No one would be allowed to work from home. Her take on the matter was that “people are more collaborative and innovative when they’re together face to face.

Graduate student Akshata Narain conducted a study as part of a Capstone Research project that looked at whether face-to-face teams are more creative than virtual ones. In the online survey, she looked at virtual collaboration in the workplace to discover the impact it had on creativity. The study, which looked at results from 299 participants, found that teams working on-site had an advantage over those who were collaborating virtually when they were being evaluated for creativity.

However, virtual collaborators had an unexpected benefit: The lack of face-to-face contact reduced inhibitions among younger or less experienced team members. They felt they could express themselves more freely to the group.

 

 

Benefits of Cooperation and Collaboration in the Workplace

Why would a company want to encourage employee collaboration? Here are a few reasons:

 

1. It allows the team to pool their resources

No one member of the team is good at everything, but everyone on the team has something they excel at. Together, they can complement each other’s strengths and compensate for areas that are more challenging. A team works together to present a united front to get a project, campaign, or complicated task completed.

 

2. Collaborative working practices increase efficiency

When employees work together, they can find solutions more quickly than if one person on their own. The work can be divided so that deadlines are met in a timely manner, and no one person ends up being overwhelmed by having to do most of the work.

 

3. It gives team members the chance to learn from each other

Each person on a team brings the benefit of their education and previous work history experiences to the table. Each person also has their own personality and particular way of thinking. Some people are very verbal and love to communicate, while others prefer to take more time to think through something before sharing.

Every participant on a team has the potential to teach someone else. For this reason, it is important that the team build trust among its members.

 

4. Employee collaboration encourages workers to see the bigger picture of the company

When employees are working on their own, they can feel isolated from their peers and discouraged in their daily tasks. They may even feel as though the work they do isn’t important and doesn’t really matter to anyone. This, of course, is not true. Everyone at the company is needed, and their work matters.

Teams that are made up of people from different departments give employees the chance to see that their contributions matter to the entire company. This type of company culture instills a sense of pride in employees and helps to set the stage for future successful collaborations.

 

5. It promotes employee retention

Employees who are engaged in their work are more likely to stay with their employer on a long-term basis. They are happier in their work, and it shows in how they interact with each other and with customers.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median number of years that salaried and wage-earning employees stay with their current employer was 4.2 years (2018). In 2012, and again in 2014, the median time employees stayed with their current employer was 4.6 years, slightly longer. In 2004, it was only four years.

However, when employees decide to change jobs, it ends up being costly for their employers. The average cost to replace an employee is approximately six to nine months’ salary (Society for Human Resource Management – SHRM). For an employee earning $40,000.00 per year, this works out to $20,000.00-$30,000.00 to find and train a replacement.

Read More: Top 15 Benefits and Examples of Team Collaboration

 

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Strategies for Building Employee Collaboration in the Workplace

Now that you have seen some of the benefits of adopting an environment of collaboration and trust in the workplace, how do you go about reaching that goal? Here are some ideas for workplace collaboration to consider:

 

1. Set clear goals for the team

“Why are we here?” is a fair question at the start of the collaboration process. The group needs to know what a good outcome will look like. Unless someone comes up with a “big picture” idea first, the team has no direction and no idea whether it is even on the right track.

 

2. Encourage active listening

Most people don’t practice active listening during their interactions with others. Instead, they wait for their turn to speak. Active listening requires the other person or people to slow down and think about what the speaker is saying. It also allows time for the person responding to gather their own thoughts before making a thoughtful reply.

Active listening encourages team members to ask questions to clarify what they have heard. “Sally, I think what you are saying is X, Y, and Z. Is that right?” Sally can reply, “Yes,” or correct the other person if they did not understand her idea fully or correctly.

 

3. Give employees the technology they need for effective collaboration

Working collaboratively should be something that enhances the employee experience, not something that should be pushed on a worker to deal with. Reassure employees they will be given the right collaboration tools to do their work effectively.

 

4. Promote accountability by documenting processes the team has agreed on

It can be challenging for team members to keep track of everything that was said and what was decided in a meeting, whether it was conducted in person or virtually. Depending on the team members’ preferences, it can be helpful to use shared documents to take notes or send a follow-up email after a meeting to summarize decisions and next steps for the team.

You can leverage the company intranet platform and distribute information through posts or articles. Sharing information and collaborating on a cloud-based platform allows all team members to stay on track and creates a reference base for future projects.

 

5. Focus on finding solutions when problems arise

When snags happen and interfere with plans (and they will), it’s important to focus on finding a solution rather than getting stuck on trying to figure out which person on the team is to blame. The bottom line is that problems are opportunities for everyone to learn how to do something differently next time.

 

6. Recognize and reward employees for their efforts

When a team has completed a project, it’s very important to recognize the members’ efforts in some manner. The recognition does not have to be monetary. It can be a shout-out in the company newsletter, a personal note from the CEO thanking them, or a catered lunch from a local restaurant.

Recognition is also about giving a voice to employees to share their accomplishments. International organizations like Imerys are using communities to create a worldwide employee recognition center (Life@Imerys), where both leaders and fellow colleagues can celebrate success stories with their peers. The important thing is that management noticed that the team worked hard, completed the project, reached its goal, and recognized them for it.

 

7. Treat collaboration in the workplace as a living, evolving thing

It is not enough to simply “try” to improve collaboration as a pilot project. If a company is going to adopt it as their way of working, the management team and employees have to understand that this is the way things will be done going forward.

There is always room to make changes and adjustments over time. Collaboration at work is a way to make projects run more smoothly, help keep employees engaged, and ensure that the company reaches its goals. Once you have everyone on your teams collaborating effectively, the results will speak for themselves.

Read more: 10 Smart Ideas to Really Improve Employee Collaboration

 

Collaboration in the workplace is a work style that helps employees work together to achieve a common goal in ways that benefit a company and its employees. Collaboration is an essential part of teamwork and helps a successful team function most effectively.

  • It encourages problem-solving
  • It allows employees to learn from each other
  • Employee productivity rates go up
  • Employee wellness and engagement improve
  • Remote teams are more efficient

Discover all the Benefits

  1. Create a supportive work environment
  2. Communicate expectations clearly
  3. Work with your employees’ strengths
  4. Encourage team members to brainstorm
  5. Use an online platform to collaborate

Discover all the strategies