Implementing collaboration within your workplace is not as simple as it sounds. There is no switch you can flip that suddenly enables your teams to work collaboratively without issue. We’ve put together this guide to help you foster a collaborative culture among your teams and reap all the benefits that brings.
What is a Collaborative Workplace Culture?
Collaborative working has taken on new forms in the modern workplace. With the popularisation of hybrid working and video calls, an organisation no longer needs to be in the office every day to build a well-oiled culture of collaboration.
So what does a modern collaborative workplace look like? Here are a few characteristics vital for collaboration in today’s world.
A teamwork-friendly atmosphere
If collaboration is going to thrive, the atmosphere has to be right. Employees need to feel like they CAN work together, and that they can go and speak to each other without being scrutinised for being away from their desks.
Even virtually, workers should be able to message and talk to each other without having to justify it. Widespread communication should be enabled, with employees able to message anyone they like, and have the power to set up meetings with whomever they choose.
Spaces to work together (real or virtual)
To enable a workplace where employees collaborate, they need the space to do so. Traditionally, this would require the availability of separate spaces where workers can meet, discuss their work and take time away from their screens to plan together.
However, post-pandemic, organisations no longer need a physical space to break out into to collaborate necessarily. Virtual spaces are just as effective, enabling employees to take a step back from their workload and have a freeform discussion with their colleagues about work.
Trust & openness across the hierarchy
In order for an atmosphere suitable for collaboration to develop, employees need to know they are free to work together. For this to happen, there needs to be an element of openness across the hierarchy of the organisation. All levels of management must be bought-into the notion of collaborative working, and have the trust in their workers that this freedom is going to be used well.
An employee at the bottom of the organisation’s structure should feel no shame in walking across the room, past the MD’s desk, and sitting beside a colleague to have a chat about work. Everyone should be aware that this is acceptable, and even encouraged by management.
If all the above points are established, the next step is employee empowerment. Giving your workers some level of autonomy over their own work not only helps them to feel a sense of ownership of it, but it also demonstrates the trust that management has in them to make the best decisions that are in their power.
Empowering your employees in this way also proves that your organisation values unique ways of working, and encourages people to work in whatever way is best for them. This type of workplace gives collaboration the environment it needs to grow and thrive among your employees.
Learn more about employee empowerment here – Employee Empowerment: Everything You Need To Know
The right tools for collaboration
One thing crucial to enable a culture of collaboration is the right tools. If your teams are stuck using some old isolated system not designed for collaborating, it makes the process ten times harder. Invest in tools that enable teams to work together on documents, to edit boards in a Kanban workspace or view a central dashboard.
Verto 365’s streamlined system gives teams all the tools they need for seamless collaboration. Automated document management, centralised dashboards and multiple agile workspaces are ideal for any modern organisation looking to foster a collaborative culture.
Advantages of a Collaborative Workforce
So if an organisation implements all these things, what do they get out of it? What benefits does a culture of collaboration bring to a workplace? Here at Verto we could talk endlessly about this, and we have, here in our article highlighting the Benefits of Collaborative Working.
But if you’re just looking for the highlights, here are some of the benefits collaboration can bring to any organisation:
- Collaboration breeds creativity and innovation
- Working together helps everybody learn and improve
- Teamwork is proven to help improve workplace mental health
- Collaborative working cultures attract the best talent
- Quality of work improves, and therefore the organisation’s bottom line
While these are undeniable benefits in themselves, each one of these points helps to improve multiple aspects of the workplace. For example, better workplace mental health means higher productivity and lower staff turnover.
10 Ways to Foster a Culture of Collaboration
Creating a workplace culture that empowers collaboration requires a level of commitment from everybody for it to work. If you are involved with decision-making in your organisation, follow these steps to start implementing collaboration into your teams’ daily routines.
1) Streamline workplace communication
First of all, employees need to be able to communicate seamlessly in order to collaborate. Instant messaging tools are ideal for creating a certain synergy in the workplace, allowing teams to shoot thoughts and ideas between each other instantly.
Enable your workers to communicate instantly and swiftly, and remove any physical barriers that could be holding collaboration back.
2) Delegate responsibilities & autonomy
Employee empowerment starts at the top. If you can allow some of your teams to be involved in the decision making process, this proves that you value their opinions and encourage them to follow suit.
Giving your workers a level of autonomy over their own work enables them to approach issues in a way that suits them. With increased autonomy, employees can feel more comfortable organising their own collaboration scenarios.
3) Vouch for a collaborative culture
If collaboration is coming as quite a culture shift for your organisation, it requires buy-in at every level for it to work. Those in positions of leadership need to model the way forward, and lead by example.
Get others involved in higher level meetings, start putting together projects that demand collaboration, or simply open the floor to others more often in meetings.
4) Enable collaboration through tasks
One surefire way to get employees working together is by setting tasks that mandate collaboration. By creating teams beyond the usual social circles, you can help encourage collaboration between teams at every level.
It’s no secret that the best results are achieved through teamwork, so this will help your deliverables alongside fostering collaboration.
5) Use a platform that encourages teamwork
No matter how much you vouch for it, collaboration cannot really take root until you are digitally enabled by the right tools. Invest in a digital platform that provides all the functionality your organisation needs to work, and coupled with employee empowerment, collaboration can start to take hold among your employees.
6) Allow team relationships to grow
One crucial component for collaboration is socialisation. Employees are more likely to work together and achieve the desired outcomes if they get on. While social relationships always develop naturally, it’s your role as a manager to help this along.
In order to foster collaboration, you first have to foster the notion of teams among your employees. Social events and team building are both great ways to help the social dynamic of your organisation to flourish.
7) Empower your team to make decisions
Delegation of decision-making is a great way to empower your team and help improve their autonomy. By granting your teams this authority over their own work, you can encourage collaboration between them, even when you’re not present.
There are various levels of autonomy you can give your teams when it comes to decision-making. This might mean giving them the ability to make the big creative calls, or just simple decisions about their schedules. This shows that you trust your team, and that trust is a great motivator.
8) Encourage open & honest communication
Collaboration is built on genuine, open communication. If your team are able to discuss their ideas in an open, fair and honest manner, you’re halfway there. Without this, your team won’t be able to collaborate effectively.
You can instil this value in your team by encouraging relationship building. Positive relationships between team members is essential for oiling the wheels of communication and helping them to work together.
9) Be an approachable manager
An autocratic, unapproachable style of management doesn’t exactly set the right tone for collaboration. As the leader of a collaborative team, you have to set the example yourself by being approachable and in favour of a collaborative environment.
You can do this in both physical and psychological ways. Sit with your team to break down that worker-manager boundary. Ask your team what they think about things more often. Involve them in decision making. Demonstrate the culture of collaboration that you’re trying to instil in them. Check out our blog on Managing a Project Team for more guidance.
10) Remove roadblocks to collaboration
There are many things that can derail your efforts in creating a culture of collaboration. Some of this can be changed, such as the mindset of stakeholders, whereas something may not be able to be changed, such as your physical working environment.
With each roadblock removed, your culture of collaboration can grow a little bit. Though there may always be limitations, there are additional things you can do to compensate for where your organisation’s setup doesn’t lend itself to collaborative working.
Learn what else you can do to build collaboration into the foundations of your organisation here: Top Collaboration Strategies for Modern Organisations
What Can Hinder Collaborative Working?
Here are some things that can negatively impact a culture of collaboration among your teams.
1) The silo mentality
Organisations with multiple work teams and departments often find silos developing. Teams or groups may be hesitant to work together, or to share information. Perceived divisions may manifest as real divisions if the working environment does nothing to break the silo mentality.
In order to collaborate properly, the silo mentality must be banished from your organisation. Ensure that effective communication methods are put into place, and any opportunity to work across silos is taken. Learn more about opening up silos in our article: The Silo Mentality Explained
2) Unconvinced stakeholders
Collaboration can only become part of your organisation’s culture if those at the top see the value of it. Changing working practices in favour of teamwork and cross-departmental collaboration is a big change. Therefore, you need your stakeholders to buy into it.
From their perspective, they’ll be focusing on how collaboration affects the bottom line. How does your particular methods of collaboration improve efficiency? Does it deliver better results? Build a business case using examples from where your collaboration strategies have delivered results.
3) Remote working
Without a culture of collaboration, teams working remotely can each become their own silo. If your organisation works remotely a lot of the time, you’ll have to implement extra measures to create opportunities to collaborate.
Regular communication, team meetings and rapport building are all essential for creating an effective remote team. Define which incoming tasks lend themselves to collaboration, and build sub-teams or pairs where you feel rapport needs to build.
4) Physical limitations
Many office spaces are frankly not designed for collaboration. Some organisations utilise seperate cubicles for staff members to minimise distractions. But in doing so, they snuff out the collaborative spark.
Offices that are seperated into small rooms can contribute to the silo mentality. Managers who sit away from their teams will find it more challenging to fit into the team dynamic. These things can be resolved by utilising a space that allows for free movement and that promotes a flat team structure.
5) Lack of team dynamic
Perhaps the biggest challenge with collaboration is instilling the will within the team to do so. This simply cannot be done if the team dynamic is not up to the task. If your team haven’t established relationships with each other, the overall atmosphere need attention.
You can build a team dynamic by engineering situations where your team are able to socialise and build relationships that contribute to the dynamic. Social events, team lunches and a relaxed working atmosphere can all help to build a positive team dynamic.
6) Bad examples from leadership
As we’ve mentioned, collaboration starts at the top. If senior leadership figures are modelling collaboration in the way that they work, this mentality will feed into the wider business.
Leaders that do not exemplify collaborative values will promote a similar mentality among their teams. This is why buy-in at the senior leadership level is so important. Lead by example, and set the standard for how collaboration should be working within your organisation.
7) Lack of opportunity
Some roles don’t lend themselves to collaborative working. But collaboration doesn’t always have to mean a team working on one task. Three individuals with different skill sets can still collaborate and work towards the same goal.
For example, the only designer in a team may not be able to rely on their colleagues for high-level guidance. But their colleagues can still provide a ‘layman’s opinion’ of whatever is being designed. They can also provide insight on how their design feeds into the work that they are doing. Opportunities for collaboration cannot always be found, but they can always be created.
8) Communication issues
Issues with communication are a huge bugbear for collaboration. A lack of one simple system for communication can create silos, and exclude people who do not use a particular platform or method.
Communication issues aren’t always due to a lack of means. Some groups or individuals in the organisation may not be able or willing to share certain things. These barriers must be eroded, and effective lines of communication established with everyone required.
9) No centralised workspace
It is often the case within organisations that departments operate almost autonomously. One might use a certain platform for task management, while one might use another. This lack of centralisation can cause a myriad of issues for collaboration, such as:
- No common comms line
- Multiple versions of the same document
- Duplicated work efforts
- No standardised formatting of work
- Mismatched deadlines and timelines
In order to remedy this, you need a platform that can provide a solution to all your working management needs. Task management, document sharing, scheduling and reporting are all essential for effective, seamless collaboration.
Luckily, Verto 365 offers just that.
Foster Collaboration with Verto 365
Available both on web and within Microsoft Teams, Verto 365 is the complete solution for collaborative work management. Through a range of tools, Verto 365 can help you instill the collaboration mindset into the foundations of your organisation. With Verto 365, you can:
- Manage, assign and delegate tasks and workloads
- Build out workflows with Kanban boards and Gantt charts
- Create dashboards to keep stakeholders informed
- Store files securely and collaborate on centralised documents
- Track dependencies that affect your workload and deliverables