Collaborative teams are becoming one of the key drivers for innovation across a wide range of industries. By sharing ideas and working together to develop unique solutions to problems, these teams have shown themselves to be resourceful and versatile, making them ideally suited for today’s multifaceted business challenges.
It makes sense, then, that companies are always looking for new ways to encourage employees to collaborate more effectively. While they often emphasize education and development to ensure that team members have the skills they need to communicate and work together, organizations can also implement a number of strategies to build a broader culture that encourages effective collaboration.
Involve Your Team in Hiring
Teams like to know the people they’ll be working with and have a lot of ideas about who will be a good fit for what they do. When it comes time to bring on new members, it can be helpful to involve the team in the hiring process. The benefits extend both to the existing team and the candidate. Team members get to look at their potential coworkers and provide feedback about candidates, turning the hiring process itself into a form of collective collaboration. They may ask pointed questions that interviewers might not have considered, which can help to better assess someone’s fit for the position. Candidates get to meet the people they would be working with and see how the organizational culture promotes collaboration as well as ask more specific questions about their actual day-to-day responsibilities.
If an organization wants to promote better communication and collaboration, it can go a long way toward setting an example by being more transparent. Employees often feel like they don’t know enough about what is going on in their company as a whole, so being open about organizational goals and challenges can help them feel like they are well informed and trusted with important information. If the company is encountering problems, sharing information with employees and asking if they have any solutions demonstrates that the cultural emphasis on collaboration is a deeply held commitment at all levels of the organization. Considering that survey studies have shown that 40 percent of employees think decision makers consistently fail to seek out other opinions, expanding these conversations can encourage employees to do the same with their own teams.
Implement Cross-Functional Teams
Cross-functional teams are an effective way of dealing with complex tasks that require skills from multiple departments. They also expose employees to new ideas and new ways of doing things. By building collaborative teams and forcing people to step outside of their comfort zones, they can both learn a great deal and develop better relationships with other people throughout the organization. While cross-functional teams are usually formed with a specific task in mind, companies looking to encourage a spirit of effective collaboration might want to consider finding opportunities for different departments to work together. This presents a learning experience for everyone involved, and also builds company spirit..
Think About Your Environment
The actual layout of the office environment can have a major impact on how well people collaborate with their teams. Many office layouts actively encourage competition between employees and make it difficult for employees to work in productive teams. By utilizing more open office layouts and incorporating different kinds of meeting spaces, such as conference rooms, common areas, and breakout rooms, organizations can give employees varied opportunities for collaborating with others. Although there are certainly criticisms about open office layouts, studies have found that employees are 50 percent more likely to collaborate and are 34 times more likely to respond to a verbal request than they would be to an email. For those who work across boundaries it is important to ensure technology like video conferencing and messaging features are available to foster communication.
Encourage Cohesive Teams
Working in teams is an essential part of how to build a collaborative culture, but organizing people into teams with clear tasks isn’t always enough to promote effective collaboration. Daily meetings and task management software can help bring team members together on a regular basis and give them a sense of solidarity and purpose. By keeping teams small enough that each person has a specific role, teams can eliminate concerns about competition and duplication, making it easier for them to stay focused on the task at hand rather than worrying about how work is being assigned. Providing channels for team members to communicate and share projects makes it easier for them to cooperate and work collectively toward their assigned goals.
While organizations put a lot of emphasis on establishing education and development programs to help employees build the soft skills they need to collaborate more effectively, there are other steps they can take to build a true culture of collaboration. By implementing a few key strategies, organizations can make it easier for their teams to cooperate and develop innovative new solutions to drive business success.