Joint working and collaboration are essential in any workplace. Whether it’s two colleagues interacting to complete a task, or a cross-departmental team working on a specific project, employee collaboration is a feature across all businesses both large and small. However, collaboration in the workplace is often taken for granted. It’s almost seen as a given by employers that staff will have an innate ability to get along with each other, collaborative effectively and produce a successful outcome. However, the reality is often very different. In fact, much like other workplace attributes, effective collaboration skills need to be nurtured and developed. So, does your team have the required workplace collaboration skills? Let’s find out what they are and how you can promote them in your business. First though let’s define effective workplace collaboration.
Effective Workplace Collaboration: What Does It Look Like?
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the definition of the word collaboration is to work with someone else in order to create something or produce something. And the basic measure of an effective workplace collaboration is whether the output is better than that which an individual working alone would have produced. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Effective workplace collaboration, however, comes with a number of challenges and so before you can begin to look at whether your team members have the required collaboration skills, it’s important to ensure that as an organization, you have addressed the challenges.
Workplace Collaboration Skills: Developing The Right Company Culture
In order for collaboration skills to thrive in a company, there has to first be the right company culture in place. Business owners, managers and executives need to create the perfect conditions in which to develop employee collaboration across the board and this involves setting some important parameters. The following steps need to be in place before effective workplace collaboration can be developed:
Effective workplace collaboration requires a clear division of labor with roles and responsibilities assigned to each party from the outset. It should be agreed in advance what each partner is contributing to the collaborative process. Business owners and managers need to set this up as an expectation for every collaboration. Clearly, it will be more detailed and involved for large projects involving staff from across the organization, but it’s good practice for even smaller collaborations where one or two sentences clarifying responsibilities is all that’s required.
Recognition Of And Respect
Recognition of and respect for the input of all collaborators is an important prerequisite for effective employee collaboration. All collaborators should be created equal even in large cross-departmental teams where staff members will be at different levels in the organization. Team members need to feel as though their contributions as valid as anyone else’s. Companies that have successful workplace collaboration foster a sense of tolerance and acceptance as being the basis for success. After all, collaboration requires diverse groups and individuals to work together. There will be differences in individuals’ value systems, culture, beliefs and work methods. Rather than being a potential source of conflict and stress, the organization needs to ensure that diversity is a source of strength.
Group Goals Supersede Personal Ones
In a successful collaboration, the group’s goals are placed above individual ones. It’s the achievement of the wider project that’s important here. The egos and personal goals of individual members of the group take a backseat while the collaboration is in progress. Business owners and managers need to set this as a clear expectation for effective workplace collaboration.
It’s OK To Make Occasional Mistakes
A blame culture or holding a grudge against a colleague that makes a mistake will only sabotage the efforts of the whole group. Successful employee collaboration requires a recognition that errors will happen from time to time and there has to be a willingness for individuals to apologize for any blunders in the wider interests of joint working. In addition, being able to analyze problems without assigning blame is a central aspect of effective workplace collaboration.
So, now that you have the right company culture in place to support collaboration in the workplace, it’s time to look at the collaboration skills employees need to have.
Employee Collaboration Skills Required
Check out any job description and the chances are there will be some requirement for the job holder to be able to work as part of a team. A recent survey from the National Association for College’s and Employers discovered that nearly 80 percent of respondents look for evidence of the candidate’s ability to work well in a team. However, another report from the Association of American Colleges & Universities found that only 40 percent of businesses agreed that new graduates had the teamwork skills that employers actually need. So what are the skills that employees need to be effective collaborators and team players?
It almost goes without saying that good communication is at the heart of effective workplace collaboration. The better a team is able to communicate, the better it will be able to cope with some of the challenges we identified earlier around uncertainty about roles and responsibilities as well as clarity of purpose. Effective workplace collaboration requires employees to express themselves clearly and to regularly update team members on the project and their individual responsibilities. Employees, therefore, need to be able to manage multiple channels of communication so that the team is all on the same page and working towards a common goal.
When it comes to drafting or revising a job description, you may want to include the following requirements to ensure the candidate has the necessary communication skills.
- The ability to actively listen to others’ viewpoints as well as facilitating and positively contributing to group discussions.
- Excellent organizational skills, managing different communication channels and being able to clearly and concisely update colleagues on progress and milestones achieved.
Successful workplace collaboration requires employees to be good at problem-solving. Being creative, using initiative and finding solutions are all important aspects of employee collaboration. This attribute will be important not only in relation to the task at hand, but also in relation to managing difficult situations and impasses within the collaboration.
To ensure that you recruit the right candidate, you may want to specify the following in your job descriptions.
- Ability to problem solve and seek creative solutions in challenging situations.
- Able to identify obstacles to success and achieve consensus about the best way forward.
The ability to get on with people is, of course, fundamental to a good employee collaborator. What’s more, the individual should be a team player whose main focus is on achieving common goals for the greater good of the organization. Individuals who are primarily motivated by personal goals tend not to be the best collaborators. Being able to maintain a sense of humor will also come in handy as will the ability to speak respectfully to colleagues.
The capacity to compromise is also an important interpersonal skill. A certain amount of compromise is required in workplace collaboration. In order to reach the best solution, an amalgamation of ideas is required which will involve compromise to a greater or lesser extent.
So, when it comes to finding candidates with the right interpersonal skills, how about including the following requirements in your recruitment campaign.
- Capable of working well with others and effective at getting the input of everyone on the team including quieter members.
- Possesses the capacity to compromise and is willing to make concessions in order to move the group forward in finding solutions.
Resource Management Skills
We’ve touched on this already but effective workplace collaboration is dependent on the ability to organize and share information. Juggling document management, project management and those all-important lines of communication as well as actually getting on with the job in hand require excellent time and resource management skills. In addition, successful employee collaboration is dependent on individuals freely sharing their knowledge and expertise within the group. There’s no place for employees that like to hoard their knowledge or who perpetrate information silos.
And so, when it comes to resource management skills, the following requirements will help to ensure your needs are met.
- Able to make effective use of tools and resources to organize and share information with colleagues.
- Uses their initiative to develop systems and processes to ensure information, data and knowledge is shared in support of the organization’s aims and objectives.
Reliability And Dependability
Finally, workplace collaboration is all about trust – to be effective each collaborator must trust that their colleagues will perform the role they’ve been assigned to the best of their ability. Reliability, dependability and consistency are, therefore, important attributes that individual team members need to display. If the team isn’t reliable then chaos will ensue and the collaboration will at best be disappointing and at worst will be a complete failure. This aspect is so important that you may want to include the following requirements in your job descriptions.
- Commitment to investing the necessary time and energy to complete the tasks and fulfill the expectations of the role.
- Able to meet the required deadlines for the role and individual contributions to project teams.
Examples Of Collaboration In The Workplace
Now that we’ve identified the company culture required to support effective workplace collaboration as well as the skills individual employee collaborators need to have, let’s turn our attention to examples of effective collaboration in the workplace. Here we look at an everyday scenario that’s common across most organizations to illustrate how effective collaboration might work in your business.
Workplace Scenario: Development Of A New Marketing Strategy
Most companies have a marketing strategy in place so let’s assume that your one is up for review. How would you go about approaching this task in your company? For most businesses the review would involve selecting a few key staff – usually from those that happened to be in the office that day, setting up a meeting and revising the existing strategy over email with the draft document being sent backward and forwards across the company. No doubt there will be a few glitches along the way due to misunderstandings about roles and responsibilities, but no bother, you get there in the end. Once the new strategy has been agreed by the board, its publication is announced in an all-staff email and hard copies are distributed across the company. Does this have a ring of truth about for your business? Well, it’s certainly not uncommon. But how would the process work in a business that has effective workplace collaboration skills in operation? Let’s take a look.
- Setting up a project team. Using the intranet’s staff directory which identifies areas of expertise and subject knowledge, a project team is set up with cross-departmental representation. Clear roles and responsibilities are assigned and agreed by the project team.
- A shared project space is set up on the office intranet. Access is restricted to the members of the project team only and, regardless of where they are physically located, team members can use the project space to share insights, information and data as well as brainstorming ideas.
- A project plan and timeline is produced. Key milestones and accountabilities are identified and the project plan is published on the intranet’s project space. Team members can report on progress and update members on issues directly in real-time using a MS Project spreadsheet embedded in the intranet project space.
- Staff views are sought through an intranet poll. Consulting with the wider staff body is not only a good idea in terms of achieving a better product, it will also enhance employee engagement across the board and we all know that engaged employees tend to be happier and more productive. So be sure to canvass the views of staff through an intranet survey.
- A draft marketing strategy is developed. Instead of emailing different versions backward and forwards, an embedded MS Word or Google Doc in the intranet’s project space allows team members to simultaneously work on the draft in real time and the document is automatically updated by the intranet which means that team members can be confident they are accessing the very latest version.
- The marketing strategy is finalized and approved by the board. Instead of printing and distributing the final strategy to all teams and relevant personnel, the document is published on the intranet and all staff are informed through the intranet’s news feed. Staff can then access or download the full strategy directly from the intranet anytime they need to.
Benefits Of Workplace Collaboration
As you can see from the example above, what was once a haphazard and disorganized process is a much clearer, more streamlined and productive one in the collaborative workplace. Pretty much every job in the workplace involves some form of joint effort by members of a team working collaboratively to achieve a common goal. With so much riding on the ability of employees to collaborate effectively, employers cannot afford to leave joint working to chance. Developing the right collaboration skills requires a proactive approach from employers not only in terms of selecting individuals with the right skillset but also in fostering a supportive company culture.
Having the right collaboration tools in place also makes a big difference. Contact the team at MyHub Intranet Solutions to discover how an intranet can support effective workplace collaboration skills in your business.