Joint working and collaboration are essential in any workplace. Whether the transition to more people working remotely (as a result of Covid-19) will either help or hinder collaboration remains to be seen. Either way, employee collaboration – where two or more colleagues interact to complete a task or a cross-departmental team works on a specific project – is a crucial part of everyday business. However, team collaboration in the workplace is often taken for granted. Employers tend to assume staff have a natural ability to get along with each other, collaborate effectively, and produce successful outcomes. 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? First, let’s define effective workplace collaboration.
Effective Workplace Collaboration: What Does It Look Like?
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, collaboration is to work with someone else in order to create or produce something. The measure of effective workplace collaboration is whether the output is better than what an individual working alone would have produced. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? However, effective workplace collaboration comes with several challenges. And so, the first step to effective collaboration is to ensure that, as an organization, you have addressed the challenges. Once that step is completed, you can begin to look at whether your team members have the required collaboration skills.
Why Is Team Collaboration Important?
You may well be asking yourself why team collaboration important? Here are some of the many business benefits that joint working can bring to your organization.
Many a breakthrough moment has resulted from workers simply sharing their bright ideas. Different employees have varied experiences, perspectives, and insights. Sharing and developing ideas together can lead to breakthrough thinking. It could be a product innovation or a productivity improvement. Whatever the case, collaboration supports idea sharing and a culture of creativity and innovation.
Bringing people together with different skills increases the amount of knowledge and expertise you can draw on. Collaboration helps you to solve problems faster and will drive better outcomes for the organization.
Sharing internal knowledge is much easier within a collaborative workplace. Information and knowledge flow more readily, reducing the risks associated with key employees changing jobs or leaving the company altogether.
Collaboration provides workers with more opportunities to learn and develop. Employees acquire new skills and knowledge every time they collaborate. It’s a win-win situation. The employer benefits from the worker’s increased expertise. And the employee given the opportunity to develop will feel valued and appreciated by the organization.
Completing tasks and meeting deadlines is much quicker and easier when there’s a joint effort. The task can be broken down and divided up based on individuals’ strengths. And for the company, that means improved efficiencies and more productivity.
Workplace Collaboration Skills: Developing The Right Company Culture
For collaboration skills to thrive in a company, there must first be the right company culture in place. Business owners, managers, and executives need to create the perfect conditions to develop employee collaboration across the board. And this involves setting some important boundaries. The following steps need to be in place before effective workplace collaboration can be developed.
Effective workplace collaboration requires a clear division of labor. Roles and responsibilities should be assigned to each party from the outset. Be sure to agree in advance on 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. One or two sentences clarifying responsibilities is all that’s required.
Recognition And Respect For Others
Recognition and respect for the input of all collaborators is an essential starting point for effective employee collaboration. All collaborators should be created equal. This applies even in large cross-departmental teams where members will be at different levels in the organization. Team members need to feel as though their contributions are as valid as anyone else’s. Companies with successful workplace collaboration foster a sense of tolerance and acceptance as 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, the organization needs to ensure 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 individuals 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 colleagues that make mistakes only sabotages the whole group’s efforts. Successful employee collaboration involves recognizing that errors will happen from time to time. And there has to be a willingness for individuals to apologize for any blunders in the interests of joint working. Plus, the ability to analyze problems without assigning blame is key to effective workplace collaboration.
Obstacles To Effective Collaboration
Even with the right company culture in place. It’s not all plain sailing. Sometimes roadblocks and obstacles get in the way of effective collaboration. Here are some of the most common ones to keep an eye out for.
Make sure the goals and objectives for the collaboration are clearly defined at the start. Without a project plan and a sense of direction, it’s difficult to collaborate effectively. Spend time on developing a plan that sets out objectives and the milestones required for success.
Successful collaboration depends on regular communication. Team members need to keep each other updated. Identify your channels and expectations about communications at the outset. Some collaborations use a dedicated intranet project space. And others prefer regular team meetings. While for distributed teams, instant messaging and a private # channel work well.
Collaboration sometimes fails because of a lack of resources. It could be issues with budgeting, technological tools, unrealistic timeframes, or not enough personnel. Successful collaboration requires the right combination of sufficient resourcing to get the job done alongside the right team members. So, you have the right company culture in place. And you have taken steps to deal with potential roadblocks. How about employees’ skills? What are the essential skills staff need for successful collaboration? Let’s look at the collaboration skills employees need to achieve the best outcomes.
Employee Collaboration Skills Required
Check out any job description, and the chances are there will be some requirement to work as part of a team. A survey from the National Association for Colleges 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?
Effective Collaboration Skills: Top 20 Skills Required
We have broken down the required skills into direct (requiring face-to-face contact) and indirect ones (those relating to behaviors and attitudes). Here’s a quick overview of the essential collaboration skills your employers should have in 2021.
Direct Collaboration Skills
- Ability to listen
- Respect for others’ opinions
- Conflict resolution
- Not being offended easily
- Able to accept constructive criticism
Indirect Collaboration Skills
- Project management skills
- Organizational abilities
- Critical thinking skills
- Time management
- Verbal communication skills
- Written communication skills
- Leadership abilities
- Proficiency with productivity tools (for example, MS Office, Google Workspace, file sharing, etc.)
- Knowledge of relevant productivity systems (for example, Agile, Waterfall, Lean, etc.)
Let’s look at some of the critical collaborative skills in more detail.
It’s a given that good internal communication is at the heart of effective workplace collaboration. The better a team communicates, the better it will be able to cope with the challenges. Good communication will address any uncertainty about roles and responsibilities as well as clarity of purpose. Effective workplace collaboration requires employees to express themselves clearly. And to keep colleagues updated on the project and their individual responsibilities. Employees need to manage multiple channels of communication so that the team is all on the same page. These channels include video-conferencing, instant messaging, email, phone, and of course, in person. However, communication skills cover a broad range of requirements. Good collaborators are active listeners. If they are unsure about a point, active listeners ask for clarification. They summarize what’s been said and check it out before moving on. Written communication is, of course, critical to successful collaborations. And even more so if the collaboration is taking place between a team of remote workers. But verbal communication is just as important. Whether it’s a Zoom conference call or an in-person team meeting, good collaborators share their insights concisely and respectfully engage in debate. Often underestimated but equally important are nonverbal communication skills. Your body language and tone often say more than the words you speak. Effective collaborators know how to both use and read nonverbal communication, resulting in stronger social relationships. When drafting a job description, consider including the following requirements to ensure candidates have the necessary communication skills.
- The ability to actively listen to others’ viewpoints and facilitate and positively contribute to group discussions.
- A strong communicator who expresses themselves verbally, nonverbally, and in writing.
- Excellent organizational skills, managing different communication channels, and being able to clearly and concisely update colleagues on progress.
Successful workplace collaboration requires employees to be good at problem-solving. Being creative, using initiative, and finding solutions are all critical aspects of employee collaboration. This attribute is important for completing tasks and also to manage difficult situations within the collaboration. The most effective workplace collaborators can analyze problems, identify the severity and possible impacts. And they are also adept at brainstorming to come up with creative solutions. To ensure you recruit the right candidate, consider including the following in your job descriptions:
- The ability to problem-solve and seek creative solutions in challenging situations.
- Gathers and analyzes information skillfully and within agreed timeframes.
- Can identify obstacles to success and achieve consensus about the best way forward.
People skills are fundamental to a good employee collaborator. The worker should be a team player focused on achieving common goals for the greater good of the organization. Those who are motivated by personal goals tend not to be the best collaborators. Having a sense of humor also come in handy, along with the ability to speak respectfully to colleagues. The capacity to compromise is another crucial interpersonal skill. Some compromise is required in workplace collaboration. Reaching the best solution involves an amalgamation of ideas and plenty of compromise along the way. All the best collaborators are open to new ideas. Open-mindedness is an essential attribute. Colleagues will inevitably have different views and perspectives. However, successful collaboration requires employees to respect those differences and listen to others’ views without passing judgment. So, when it comes to the right interpersonal skills, consider including the following in your recruitment campaign.
- Capable of working well with others and effective at getting the input of everyone on the team, including quieter members.
- Able to compromise and is willing to make concessions to move the group forward in finding solutions.
- Treats others with respect, tact, and consideration regardless of their status or position.
Resource Management Skills
Effective workplace collaboration is dependent on the ability to organize and share information. Juggling document management, project management, and communication channels while completing tasks requires excellent time and resource management skills. Furthermore, successful employee collaboration involves individuals freely sharing their knowledge and expertise within the group. There’s no place for employees who hoard their knowledge or create information silos. However, sometimes things don’t quite go to plan. And so, resourcefulness and adaptability also come under this category of necessary skills. Successful collaborators don’t panic or walk away when the project goes a bit haywire. Instead, they roll their sleeves up, adapt to the new situation, and employ their problem-solving abilities. The following requirements will help to ensure candidates have the necessary resource management skills.
- Able to make effective use of tools and resources to organize and share information with colleagues.
- Uses their initiative to develop systems ensuring information, data, and knowledge are shared to support project aims and objectives.
- Prioritizes and effectively plans work activities and can adapt to changing conditions.
Time Management Skills Plus Reliability And Dependability
Finally, workplace collaboration is all about trust. To be effective, each collaborator must trust that their colleagues will perform their role to the best of their ability. Reliability, dependability, and consistency are important attributes for effective collaboration. If the team isn’t reliable, then chaos is inevitable. At best, the collaboration will be disappointing. And at worst, it will be a complete failure. Organizational abilities, as well as time management skills, are essential for workplace collaboration. Effective collaborators can take care of their responsibilities, manage their workloads, and meet deadlines. 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 role’s expectations.
- Able to meet the required deadlines for the role and individual contributions to project teams.
- Develops strategies to achieve organizational goals and team objectives on time and within budget.
Examples Of Collaboration In The Workplace
What does effective workplace collaboration in action look like? Let’s take an everyday scenario common to most organizations. Using this example, we 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 your one is up for review. How would you approach this task in your company? For most businesses, the review involves selecting a few key staff and setting up a meeting. The current marketing strategy is then revised over email. The draft document is usually sent around several times as edits and comments are actioned. No doubt, there will be a few glitches along the way due to misunderstandings about roles and responsibilities. No worries, you get there in the end. Once the board agrees on the new strategy, its publication is announced in an all-staff email. And hard copies are distributed across the company. Does this have a ring of truth for your business? Well, it’s certainly not an uncommon approach. But how would the process work in a business that has effective workplace collaboration skills in operation? Let’s take a look.
1. Setting Up A Project Team
The intranet’s staff directory identifies areas of expertise and subject knowledge. Setting up a project team with cross-departmental representation, therefore, becomes a much easier task. Clear roles and responsibilities are assigned and agreed upon by the project team.
2. Create A Shared Project Space On The Intranet
Access is restricted to only members of the project team. Regardless of location, team members use the project space to brainstorm ideas, share insights and information.
3. Develop A Project Plan And Timeline
Key milestones and accountabilities are identified, and the project plan is published on the intranet’s project space. Team members report on progress in real-time using an MS Project spreadsheet embedded in the intranet project space.
4. Staff Views Are Sought Through An Intranet Poll
Consulting with the wider workforce helps to achieve a better final product. And it also enhances employee engagement across the board. We all know that engaged employees tend to be happier and more productive. So, be sure to canvass the views of workers through an intranet survey.
5. Develop A Draft Marketing Strategy
Instead of emailing different versions, embed MS Word or Google Docs in the intranet’s project space. Team members can simultaneously work and comment on the draft in real-time. And the document is automatically updated by the intranet. Team members can be confident they are accessing the very latest version.
6. The Board Approves Finalized Marketing Strategy
Instead of printing and distributing the final strategy to all teams, publish the document on the intranet. And inform all staff through the intranet’s news feed. Employees can then access or download the full strategy directly from the intranet anytime they need to. Faster, more streamlined, and ultimately more cost-effective, the collaborative way of doing things achieves a better outcome.
Benefits Of Workplace Collaboration
Most jobs involve some form of a joint effort with team members working collaboratively to achieve common goals. With so much riding on workers’ ability to collaborate effectively, employers cannot afford to leave it to chance. Developing the right collaboration skills requires a proactive approach from employers. First, you need to foster a supportive company culture. And then, you have to select individuals with the right skillset. However, having the right collaboration tools in place also makes a big difference. Cloud intranet software makes it easier for staff to collaborate – whether they are in the office or working remotely. Want to ensure your organization is geared up for collaboration in 2021? Contact the team at MyHub to explore how an intranet can support effective workplace collaboration skills in your business. Sign up for a free demo or a 14-day no-obligation trial.