A feature of practice in healthcare settings for some time, collaborative communication has now crossed over into mainstream businesses. Tackling complex problems, fostering creativity and nurturing collaborative solutions is, after all, common to most businesses and not just healthcare providers. The terms cooperation, coordination, and collaboration are often used interchangeably. However, collaboration refers to a higher level of joint working in which people and resources that beforehand may have operated in different spheres separated by organizational and reporting relationships, are pooled together and products are shared towards a common end goal. The glue that binds these collaborative teams together is communication. In this article, we look in detail at how to facilitate effective collaboration and the communication channels that will support it.
Why Collaboration Matters
Traditional, hierarchical organizational structures are increasingly being replaced with flatter models and more open lines of communication. Flexibility is the order of the day in the modern workplace with more staff members telecommuting and working flexible hours at least some of the time. Virtual businesses comprised of freelancers and specialist contractors as well as employees are increasingly common. These personnel are often located in different states and even continents and demand diverse, more dynamic communication channels to the traditional ones of phone and email.
As well as different ways of working, the trend towards organizational collaboration is also being driven by the simple recognition that more can be achieved by working together. It’s not rocket science, but more people equals more ideas, more productivity and more efficient and effective achievement of goals. And that’s a very powerful combination. In today’s ever-changing and highly competitive marketplace, businesses that can foster creativity, innovation and problem-solving capabilities have an enhanced ability to adapt and respond to change. In fact, it could well give you that all important advantage over the competition.
Why Communication Matters
Effective collaboration cannot take place without the support of good communications. And successful collaboration goes beyond merely dividing up tasks and assembling a finished product. It’s more about fostering a genuine determination to reach a common objective by sharing knowledge, insights and learning to build a consensus. Unlike its poorer cousins coordination or joint working, real collaboration involves creating an environment of openness with mutual respect and trust. Providing a range of communication channels that will support collaborative teams is, therefore, a critical part of the process.
Creating The Right Environment For Collaboration
Before an effective collaboration can take place, each team will need to spend time creating the right environment. This means setting out and communicating team members’ roles and responsibilities so that everyone is clear about their contribution to the process.
It’s also worthwhile setting out a code of conduct and working methodology. As we’ve seen respect, recognition and valuing the contribution of all team members are essential prerequisites to effective collaboration. In addition, there’s no room for a blame culture. Mistakes are an inevitable part of any process and team members need to be freed from the burden of guilt if they make errors and similarly shouldn’t hold a grudge when their colleagues fall short. Instead, mistakes need to be analyzed and lessons learned without apportioning blame.
Collaborative Communication: Effective Channels
Technology has certainly made it easier to provide the diversity of channels needed to support collaboration. In particular, cloud technology means that collaborative team members can be connecting with each other in real time regardless of the many miles that may physically be between them. There’s no doubt that the cloud with its great flexibility will form the cornerstone of any collaborative communications strategy, but it’s important not to lose sight of the need for more personalized communication too. We are after all social beings that require some form of simple interaction to get the best out of us. The key thing here is to provide a range of communication channels that teams can select to support their collaborations as needed. So, let’s take a look at the toolkit of possible collaborative communication channels. We’ve divided these up into those that support personal connections and those that lend themselves more to streamlined working processes.
Collaborative Communication: Personal Connections
Even if your collaboration teams are located in the same building, it’s still a good idea to have technological solutions in place that can support the traditional project team meeting. As we’ve seen, there will be times when team members are working from home or are away from the office attending a conference for example.
So, what technology platforms can collaborative team members use to connect with each other? High definition video and conferencing apps are an obvious choice. Much of human communication takes place on the non-verbal level in the form of body language, facial expressions and gestures. What’s more, paralanguage – our intonation, pitch and tone – is almost as important as the actual words we use. These types of non-verbal cues can easily be misunderstood or missed altogether in written communications and so face-to-face interaction is still an essential aspect of successful collaboration.
High definition audio software as well as group chatting and messaging apps are also essential items in the collaborative communication toolkit. These enable collaborating staff to quickly and easily communicate and share updates. In addition, social intranets are great enablers of collaborative communications. With their follow-me functionality and individual or project activity walls, team members will be able to keep up to date with the latest developments.
Streamlined Working Processes
Anyone who has had experience of collaborating with others on a document using Word’s track changes and email will know what a challenging process it can be. Keeping on top of where things are at is not easy. And having to notify all project members every time there’s even a minor revision is time-consuming and it’s easy to see how mistakes and errors can creep into the process.
Cloud technology, especially in the shape of an intranet, will do away with these challenges resulting in more streamlined working processes. As well as making it easier to share files and documents both internally and externally, team members can simultaneously work on the same document in real time via an intranet embedded G Suite or Office 365 app. Available 24/7, the cloud intranet will support telecommuters as well as those working flexible hours. Collaborative team members will no longer spend valuable time navigating complicated email threads for the most up to date version of the document. Nor will they need to make sense of complex track changes and editing comments. Instead, they can have absolute confidence that the intranet has the very latest version of the document. Embedding the document or spreadsheet directly in the intranet also means that essential contextual information can be displayed alongside. What’s more, the intranet can be configured so that alerts and notifications are automatically sent to team members when a change has been made.
Furthermore, the cloud intranet offers the opportunity for team members to easily share insights and data either through a collaborative workspace or a project blog. Access can be restricted to only the relevant team members through a series of intranet site permissions. Work spaces or blogs can transcend time and location and enable employees to connect, share and collaborate effectively.
Shared-screen apps are another effective collaboration tool. Team members can share their entire desktop screen, individual window or specific application with one or more colleagues as well as streaming videos or presentations. Shared-screen apps are a great way for collaborative team members to show their colleagues exactly what they are talking about and help to keep everyone on the same page as well as meetings on track.
Make The Difference With Collaborative Communications
There’s no doubt that collaborative working is the future. And so, if your business is serious about promoting collaboration, then the starting point must be communications. Flexible, adaptable and dynamic collaborative communication channels will ensure collaborative working is a success in your business.
Hopefully this article has given you food for thought about what’s needed; however, if you would like an informal discussion on how technology can support the process then get in touch with us here at MyHub. Better still why not take advantage of our no-obligation demo or 14-day free trial and discover the many benefits a cloud intranet offers.