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How to Build and Maintain an Empowering Collaborative Culture

July 25, 2022

collaborative culture

We've seen it all: from stylish Instagram stories and colorful offices to branded totes. 

But do company merch and chic wallpapers guarantee a good team atmosphere? It's undoubtedly a step in the right direction, but it's also far from the fundamental ingredient in establishing a collaborative culture.

The architectural elements can help set the mood for the work environment. But the key to a collaborative culture is your team and interpersonal relationships. So, how can you cultivate a constructive atmosphere and set the right team spirit? Let’s find out.

True collaboration, when everyone is open, transparent, and shares information freely, offers the greatest opportunities for innovation for a company and its employees.

Are you building a collaborative culture?

There's a fine line between building and maintaining a collaborative work environment and following the latest trends to spoil your team a little. There's nothing inherently wrong with pampering your employees, but if you're committed to laying the foundations for effective collaboration, you need to take it a step further.

A collaborative environment eliminates some undesirable side effects of working in a large collective by default. Cliques and clans inevitably form when employees spend their time working with the same people and on the same or similar tasks.

Instilling collaboration in your organization needs you to be one step ahead. A good way to do this is to be clear about job descriptions, responsibilities, and the contribution you expect from each department, team, and employee. Meet the teams frequently, keep them informed, and make sure everyone is aware of the overlap between their work and that of another team.

The way you set things up can make all the difference in team input. Collaboration integrates the needs and responsibilities. The nuanced differences in meaning between coalition, alliance, and partnership can mean different leadership styles. Understand the difference between these management styles as you build your teams.

How to create a collaborative culture

Many current trends in building a collaborative workplace are not entirely new. The Great Resignation, followed by the pandemic, opened up some major debates and hot topics for work in general.

In what turned out to be the perfect storm of circumstances, remote work eventually became the norm, driving faster technology development to support it. Workplace culture went from a benefit to a must as things took shape. Employees finally voiced concerns about the usual 9-5 burnouts, and workplace trends began to change.

Some industries that rely on a physically present workforce recognize these bottlenecks and the importance of retention. This compels companies to focus on employee experience, especially in today’s business landscape.

HR departments should follow suit. From designing the candidate experience and employee journeys to recruiting, things need to change for the better. Hiring the right people for the right team and work means ensuring retention and communicating your expectations and commitment to the team and the new candidates. 

Above all, pay attention not only to the technical skills and professional experience but also to the soft skills and easier integration. Training people with the know-how they need for their daily work is feasible. But training candidates for soft skills and character traits to ensure they fit well with the team is quite challenging. 

Recruiters today need to dig deeper alongside diplomas and resumes, starting with a more structured interview, tailored test assignments, and a longer, more thorough onboarding process. 

When done right, onboarding can cover all candidate knowledge points, allowing them to fit into the team and get to know people little by little. If you also tailor the process to each candidate, you're well on your way to creating a recipe for success. The hours you put into the process ensure a clear return on investment (ROI).

1. People management 101

How you introduce your employees to your company culture is key to making a valuable first impression. Your people are your most important assets. Even the most advanced AI tools cannot function without human oversight. As such, you need to pay as much attention to your employees as to critical tech or mechanical assets.

Employees’ well-being should be the main conservation of human resources. When you do reactive maintenance, you lead your teams to failure. On the other hand, if you're in it long-term and expect your employees to show the same level of engagement, you need to be proactive.

You should listen to your teams and monitor their performance without being intrusive. Remember, for maintenance reasons, you're not checking their performance to get the numbers, you're making sure everything runs smoothly and nobody burns out.

An open leadership door and a relaxed atmosphere can go a long way in maintaining employee relationships. Combine this with a motivating environment, and you can inspire tenacity, encourage skill-building, and develop the diligence needed to efficiently complete work tasks.

This leads to employees understanding that they’re not just "doing a job" but contributing to the company’s bottom line with their unique skills and abilities.

Foster frequent and fruitful inter-departmental collaboration, supported by meetings and debates. Make sure everyone knows their contribution is critical to the next step, and anything further down the line depends on solid preparation.

2. Measure the measurable, quantify the quantifiable

And this brings us to the next consideration for collaborations: setting clear, well-defined KPIs for your people and teams. KPIs depend on the industry you are in, the dynamics of your business, and the specifics of your niche. 

After setting milestones for your employees, the next big question is: who monitors the KPIs and what is their primary purpose? Do they simply need KPIs to measure performance and optimize the production process or get a deeper insight into the team’s health? HR needs to keep track of employee performance, process data into accessible reports, and act on them promptly to ensure the results align with the end goal. 

When your employees know how they're performing and see quantifiable metrics to review their work, they feel empowered and more motivated and will continue to learn from quantitative feedback.

maintenance KPIs

Source: Limble CMMS

3. Be transparent about your metrics

Measuring and quantifying performance and work results creates stress – it's a no-brainer. However, ensuring all stakeholders understand the purpose behind the metrics and goals you set can save you a lot of stress.

Stress is to be expected whenever you give someone responsibility. Channel this stress into something more creative and productive that motivates and drives you and your people. As you set your strategy and tactics, make your goals visible to employees and help them understand the purpose of performance measurement.

Customize your goals to fit your business needs and team's skills. You should know how busy your employees are. When a big project is on the horizon, keep the in-between steps that count toward small accomplishments.

Your goals and KPIs should be easy to understand, achievable, realistic, easily measurable, and tangible and bring value to your business. Collaboration requires contributions, and goal setting is another way to publicize expected contributions.

4. Model collaborative behavior from the get-go

To shape your company’s culture, define roles and responsibilities as coherently as possible. Outline them clearly, so everyone knows their responsibilities and what to expect from their roles throughout the employee journey.

In addition, all stakeholders should be aware of each other's contributions to achieving a common outcome. An accessible roadmap that shows what you care about can go a long way in driving motivation and initiative.

This may require you to create SOPs for all processes, including checklists, roadmaps, mind maps – whatever you find best for your team. Be mindful of your team’s strengths, weaknesses, and preferences to foster a collaborative culture.

5. Streamline processes

Once you get things going, structure and systematize your workflows. Start small and build your way up by addressing essential, everyday activities like meetings. Plan the meetings, create agendas, and share them with your team so they’re prepared ahead of time.

When something as small as a weekly update meeting has a clear structure, you know where it's going, and so do your employees. A well-defined plan allows employees to plan their work, set goals, streamline tasks, and encourage a self-starter mentality.

6. Build a diverse workforce

Would it help if your team specialized in just one area? Not really. 

You need employees with different backgrounds and skills to create a diverse and inclusive work culture. To form a collaborative team, aim for a mix of different skills, work experiences, and educational backgrounds.

Not everyone will have relevant experience in your industry, but if you train and onboard employees properly, they can develop the right skills and bring great value over time.

When recruiting, consider diversity and look for candidates whose skills and experience will feed into your processes and add a fresh perspective. Hire candidates not only for their hard skills, but also for their soft skills. Authentic and kind employees go a long way in building a collaborative culture.

7. Communication is key

When it comes to cross-functional collaboration, open communication stands out. Creating a collaborative culture requires maintaining an open door policy. Being open about roadblocks will reduce the time it takes to fix the issues and streamline the routine.

8. Provide the right feedback

First off, understand the difference between constructive criticism and feedback versus non-constructive comments. Pointing fingers is the polar opposite of a collaborative culture. There's a fine line between speaking up about problems and blaming someone.

Feedback should be open, comprehensive, and positively accepted by both parties. It should help employees learn and grow instead of making them feel discouraged and responsible when something goes south.

9. Manage your remote teams

Remote work can lead to a lack of direct personal contact. Your teams should never feel alienated and lose sight of aligned goals. Create a collaborative culture where everyone knows you're always available.

Build the right tech stack

Modern communication technology can contribute to a collaborative culture in many ways. With the right technology, you can stay in touch with your employees through video conferencing and chats.

Use communication, collaboration, and project management tools that enable remote input and management. Nurturing a sense of community, perhaps even belonging, drives productivity and success.

10. Invest in learning management

Create a knowledge base and procedures for your new team members. Make time to discuss technical advances, exchange know-how, and collect ideas. Knowledge management doesn’t have to be rigid but lean and straightforward.

Employees become independent when equipped with proper knowledge. A sound knowledge management system involves creating relevant internal documents like culture books, brand books, and manuals or templates in project management tools. You can also create a repository of internal training materials for new hires.

Documentation combined with the right knowledge distribution strategy helps employees gain more insight into how their workplace operates, making them feel better equipped to understand and align with the overall business goals.

When it comes to knowledge sharing and management, everyone should contribute equally to the knowledge base. Sharing responsibility can help create an environment where employees actively seek updates and foster a sense of community.

Your team is your community

To bring your team together, you need people who align with your vision and goals. The roadmap to a collaborative environment isn't rocket science, but it's also not child's play.

You start with the hiring phase, modeling behavior through onboarding and frequent updates, setting, measuring, and optimizing goals, forming teams, ensuring easy communication, and sharing knowledge, tips, and insights.

A sense of community is the secret to igniting employee passion and increasing productivity.

What more can you do to boost team collaboration? Choose a  metaverse for company events, a form of digital reality shaping the future of team events.

team collaboration software
Foster connections

Use team collaboration software to connect your teams in a convenient, informal space and facilitate healthy communication.

team collaboration software
Foster connections

Use team collaboration software to connect your teams in a convenient, informal space and facilitate healthy communication.

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