The importance of collaboration when it comes to company productivity is no secret.
Savvy managers have been scrambling to find more information on how to create a collaborative culture in their companies ever since a Stanford study found that companies that promote collaboration experience five times better team performance than their non-collaborative counterparts.
How to build a collaborative culture that empowers your employees
Unfortunately, many businesses would have you believe that a “collaborative environment” means an open office, bean bag chairs, and a community foosball table.
In reality, creating a collaborative culture really comes down to supporting your employees in the best way possible.
14 tips for building a collaborative culture
Recruit a high-performing team from the beginning
Effectively train your new hires
Streamline your team meetings
Assign clear responsibilities and tasks
Set measurable, achievable goals and objectives
Facilitate open communication
Identify your team “superheroes”
Create an effective knowledge management system
Mix and match skill sets
Utilize collaboration software tools
Encourage leadership from all levels
Be receptive of feedback
Improve connection with your remote workers
Reward creativity and initiative
1. Recruit a high-performing team from the beginning
As a manager or business owner, you know that hiring the right person for your team comes down to finding someone with the skills, attitude, and experience you need.
How do you think that person will fit into your existing company culture? When it comes to team collaboration, this is something worth considering.
If you want a highly-motivated, collaborative team, you need to hire employees that are likely to mesh well together. Simply having the right skills for the job is not enough. Traits like communication style, creativity, and even having a good sense of humor can all play a role in how your team works together.
Whether you already have a solid team or are starting from scratch, it’s worth looking for those ideal character fits from the very beginning.
So, you’ve created a rockstar team of high-performers. Now, how do you make sure they work together cohesively? Proper employee onboarding is the key.
Many managers take a “sink or swim” approach to training. However, this can wreak havoc on employee confidence in both themselves and in your leadership abilities.
Preparation and training will help your new hires feel ready to take on the job. This makes it easier for them to reach out to others for help and collaborate with coworkers in order to find innovative solutions to problems.
Some things to include in your new hire training to improve collaboration are:
An explanationof the company’s philosophy and mission statement
An introduction to all team members and their roles/responsibilities
A rundown of how to address conflict in the office
A clear processfor how team meetings are conducted
Be sure to reference any other features and processes that are relevant to your company’s culture, mission, and processes. Doing so will help your new hires feel like part of the team right off the bat.
3. Streamline your team meetings
Do your meetings seem to drag on with no clear direction? Boring, purposeless meetings can be a buzzkill to your team’s desire to work hard and collaborate.
When you’re organized and show pride in your work, your team can see it. The same goes for how you conduct meetings. If you set a clear objective, stay on task, and keep your team engaged, they’re more likely to express that same confidence in their work.
Having a set agenda for your meeting also ensures that everyone is on the same page. You can clearly outline company goals and assign responsibilities to the right team members. When everyone is on board, it makes it easier to work together. Using software for managing your meetings and team members is helpful as well.
4. Assign clear responsibilities and tasks
Sometimes, on the path to creating a collaborative work environment, managers blur the lines between individual employees’ roles and responsibilities. The result is often many people wearing many different hats with no clear distinction when it comes to who does what. This can become a problem as team members may not know who to turn to for certain information or assistance.
Who's in charge of sales? Is Karen managing that project? Without clear roles and responsibilities, things can get confusing fast.
Your best bet is to make it very clear who does what and who is in charge of which tasks. Team members are still free to collaborate, and you will prevent miscommunication and frustration in the process.
5. Set measurable, achievable goals and objectives
Do your employees keep falling short, or are you setting the bar too high?
If your team members aren’t hitting their milestones, there may be some issues at play.
As a manager, it’s your job to set goals and motivate your team to reach those goals. But there’s nothing more disheartening than to be assigned a nearly impossible feat.
Don’t set your employees up for failure. Set measurable goals they are likely to achieve.
Be descriptive when it comes to the goal, the deadline, and how success will be measured. Then, await your team’s satisfaction when they check that goal off the list.
When your team feels productive and successful, they’ll be more motivated to continue pushing forward together.
6. Facilitate open communication
Organizational communication is obviously an important component in creating a collaborative culture. But what does “good communication” really consist of? It’s more than just email and video calls.
As a manager, you need to foster an environment where your team is comfortable approaching you with their questions and concerns. While many managers quickly earn the label of being a tyrant, a good manager is open to constructive feedback and can handle conflict with tact.
Miscommunication in the workplace can cause all kinds of issues within your business. Beyond using the right internal communication software, you need to create an environment where everyone knows that their input will be respected.
7. Identify your team “superheroes”
Every company will have those power players that are always up for a challenge. These are the people that stand up, take initiative, and always bring the best results. Call them your team “superheroes.”
These superheroes aren’t just productive: they’re motivational. When put into leadership roles, they’re likely to pull the best qualities out of other members on the team.
Give your team superheroes opportunities to take charge. Let them build their own team for unique projects. They are likely to bring their fellow coworkers together, encouraging collaboration and creative problem-solving.
8. Create an effective knowledge management system
While we’re on the topic of communication, let’s address another common problem that arises when it comes to company collaboration: limited access to the right resources. Your line of communication may be great, but if employees can’t access the information they need, they can’t do their jobs well.
Having a proper knowledge management system is the key to consolidating all of your company’s important files, training materials, resources, SOPs, and more. With such a system, any team member can access the information they need with ease.
Your knowledge management software should create an effective hub of information within your company. This makes it super simple for your employees to find the resources they need when they collaborate on projects.
9. Mix and match skill sets
Everyone on your team has their own unique strengths and skill sets. Once you find out what these are, you can use them to your advantage when it comes to team collaboration.
You can pair team members together based on skill sets that complement each other. One person’s weakness is another person’s strength. Mixing and matching in this way encourages your team to collaborate. It also helps prevent cliques from forming of the same few people that always work together.
10. Utilize collaboration software tools
While much can be done to foster a collaborative company culture, sometimes there are technological obstacles that hinder the process. This is where team collaboration software tools can pick up the slack.
The right tool stack will improve your team’s communication, creativity, and productivity. Tools like project management software, meeting scheduling apps, video conferencing software, and an effective knowledge base can all help facilitate better collaboration.
11. Encourage leadership from all levels
Someone doesn’t have to be the head of a department in order to be a leader. There are leadership opportunities at every level. To create a culture of collaboration, your role as a manager should include encouraging team members to step into natural leadership roles.
The right person may not always be the obvious choice. Look for your employees’ individual strengths, then encourage them to grow those strengths by taking charge on projects they are passionate about.
12. Be receptive to feedback
No company is perfect. No matter how hard you try as a manager, there will always be room for improvement. Your team can be a great source of insight and feedback when it comes to helping you do your job better.
It’s recommended that you survey your team on occasion to assess whether employees feel supported. You can also ask for recommendations on how to improve collaboration. You may stumble across some ideas you have never thought of before.
A trademark of a good manager is someone that is open to constructive feedback. Don’t be afraid to listen to your team and adjust your approach. You play an important role in your company’s collaborative culture, and collaboration and productivity software can help enhance your effectiveness.
13. Improve connection with your remote workers
If some or all of your team is remote, you face some unique obstacles as a business owner when it comes to collaboration. It can be difficult for remote team members to feel connected with the rest of the company, making it harder to collaborate and feel part of a collective unit.
It’s important to check in with your remote workers on a regular basis to ensure that they are feeling supported. Encourage participation in virtual meetings (screen sharing software makes it feel like they're in the room with you!), or even host the occasional in-office event. There are many ways to support your remote team and encourage collaboration.
14. Reward creativity and initiative
It’s one thing to encourage creative problem solving; it’s another to reward it. Rewarding creativity doesn’t necessarily have to come in the form of bonuses. It could be as simple as offering positive feedback or thanking an employee for a job well done.
Rewards for creativity and innovation can easily turn into motivation for other employees to step up to the plate. When team members have an incentive to find new solutions to problems, they can be confident that their hard work won’t go unnoticed. These incentives may even drive team members to work together toward a common goal.
A collaborative company culture is conducive to productivity, creativity, and employee satisfaction. When your employees feel a part of something bigger, they are more likely to continue pushing your company forward.
Ready to boost collaboration at your company? Make sure to download the go-to infographic to guide you on the steps to take!
Emil Hajric is the founder and CEO of Helpjuice – a powerful knowledge management software company. Emil is an organizational learning expert and author of Knowledge Management: A Theoretical and Practical Guide for Knowledge Management in Your Organization.