How To Improve Team Collaboration

Learn about the benefits of team collaboration and use our step-by-step guide to improve team collaboration where you work

“Collaboration” is one of those words that gets thrown around a lot in the workplace, and while we all know that bringing together teams and differently-skilled individuals is probably a beneficial thing to do, getting around to actually collaborating can be a whole different story when deadlines are looming and you just need to get that thing ticked off your to-do list.  

However, there’s been a bit of a shift in the attitude towards team collaboration in recent years, with the impacts of both poor collaboration and great collaboration on factors such as productivity, employee morale, and innovation being properly researched and recognized. Did you know, for example, that 41% of enterprise employees have left or would consider leaving their job due to poor collaboration, or that 64% of employees worldwide claim that poor collaboration is costing them at least 3 hours per week in productivity (with 20% claiming they are wasting as many as 6 hours per week)?  

And it’s not just employees who are noticing the difference that great team collaboration makes. Employers and company decision-makers are also recognizing the power of a collaborative approach, with 80% of decision-makers saying they need to improve collaboration with other departments, and 75% saying they’d like to improve collaboration within their own department, too. 

Why are company heads and managers feeling the need to make this shift? Because more and more companies are recognizing the value of team collaboration for project success, improved employee morale, attracting top talent, and boosting overall company productivity. 

And, while there’s no doubt that collaboration can bring about a host of benefits to both businesses and individuals when guided and structured correctly, knowing where to start when trying to encourage more interaction in workgroups can be tricky. 

Well, have no fear. In this article, we’ll be running you through exactly what you can do to improve team collaboration where you work. We’ll be outlining the proven benefits of collaboration that you can share with company stakeholders as well as running you through the steps you can take as a facilitator, leader, or manager to improve team collaboration where you work. 

Let’s get started!

What is team collaboration?​

Team collaboration is an approach to projects, people, and communication management that has a focus on teamwork, equal participation from participants, and creative thinking which seeks to achieve the goals of the group or company. 

There are a number of skills that are required from both team leaders and members that enable successful team collaboration. Let’s take a look at some of the key ones. 

Trust

Having fundamental confidence in group members, the process, and the project are all essential to the success of a collaborative effort. Demonstrating trust in our colleagues is incredibly empowering and prompts us all to do our best work. The downside of not building group trust is, if one team member doesn’t trust the work of another they are likely to continually double-check their work, or attempt to take on that work themselves rather than work together. 

Some effective ways to promote trust and accountability between members include:

  • Hosting team building activities outside of the workplace
  • Writing down group goals 
  • Reporting progress to the team 
  • Promoting team bonding with communal social areas in the office

Tolerance

Tolerance and respect are key to ensuring every individual in a diverse working group feels heard and that their views, perspectives, and opinions are valued. In a working environment that does respect and tolerate different voices, it’s easy for one voice to dominate, for valuable ideas to be silenced, and for innovation and creativity of the whole group to be stunted. 

Tolerance and respect can be developed in a team environment by following some simple steps: 

  • Expose your team to different ideas and perspectives regularly
  • Invest in education, such as diversity and inclusion training, as this instructs team members on sensitive issues and how best to handle them
  • Encourage empathy in the group and, as the team leader or facilitator, always lead by example 

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Active listening

Active listening involves using eye-contact and body language which demonstrates the listener’s focus on the person they are in conversation with. Active listening is hugely valuable in team collaboration as team members are able to recognize nonverbal cues from others in the group and therefore better grasp what is being expressed as well as the emotion behind it.  Active listening also helps to build trust in a group as each group member feels fully heard and seen and that their concerns or fears are being taken seriously.

Active listening can be improved by using the following techniques:

  • Listen to understand, not just to respond. 
  • Summarize what the speaker has said in your own words. This not only shows you’re listening, but it also ensures you’ve understood what they’re trying to say.
  • Ask additional questions. Follow-up questions show you’ve listened to what’s been said and want to know more. 

Other skills that benefit collaboration include:

  • Open-mindedness
  • Adaptability
  • Empathy
  • Constructive debate
  • Long-term thinking
  • Organization 

Why is team collaboration important?

Team collaboration is hugely beneficial to project success, team morale, and aligned and streamlined processes. Employees think so too, with 70% of employees interviewed believing better collaboration would improve employee productivity and save time, while 60% believe better collaboration would have a positive impact on employee morale. It doesn’t end there. From an innovation perspective, employees are also seeing hugely positive results from team collaboration, with 64% believing that improved collaboration would also boost innovation, creativity, and team engagement.

But how is that collaboration not only leads to such positive results but also incites such belief in those who collaborate? Let’s dive into some of the major benefits this approach brings about to both individuals and business.

It promotes ongoing learning
When different job roles are brought together to collaborate, a learning opportunity is created as teammates have the chance to listen to and learn from the varying perspectives and opinions of others, as well as absorb valuable experiences, skills, and knowledge directly from their teammates.

It boosts productivity
The sense of loyalty and belonging that comes from group work and collaboration typically results in more productive working sessions. This is because, in order to maintain the momentum of the group and not to let the team down, individual members tend to put in more effort than when working alone.

It improves problem-solving

Combining the expertise, knowledge, and experiences of a whole team is going to produce more potential solutions to a problem than if an individual tackles that same problem alone. 

It improves employee satisfaction and engagement 

Collaboration boosts employee engagement and job satisfaction as team members can see the results of their efforts on the overall success of the company much more quickly than when they work on solo projects or tasks. 

It promotes social connections and improves workplace atmosphere 

Colleagues have a great opportunity to get to know each other better when they are given the chance to collaborate on a project. When social connections and friendships arise, employees are less likely to be absent and the overall workplace atmosphere is greatly improved. 

It helps to attract talent 

A positive working environment is a key factor for those looking for a new position, especially for younger generations. For this reason, having ideas heard, open discussions, and hands-on project involvement across hierarchies and teams are all huge plus points when it comes to hiring new talent.

It improves rates of employee retention 

Collaboration increases employee satisfaction, which in turn naturally leads to higher rates of employee retention. An employee is unlikely to move to a company that deprioritizes collaboration when they are already working for a company that values their input, provides real opportunities for learning and growth, and enables them to actualize their ideas in group work. As we have seen, when team collaboration is poor or non-existent, employees are quick to move elsewhere

Ways to improve team collaboration 

If you’re interested in boosting team collaboration in your company or workgroup and benefiting from the wide-ranging advantages this work style brings about for both business and employees, we’ve come up with some steps you can take right now that will boost interaction and engagement between colleagues.

Facilitate workshops 

Facilitating workshops provide a fantastic opportunity to bring together individuals from different teams, departments, backgrounds, and skill sets to solve company-wide problems and challenges. It’s a structured, guided approach to collaboration that, when led by a trained facilitator, ensures all voices are heard and encourages active participation from everyone. 

The benefits of facilitating workshops are wide-ranging, but as a method of improving team collaboration, it’s a surefire way to build stronger bonds between teams and colleagues and give room to more introverted personality types. 

Finally, it’s a results-driven approach to solving pressing issues that values each individual’s contribution which further boosts overall morale.

Get an introduction to facilitation and workshops

Be clear about goals and expectations 

Without a structure or clear objectives, collaboration can easily dissolve into a project that never ends, with one idea thrown after another. This leads to frustration from team members, who may then start to feel that they are more productive working alone than together.

An effective way to boost team collaboration and demonstrate the effectiveness of working together is to be clear on the goals and expectations of the team from the start: both the end goals of a project but also the small steps you’d like to make to get there. 

When these are clarified up front, it’s much easier for each team member to identify the progress being made and the success of the collaboration which reinforces a positive association with teamwork. 

Draw attention to each individual’s strengths 

A successful team is made up of a variety of individuals all with a range of attributes, skills, and experiences. If you’re leading the group or facilitating the workshop it’s a really good idea to draw attention to and show appreciation for the range of talents and expertise of the team and highlight the strengths of different members. 

It helps others in the team to know what they can learn from that individual or which problems they might specifically be able to help with, which boosts collaboration while simultaneously lifting the confidence of the individual themselves, which is never a bad thing. 

Make the most of collaboration tools 

With so much teamwork being done remotely these days, it’s important to research and invest in digital collaboration tools that make the interaction between team members as smooth and life-like as possible. We’ve written a whole article covering our favorite digital tools for remote meetings and workshops, but here’s a brief rundown of some of the tools we find particularly enhance and improve collaboration: 

  • FigJam - an online whiteboard for teams to share their ideas in one place, with room to sketch and riff. 
  • Trello - a tool for managing large projects and smaller tasks for those who work well with visual prompts that offers complete transparency to teams. 
  • Butter - a digital facilitation tool for enabling perfectly flowing workshops.
  • Thursday - a tool that brings remote teams together to have fun, bond, and socialize. 

Celebrate collaborative successes

Don’t let a successful collaboration go by unrewarded–celebrating the successes of teamwork will create positive associations with the workstyle itself, prompting others to try it. It will also draw attention to the positive results that come about from teamwork and help convince doubters of its benefits. 

Create a collaborative working environment 

Although not every activity or task requires collaboration, it’s important to take advantage of opportunities throughout the working day which enables employees to get input or advice from other team members. 

An example of this might be a morning standup. Each team member outlines their tasks and goals for the day, with a five or ten-minute slot allocated at the end of the standup for the exchange of ideas or commentary based on what’s been outlined. 

That concludes our guide to improving team collaboration. We hope our rundown of benefits empowers you to sell team collaboration as a huge asset to your management team, and you feel inspired to try out some of our actionable advice in your workshop, meeting, or workplace to improve team collaboration today. 

Want to learn more about workshopping? Check out these guides:

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Rosie Allabarton