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8 strategies to collaborate effectively in the workplace

October 25, 2022 - 15 min read
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    In order to do anything well, team members need to work together. 

    Teamwork and collaboration are must-haves for any work environment. Yet still, many teams and employees struggle to collaborate effectively. 

    After all, there are plenty of factors that go into collaboration. Communication and strategy impact collaboration. Conflict resolution and the ability to solve problems matter in collaboration. Even the types of collaboration tools can have an impact on how well your teams work together. 

    Team collaboration requires certain skills and capabilities, whether your teams are remote or in-person. According to a Gensler survey, a majority of employees say their jobs rely on collaboration.

    Businesses everywhere are struggling with how to optimize their workforce. With some organizations downsizing in response to economic uncertainty, teamwork is more important than ever. Organizations are also working to maintain and sustain positive company cultures while keeping collaboration a key attribute of their teams. 

    In this post, we’ll talk about how your teams can collaborate effectively. We’ll also talk about the role of leadership in creating a collaborative culture. After all, collaboration can be the factor that drives your organizational performance.  

    Creating a collaborative workplace

    In order to create a collaborative environment, your leaders need to invest in building trust. So much of building trust stems from leadership. 

    First, employees need to feel psychologically safe in their work environment. They need to feel like they can show up as their whole selves to work. After all, personal and work lives have melded together more than ever before. Especially in hybrid and remote work environments, successful collaboration hinges on the example that your leadership team sets. 

    Second, employees need to be able to communicate effectively. It’s impossible to work well with co-workers without effective communication.

    But communication is more than just sending emails, Slacks, or participating in face-to-face meetings. It’s the ability to communicate when a project hits roadblocks.

    It’s the ability to resolve conflicts and overcome disagreements in healthy ways. It’s the ability to communicate the decision-making process. It’s the ability to connect the larger purpose of work to the day-to-day tasks. At the end of the day, communication is what helps employees understand common goals. 

    "People are getting new skills and then bringing them to their teams, exponentially helping others. You can feel the energy and you see how people are reaching across the aisle and busting silos to help each other."

    Larry McAllister, VP, Talent & Development, NetApp  

    Third, employees need the right collaboration tools. For example, my team uses Slack and Asana to manage workflows, update each other on projects, and share valuable information.

    Project management tools like Asana are what help to keep our deliverables on track. It’s helped to make us an effective team to help meet and exceed our clear goals. 

    Of course, communication tools are just part of the foundation that’ll help your team collaborate well. But it’s important your teams invest in building key skill sets to help maximize the potential of your organization’s communication tools.

    Collaboration skills can come to life with the right tools. But your team needs those skills and capabilities as the foundation. Then, the tools help to become that vehicle or vessel for delivery. 

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    The importance of effective collaboration

    There are plenty of organizational benefits to effective collaboration. Your entire team and business can benefit from effective collaboration. Here are four reasons why building effective collaboration skills are important.

    • Better problem-solving skills. Companies solve problems. For the most part, the value a company brings to the market is its ability to solve complex problems well. While those problems vary, every company will come across issues that need resolving.

      One huge advantage of effective collaboration is better problem-solving skills. When team members know how to work well together, teams are better equipped to innovate. Collaborative work lends itself to innovation and problem-solving. 
    • Improved, open communication. Collaboration isn’t possible with communication. But good collaboration happens when communication is open, transparent, and effective.

      Communication can break down silos between teams to help better solve problems. Communication helps to get ahead of conflicts before they arise. But as we know, not all conflict is bad. Good conflict resolution hinges on good communication skills, which all contribute to how well a team works together.

      Research backs this up. In fact, 86% of executives cite communication issues as a major cause of failure in collaboration. Especially when video conferencing and remote collaboration are more common than ever, it’s important to invest in building soft skills

    collaborate-effectively-colleagues-working-together

    • Increased goal attainment. Effectively working together means teams are better positioned to reach their goals. For businesses, this translates into a boost in productivity and performance. Overall, effective collaboration directly impacts an organization’s bottom line. 
    • Thriving company culture. Collaborating well is about connecting. It’s how employees are able to connect with one another to work together toward a common goal. It’s how employees build trust and psychological safety in their work environment. It’s how employees find friends at work and feel safe enough to show up as their whole selves.

      At BetterUp, we’ve studied the impact of connections on the workforce. First, we know that when employees feel connected to one another, they’re more likely to thrive. Employees high in social connection experience better well-being, better professional growth, and a boost in goal attainment. But we also know that 43% of employees don’t feel connected at work.

      Connections and collaboration go hand-in-hand. Together, they have a huge impact on your company’s culture

    8 ways to collaborate effectively

    If you’re looking for ways to maximize collaboration in the workplace, here are eight steps to help you get started. 

    1. Build psychological safety and trust 

    Your leaders need to invest in laying a foundation for psychological safety. Managers have an incredible influence over the employee experience. As our diverse workforce expands to all corners of the globe, it’s important to measure your organization’s psychological safety. 

    For example, BetterUp Labs recently studied the impact of belonging and psychological safety on the LGBTQIA+ community. The results? LGBTQIA+ folks still don’t feel comfortable showing up as their whole selves to work. In fact, 73% of the LGBTQIA+ participants reported showing their authentic selves to people in their personal lives. But only 35% said the same about their work lives.

    But what do belonging and safety have to do with collaboration? A lot more than you may think. If employees don’t feel safe to be themselves, it’s likely they aren’t engaged at work. It can impact everything from voicing a new, bold idea in a meeting to suggesting ways to improve an old process. 

    Your organization can use employee engagement surveys to help measure your psychological safety. At the core of it, your leadership team should be leading by example. Manager training on how to build inclusive leadership skills is imperative to building trust within teams. 

    2. Get good at delegating 

    Leaders who know how to delegate are an important step to effective collaboration. No one likes a micromanager. A micromanaging boss not only increases their own workload. But they also undermine trust, stifle leadership skills, and increase anxiety in the workplace. 

    Good leaders need to delegate effectively to help teams spread the work across themselves. Team collaboration simply wouldn’t work without effective delegation. 

    3. Implement a decision-making framework 

    You’ve probably heard of plenty of decision-making acronyms in the workplace. There’s a reason why so many exist — decisions are hard to get right. 

    Especially as organizations and teams grow, decisions can get more complicated. Ultimately, it can lead to missed opportunities and stunted productivity. 

    At BetterUp, we use the ACID framework: approver, contributor, informed, and driver. At the start of any cross-functional or collaborative project, we outline the ACID. Doing so helps every teammate understand their roles and what’s expected of them. It helps to manage clear expectations, set clear goals, and effectively collaborate. 

    4. Empower open and transparent communication 

    Especially with remote teams, communication can slip through the cracks. I’ve worked for companies where I was afraid to admit or share a mistake that I made. Instead, I held onto that mistake, knowing all too well that my hiccup could impact the final outcome of a project. Why? Open, transparent communication — and psychological safety — wasn’t encouraged. 

    At BetterUp, my manager often encourages open communication. I’m not afraid to make a mistake anymore because I’m not afraid to ask for help or to own that mistake. I know that I can learn from my failures instead of hiding them. 

    In order to effectively communicate, your employees need to feel empowered to communicate openly and transparently. This can be the good things, like hitting key milestones or goals. But it should, more importantly, be the challenging things. Like when something doesn’t go as planned or the strategy or problem has evolved. 

    collaborate-effectively-woman-talking-in-team-meeting

    5. Create professional development opportunities 

    Like many skills, collaboration isn’t a skill that people are born with. It takes awareness, intention, and work. 

    But in order to learn and grow, employees need opportunities to do so. They need professional development avenues to help build the skills and capabilities they need to succeed. How are you offering employee development opportunities? In what ways can you make sure your employees know you support their learning pathways? 

    6. Build conflict resolution skills 

    Conflict in the workplace is inevitable. We’re all human with perspectives, opinions, and experiences that are bound to clash. Especially if there are misaligned priorities, teams will come across conflict — especially when trying to collaborate. 

    In order to collaborate effectively, teams need to understand how to resolve conflict in healthy ways. Again, this goes back to building trust. 

    For example, leaders can host team building or virtual team building events to help employees get to know each other. Or your leaders can offer workshops or courses focused on how to handle conflict in the office. 

    7. Set key milestones and goals 

    Collaboration may not be an intuitive aspect of a goal. But at BetterUp, it’s something that we think about often. 

    As a company, we operate on OKRs: objectives and key results. They’re company-wide goals that help keep us focused on what’s most important and what will have the most impact. And there’s not a single OKR that doesn’t require cross-collaboration. 

    When you’re setting your business goals, take a minute to notice the threads. What goals can help empower collaboration across teams? What goals will have the most impact? How are you adjusting or setting goals to encourage collaboration to maximize your employees’ potential? 

    8. Gather feedback 

    Collaboration isn’t a one-and-done skill. If we boil it down to its joints, it’s a relationship. Collaboration is constantly going to evolve because people and relationships evolve. And one of the most important things in any sort of relationship is feedback. 

    How are you gathering feedback on how you’re collaborating? How are you encouraging your team members to do the same? Do you follow up with your employees to ask how things are going with collaborative projects? 

    When I work with a new team or establish a process with a teammate, I tend to always ask for feedback. It’s a good practice to get into the habit of. It helps to establish trust, safety, and opens the door for open communication. But it also helps to keep bettering things — processes, relationships, and projects. 

    Copy of BetterUp_Social_Apr2022_Post18-1

    Start collaborating effectively 

    Collaborating well is about connecting with others, gathering feedback, and bettering the relationship. The outcomes can result in increased productivity, performance, and trust. But at its core, effective collaboration is about bettering people and relationships. 

    No matter where your business is in its collaboration journey, BetterUp can help. Access to coaching can help your employees build key competencies to be able to work together well. 

    See how BetterUp works - Watch Demo

    Published October 25, 2022

    Madeline Miles

    Madeline is a writer, communicator, and storyteller who is passionate about using words to help drive positive change. She holds a bachelor's in English Creative Writing and Communication Studies and lives in Denver, Colorado. In her spare time, she's usually somewhere outside (preferably in the mountains) — and enjoys poetry and fiction.

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