Running a business is an exercise in collaboration.
You have sales and marketing teams to push products and services out of the door. The IT guys ensure the business has the tech infrastructure to support what it does. The HR department manages and takes care of employees. And then we have the finance department to make sure every dollar is well-spent.
Different departments and responsibilities. But everyone works towards the same goal of providing value and generating profit - at least that’s how it should be.
Increased collaboration is an essential ingredient in a high-performing and productive workforce. If your office needs a little boost in collaborative spirit, the following best practices will help you get started.
Lead By Example
Talk is cheap.
Speaking in support of workplace collaboration may get people’s attention for a moment or two. But if managers and executives stay holed up in their cubicles, expect team members to follow suit.
Instead, lead with your actions to steer everyone in the right direction.
If you expect employees to participate in team building activities, be the first to get moving. Initiate informal conversations at the water cooler or vending machine, even if it is about the machine’s shiny new feature.
Show empathy during meetings
When someone proposes an idea during brainstorming, don’t shoot it down or retaliate with a competing idea. Build upon their idea instead. Doing so requires active listening and putting yourself in the other person’s shoes.
These simple displays of empathy and willingness to work with others can go a long way in fostering that much-needed team spirit.
Raise T-Shaped Employees
T-shaped people are essential to a collaborative workforce.
According to IDEO CEO Tim Brown:
I-shaped employees are experts at what they do. However, their narrow focus limits their ability to collaborate with co-workers from another department. T-shaped people, on the other hand, are also experts in their disciplines. But they also have a working knowledge of other disciplines.
The expanded understanding allows them to empathize with others and see how the different moving parts of the organization work within the value chain. Both of which are essential to promoting collaboration.
If you want to raise T-shaped employees, then cross-train them.
Cross-training not only equips employees with the basic know-how to perform tasks outside of their daily responsibilities. But it also exposes them to the real-world challenges their co-workers face day in and day out.
Support Your Initiative With The Right Technology
You want employees to work closely together. But if you’re still using, say, email to pass around, edit, and comment on a document, collaborating will prove challenging to say the least!
Make sure you have the right tools to support your efforts to create a collaborative workplace.
For large enterprises, Microsoft, Cisco, and Google are the go-to providers.
Their unified communication solutions bundle individual platforms together, like instant messaging, video conferencing, email, and desktop sharing. Doing so allows employees to collaborate on projects across different devices while providing a consistent user experience.
SMBs and startups, on the other hand, can turn to online task management and collaboration tools, like Trello and Asana.
Both tools offer free accounts (always welcome) and have countless third-party apps and integrations built around them. Meaning you can expand their feature-set with a few clicks of your mouse.
Last But Not The Least: Give Employees Autonomy
You’ve set the strategy, performance metrics, milestones, and deadlines for a project. Now let the team do their job!
Time and again, research shows that letting employees have their “say” at work improves wellbeing, job satisfaction, and engagement. And when these ingredients are present in the workplace, people are more open to collaboration.
And as an added bonus:
Managers and business owners, like you, can spend less time with admin responsibilities and more time on strategy and business-building. A win-win!
Nathan Sharpe is the entrepreneur behind Biznas, a blog where he serves practical business advice and tips to readers. Learning and helping others learn is his passion.