Workplace collaboration could be the difference between happy, engaged employees and bored, unproductive ones.
“Our empirical research over the last decade at Harvard University demonstrates that companies engaging in smart collaboration typically increase revenues and profits, boost innovation and deepen customer satisfaction,” according to Heidi K. Gardner, Distinguished Fellow at Harvard Law School, and author of Smarter Collaboration.
Read further to learn the major benefits of collaboration, find tips for encouraging it in the workplace, and gather information about the best collaboration tools for business.
How collaboration benefits businesses
Employers find that collaboration offers several advantages:
Reduction in employee turnover
Recent research from Zippia found that companies that promote collaboration and communication at work have reduced employee turnover rates by 50% and employees are 17% more satisfied with their job when they engage in collaboration at work. Encouraging collaboration reflects a high level of trust from higher ups at a company in a similar way that working in teams on school projects does.
James Lloyd-Townshend, chairman and CEO of IT recruitment firm Frank Recruitment Group, said disagreement is an often overlooked part of collaboration.
“We all have different perspectives and ideas, so it’s unrealistic to expect every discussion to always flow smoothly to an ideal outcome,” Lloyd-Townshend said. “But your staff need to feel well supported and comfortable so they can contribute safely to the collective conversation. This means fostering an environment where everyone is given a chance to voice their opinion. So, while social collaboration tools are useful, it’s the culture and relationships within a workplace that will have the biggest impact when it comes to successful collaboration.”
Employees want to stay at a company where their opinion is not only encouraged, but valued.
When collaboration happens, workers tend to feel more excited about the sharing of ideas, especially if those ideas are well-received.
“Collaboration benefits businesses because team members can motivate each other through shared ideas, and ultimately have a positive impact on each other’s productivity,” said Adam Rossi, CEO of TotalShield. That positivity goes a long way for the whole company.
Morale is easier to achieve for in-office jobs, but more difficult for remote work, since there is less face time among employees.
“It’s easier to find work than ever before because more people are working from home. Some businesses have centralized headquarters with satellite offices in different parts of the world, while others rely only on remote workers. In order to keep everyone informed, coordinated and connected, it is even more important to encourage cooperation and engage distant teams,” said Vincent Amodio, CEO of Icon Medical Centers. “When workers who are physically separated from one another start to feel alone and lonely, it has a chilling effect on their motivation, creativity and commitment.”
According to Zippia research, employees who work for collaborative companies are 22% more likely to believe that their employer cares about their morale.
Improved workplace performance and engagement
According to the Zippia data, top-performing workers spend 45% of their time on the job working individually, 45% of their time working collaboratively and 10% of their time on the job learning and socializing. Additionally, those who work in collaborative settings at work are over 50% more effective at completing tasks than those who work mostly independently. That same Zippia research also found that people who are engaged in collaboration report high levels of engagement overall, as well as higher success rates.
“Encouraging collaboration is a great way to get your employees more engaged as they’re working together more than they normally would on a common goal. While working with employees they may not normally work with, there’s also opportunity to expand their skill sets and to learn new skills from employees from different teams, all at no cost to the company,” said Kyle MacDonald, vice president of marketing and business development at Mojio.
How to encourage workplace collaboration
Encourage teamwork as part of your company culture.
Generally, performance management systems are designed around individual achievements rather than team accomplishments. Although it is certainly important to recognize and reward individual achievements, companies shouldn’t forget that rewarding team collaboration can pay off in a huge way.
Companies should do all they can to incorporate collaboration as a large part of their company culture. Make it clear that collaboration is the minimum standard and emphasize that every team member is critical and has a role to play in the business’s success.
Leverage employee strengths.
To create a culture of collaboration, managers and leaders within a company need a realistic and honest idea of each employee’s strengths, abilities and weaknesses.
The best way forward in terms of collaboration is to allow each team member to play to their strengths. This way, tasks will be completed more often and to a higher standard, and employees will be happier with their assigned tasks. Once managers have a good idea of what employees enjoy doing and what they are good at, they can set about building teams based on these strengths so that team players complement and depend upon each other. That way, if one employee knows they have a weakness in one area, they know who to turn to in order to move the project forward.
Do away with competitive performance ratings.
If your company still makes use of performance ratings, now is the time to say goodbye to that outmoded method of ranking and rating members of your team. Not only has it been shown that performance ratings don’t work as a means of motivation, they can be terrible for collaboration, especially if they are used in conjunction with a “rank and yank” system. After all, why would one employee help another if they are competing against that person, or if they are worried about losing their job to someone who performs better?
You’d be better off transitioning to subjective, forward-thinking and regular employee one-to-ones, where employees will feel more relaxed and able to discuss their strengths, weaknesses and objectives.
A recent Gallup study found that employee engagement dropped 2 percentage points (from 36% to 34%) from 2020 to 2021, but remote workers have higher engagement than in-office workers.
Unite employees with your company’s values.
Company values are important to any performance management system and any business in general. They ultimately impact every single aspect of your business, including whom you hire and keep on the team. A company with a strong grasp of its own values will ultimately develop a team of like-minded people who feel united by a sense of solidarity and community. This makes collaboration much easier and more natural, so take great care when it comes to considering and nurturing your company’s values.
Be transparent with company goals and objectives and show employees how they factor in.
Collaboration and teamwork need to start at the top. Be open and honest regarding company direction and goals, including any and all issues and concerns the company might be facing. This will help show employees that you take them seriously and you consider them a valuable and productive member of the team. Armed with this knowledge, employees can also make informed day-to-day decisions that will help to support company objectives, which helps cultivate a culture of collaboration.
Give your employees the software they need to communicate and collaborate.
Modern software can help a great deal in terms of communication and collaboration. You can use collaboration software, such as Slack, to help employees interact and exchange feedback and advice on a given topic. On top of this, you can use performance management software to arrange and track one-on-ones between manager and employee. This way, everyone will be given the opportunity to exchange valuable and meaningful feedback while remaining up-to-date in terms of objectives and workplace concerns.
Collaboration can be difficult for companies whose cultures are deeply rooted in competition. However, it’s important that businesses of all shapes and sizes make strides toward greater collaboration, particularly given what we know about the psychology and motivations of modern employees. Real, effective change is never easy or quick, but with the right performance management tools, companies can change for the better.