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Collaboration Improves Workplace Performance. Here's How to Encourage It

ByStuart Hearn,
business.com writer
|
Mar 02, 2018
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Employees are more productive and persevere more in collaborative work environments.

Marissa Mayer, the former president and CEO of Yahoo once suggested: "To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side."

Although these words were conveyed in a memo with a rather outdated attitude to remote work, Marissa nevertheless had a good point about collaboration within a workplace. This is a key element of work life that results in increased performance and productivity. If a modern business wants to compete and succeed, they need to find ways to encourage collaboration at all costs. Thankfully, there are ways and means of easily adapting your company's performance management system to allow for improved collaboration, which we will explore below.

Where is the evidence that collaboration is actually beneficial to business?

You might have guessed that collaboration is great for business, but there is actual data and science-backed results to support this claim. One study, carried out by researchers at Stanford University and published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, found employees are more productive, had more motivation and were more determined to persevere with challenges when they felt they were working with others on a task. Work-induced tiredness decreased, and they showed much more of an interest in the challenges posed to them. 

The results were such that, even if an employee was technically working alone, the smallest perception that they were involved in a collaborative process increased their motivation levels substantially. In fact, the study showed that employees who felt the effects of teamwork persevered on tasks 64 percent longer, compared to those who had no sense of collaboration at all. 

Another study found that companies who promote collaborative working were an incredible five times more likely to be high-performing. Clearly, there is a large incentive to encourage teamwork and collaboration. But how can managers and HR executives really reinforce this?

Encourage teamwork as part of your company culture.

If you assumed that collaboration was a natural instinct for the average employee, you have another thing coming. According to one 2013 study, we generally don't collaborate in a workplace when there is little incentive to do so. On the other hand, when companies put steps in place to encourage and promote collaboration, this has a serious impact on our willingness to do so. 

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 each and every team member is critical and has a role to play in the business's success. Which brings us to our next point...

Leverage employee strengths.

In order 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. 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 finally 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 in terms of 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 them, or if they are worried about losing their job to someone who performs better?

Instead, 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.

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 supports 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 connected and 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 towards 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 ultimately change for the better.

Stuart Hearn
Stuart Hearn
See Stuart Hearn's Profile
Stuart Hearn has twenty years of experience in the HR sector. He co-founded plusHR, a leading UK HR consultancy, and previously worked as International HR Director for Sony Music Publishing. Stuart is currently CEO of Clear Review, an innovative performance management software system.
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