1. What is a culture of collaboration?
2. Features of collaborative workplace culture
3. Benefits of collaborative culture
4. Steps to creating a collaborative workplace culture
Many companies I have worked for myself, and many of those my friends work for, talk a lot about collaboration and innovation. These two concepts are often talked about during meetings and brainstorming sessions. We keep being given new software with the purpose of improving team collaboration. Collaboration and innovation appear frequently among organisational values and within business mission statements. Yet many of us work in organisational silos and struggle with collaborating with our colleagues.
So, what is the problem?
Despite all the talk, actions driving collaborative culture rarely follow.
Collaborative culture often seems to be confused with concepts of teamwork and networking which, while important, aren’t synonymous.
What is a culture of collaboration?
A collaborative culture is centred around the idea of collective intelligence and that we’re better together. It’s a culture when collaboration happens deliberately and on a regular basis, driving creative and innovative business solutions.
It is a culture where collaboration isn’t limited to major projects and team meetings, therefore isn’t confused with communication or teamwork.
Teamwork = work together
Collaboration = think together + work together
Unlike teamwork, collaborative culture empowers and liberates individuals across an organisation to think freely.
Collaborative culture means that rather than being randomly initiated by an individual, collaboration is baked into organisational policies and processes concerning how people conduct their work on a day-to-day basis and encouraging a collective collaborative attitude within an organisation.
Features of a Collaborative Workplace Culture
To strengthen a culture of collaboration within your organisation, you should ensure that the following concepts are kept in mind of all times and reinforced with every existing and new business initiative.
A strong collaborative culture is one that encourages transparency across your organisation.
Transparency should inform all your teams’ projects and tasks for greater business impact.
Your organisation should encourage open and clear communication, sharing organisational news, information, strategies, results, and best practices to achieve common organisational goals.
Transparency within an organisation encourages learning, individual & team development, and efficiency.
DEMOCRATISATION OF KNOWLEDGE
A strong collaborative culture strategy ensures that everyone across your organisation, from marketers, to data professionals, to CEOs, have access to the organisation’s corporate intelligence.
Democratisation of organisational information and knowledge empowers employees and liberates them to create creative and actionable solutions aimed at empowering and bettering their teams and the business.
Democratising information, data and insights encourages innovation and gives your business competitive advantage it needs.
Effective communication is the backbone of successful collaboration within organisations.
To work together effectively, employees and departments must be able to communicate with one another seamlessly and clearly to ensure understanding of organisational goals and any ideas & initiatives aimed at achieving those.
Appropriate channels should be selected to allow individuals across the organisation to communicate with peers, managers, and organisational leaders, build their communication skills and encourage collaboration.
Trust is necessary for effective and efficient collaboration across your organisation.
Creating a culture of collaboration within an organisation can only begin once the trust within teams and between individuals and organisational leadership has been established.
Trust in management & organisational leadership encourages employees to come forward with concerns and solutions, encouraging cross-department collaboration and sprouting creative innovation.
INTENTIONALLY CREATED COLABORATIVE SPACES
Spaces destined for teamwork and collaboration are still important.
Following the outbreak of coronavirus and increase in remote/home working across organisations around the world, many organisations struggled with issues concerning communication and transparency, resulting in disconnect.
While many of us have gone back to our offices, many others continue to work remotely. We’ve also seen an increase in hybrid working. Coronavirus disruption forced us to rethink physical collaborative spaces and smart work resulting in development of remote offices, leadership ad collaboration.
Tools and technologies used for creating ‘best practices’ remote working environment are now more important than ever and should be baked into organisational policies and strategies to prevent working in silos.
PURPOSELY IMPLEMENTED STRATEGIES AND TOOLS
Organisations striving for the ultimate collaborative culture should bake collaboration into their strategies and purposely implement tools aimed at driving it.
Project management & collaboration tools, productivity apps and cloud-based workplaces empower employees to communicate and work seamlessly with one another, whether at offices or remotely.
These tools should be implemented in support of intentionally created strategies, with individuals across the organisation aware why they’re using them, what best practices for using them are, and how using them can drive positive organisational change and achieving organisational goals.
Collaborative culture empowers and liberated employees to actively engage with one another, their managers and organisational leadership.
It’s a culture where everyone feels excited to share their visions and responsibilities with one another.
The results: feeling motivated, trust, and investment in contributing to driving an organisation forward.
Benefits of a Collaborative Culture
1. Unlocked minds & greater contribution to achieving organisational objectives
Collaborative culture empowers and liberates employees to think freely, therefore promotes exploration of alternative ideas and solutions aimed at achieving organisational goals and offers competitive advantages in todays challenging business environment.
2. Improved morale & growing employee loyalty
Employees who feel useful and valued are more likely to be loyal to organisational leadership and businesses. Lower employee turnover translates to many other business benefits, like efficiency in recruitment and training as well as cost reductions.
3. Unique perspective resulting in decreased bias & better solutions
When individuals across an organisation feel not only comfortable but empowered to share their views and visions with others, we end up with many unique perspectives.
Different inputs from different individuals across all the different departments of the business, not only decrease bias, but offers an advantageous opportunity to create more creative and innovative strategies and solutions.
4. Increased efficiency, better research & actionable insights
While not all tasks require a team of people to work on them, more strategic, larger projects can benefit from collaboration. Complex initiatives, for example data projects, should involve data team collaboration as well as collaboration with business stakeholders to ensure relevant, actionable insights are produced.
5. Collaborative culture encourages learning & development
Collaboration with people of different background and who bring different skills to the table encourages learning.
Engaging and working with other team members and departments should be treated as a learning experience. Feedback should be asked for and provided, views, knowledge and information should be shared. Pain points should be communicated and taken on board for better understanding and future improvement.
Learning from colleagues and management is one of the greatest benefits of a collaborative culture and the first step in creating a culture centred around development.
6. Collaboration breaks down silos & strengthens relationships
Many departments across organisations still work in silos. This could be because individuals lack skills to be a team player and contribute to a collaborative culture, other times departments compete with one another, hoarding information and knowledge, instead of sharing it.
The most successful organisations encourage/require collaboration across various departments.
Cross-department collaboration encourages people of different skills and talents to work on projects together, promoting organisational knowledge democratisation, enabling individuals to better understand other people’s role within the business and, eventually, improving future projects’ outcomes.
Cross-department collaboration helps build relationships with colleagues and strengthens them overtime.
Steps to creating collaborative culture
1. Make collaboration a priority by baking it into your organisational strategy
As said earlier, collaboration isn’t circumstantial and sporadic. A culture of collaboration is one when collaboration is deliberate and supported with the right policies and tools.
To ensure your organisation encourages and liberates everyone to collaborate with one another, you need more than tools and digital workspaces. A single app can improve communication and promote transparency, but it can not transform organisational culture.
Transformation comes from leadership, carefully designed strategies, and policies.
For example, to ensure employees feel their work is valued, make two-way feedback a part of your project workflow.
When people feel heard and listened to, they feel more comfortable coming forward with new ideas and don’t hesitate to share their pain points. Making feedback a part of your project workflow leads to decreased bias, improved cross-department communication, and teamwork, ultimately contributing to a culture of collaboration.
2. Establish common organisational goals and get leadership to promote them across all departments
Organisational silos are the enemy of cross-department collaboration.
Establishment of a unified organisational vision and getting leaders to communicate and promote it among employees help minimise the risk of individual departments working in silos.
This unified vision should be communicated often and with the use of various mediums to make sure employees aren’t losing sight of a bigger picture and continue to work together to achieve the company’s overall mission.
3. Invest in tech that suits the needs of various departments and people
While technology itself isn’t a solution to fixing organisational culture, it is necessary in transforming it and building high performing teams.
Technology can help leaders promote instant communication between individuals and departments. Messaging apps, project management tools and survey platforms have the power to improve communication, systemise and standardise processes, and increase productivity and efficiency.
If used correctly.
And by that, I mean using tools that are best suited for your organisations needs and your employees are aware why they use them and what best practices for using them are.
For organisational leadership to know what these tools are, they must communicate with their employees and listen to their ideas and feedback. Without engaging in two-way communication and teamwork first, could make an introduction of a tool ineffective and collaboration between employees unlikely.
4. Use feedback correctly
Feedback is a manager’s most effective tool. It drives teams and organisations forward. But only when used correctly.
Organisational leadership never shy away from giving feedback having identified gaps and opportunities for improvement. But while it’s important that everyone across an organisation realises where these lie, it’s equally important not to limit feedback to negative criticism only and to provide employees with an opportunity to express their views and ideas.
Constructive feedback and encouraging a two-way sharing of initiatives and ideas promotes collaboration and provides organisations with opportunities for growth and development.
5. Foster a work environment where everyone within your team knows what they’re doing and why
Teams only perform to their highest potential when given an opportunity to do so.
Creative and truly collaborative work environment starts with communication and teamwork. These two concepts must be encouraged and reinforced with every new initiative.
Team members thrive when communication is open and honest, and every team member is aware of the bigger picture and feels engaged and included in a decision-making process.
When every individual knows overall team and organisational goal, their own and others’ role in achieving those, collaboration is smoother and more efficient.
You can make it even more efficient by standardising and systemising your team’s workflows.
Collaboration practices within organisations can make or break them. That’s why it’s crucial that organisational leadership take responsibility for shaping a culture encouraging positive attitudes and day-to-day routines.
I hope you find this post useful in helping you transforming your organisational culture.