Better Together: Effective Collaboration at Work

by Mark Ellwood

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One of the major skills that employers are looking for these days is the ability to collaborate. Workplaces in general have become more collaborative and firms need people who can work well in a team, form trusting bonds with those around them and contribute towards shared efforts and goals. Today we look at why the culture of collaboration has taken transformed how we work and effective ways to foster the collaborative approach in the workplace.


From Individuals To Collaborative Contributors

What we know as ‘the workplace’ has undergone very significant changes since 2020 – steered by three main drivers. These are the en masse entry of Gen Z into the workplace, the advances in technology and of course, the Covid19 pandemic.

Many might have predicted that the wholesale shift to remote working during the pandemic would have started to erode the teamwork skills that people had been acquiring in the face to face environment. However, the sudden massive investment and growth in remote working technology ensured an abundance of digital tools that have made online collaboration easier than ever before, leading to what some have termed ‘hyper-collectivism’.

Collaboration Drives Productivity

As Kate Vitasek reported in Forbes last year; a collaborative environment has shown to significantly improve productivity. There are many factors at play, but most significantly;

  •        Collaboration (especially digital) eliminates wasted time trying to find information as you would in a silo work culture

  •      A workplace culture that encourages collaboration ensures that employees are more likely to work together to find useful solutions

  •        Collaborative environments help employees learn from each other

  •       Collaboration improves problem-solving capabilities and creative thinking, in turn leading to greater adaptation of the company to changing circumstances

  •        It creates an engaged workforce where each person feels like a contributing member of a unified team

So, collaboration allows individuals to pool their diverse skills, knowledge, and perspectives to achieve shared goals. However, effective collaboration is not simply about working together; it requires a thoughtful and strategic approach. Here are our Top-6 tips for collaboration success:


1. Create Clear Goals & Objectives

Before starting any collaborative project, it is essential to define clear goals and objectives. When everyone understands what they are working towards, it becomes easier to align efforts and make collective decisions. You’ll need to clarify the purpose of the project, identifying desired outcomes (what success looks like), and set measurable targets. Communicating these goals to all team members is also essential, to ensure everyone is on the same page.


2. Foster Open Communication

Team members should all encourage each other to share their ideas, opinions, and concerns freely - without fear of judgment or reprisal. New communication tools such as instant messaging, video conferencing and chats on Teams have made this communication much easier to achieve.


3. Build Trust & Psychological Safety

Collaboration only works when everyone trusts each other and has the confidence that they’re all working for a common collective cause. To create this trust, team members need to follow through on commitments and respect the contributions of all team members. Psychological safety is an environment that encourages, recognises and rewards individuals for their contributions and ideas by making individuals feel safe when taking risks that involve others. Encouraging open dialogue, constructive criticism and feedback and avoiding any kind of blame-or-shame game will build this environment of safety.


4. Embrace Diversity & Inclusion

As we keep mentioning in our blog posts, diverse teams bring a wealth of perspectives, experiences, and ideas to the table. Collaborative teams need to respect and embrace individual differences, actively ensuring that diverse voices are heard and considered. Team leaders should be attuned to the unique strengths and skills each team member brings, so that these can be leveraged in the best possible way.


5. Promote Delegation & Ownership

As a team, responsibilities should be distributed, and individuals should be allowed to take ownership of their assigned tasks. Again, delegation of tasks should be based on each team member's strengths and expertise, ensuring a balanced workload (again linking to the need for a diverse set of experiences and skills within the team). At the same time, autonomy should be encouraged, empowering individuals to make decisions within their designated areas of the project. This not only increases productivity but also fosters a sense of ownership, accountability, and personal investment in the collaborative process.


6. Establish Clear Roles & Responsibilities

Clearly defined roles and responsibilities ensure that everyone understands their contribution to the collaborative effort. This ensures that everyone is on the same page and working towards a common purpose. In turn, this streamlines collaboration and increases productivity further. Specific roles should be assigned, again based on individual skills and interests, while avoiding overlaps and any ambiguities that could lead to blind spots or doubling up. Each team member's responsibilities and expectations should be very clearly communicated, outlining deadlines and deliverables. Roles should be regularly revisited and re-clarified as the project evolves to maintain alignment and prevent misunderstandings.


A Collaborative Culture

These are our tips for working in collaboration as a team, but zooming out, how do firms create a culture of collaboration?

This requires consistent effort and reinforcement of this collaboration mindset. Teamwork should be encouraged by recognising and celebrating collaborative achievements. Senior managers should be looking for opportunities for cross-functional collaboration and encouraging interdepartmental exchanges. Channels for ongoing collaboration, such as regular inter-functional team meetings or collaboration platforms should be created and enhanced. Finally, leading by example and promoting a culture that values collaboration will inspire others to do the same.


As a final thought, it’s worth mentioning the psychological benefits of collaboration. Collaboration allows employees to stop feeling alone and isolated on individual tasks and instead feel supported and enhanced by the efforts and morale boosting interaction of their colleagues. Errors can be spotted and corrected before they get out of hand and the process leads to greater investment by employees in the company they work for. Delegation and task sharing alongside willing, mutual support leads to working smarter, rather than harder, which helps to prevent burnout. Recognition of all these benefits has led to our present-day collaboration-led workplaces.