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Team Collaboration: Why It’s Important and the Best Strategies to Build a Collaborative Team

Every business is made up of a team – whether it’s two people or a hundred – and its success depends on how effective the collaboration is.

Keep in mind that 86 percent of employees blame lack of collaboration for workplace failures. 

In comparison, connected, supportive, and collaborative teams can increase profitability by up to 21 percent, according to a Gallup survey.

So, in this post, we’ll teach you how to develop an environment that promotes team collaboration.

What Is Team Collaboration?

The term “collaboration” can be described as a situation where two or more people are working together towards the same goal. 

Team collaboration can, therefore, be defined as working together as a group to brainstorm new ideas, solve problems, complete projects, and achieve common objectives.

A collaborative team accomplishes more together than if the individuals worked independently. Its ultimate objective is to maximize business success. 

By working together, teams share workloads and bring unique insights and perspectives. So, they end up working more effectively and efficiently.

Group collaboration also promotes healthy employee relationships, which tend to improve team performance and overall company productivity.

However, here’s the tricky part. Teams are spread across the globe, and businesses are going virtual, making cooperation rather challenging. 

That’s why companies must take measures to establish a collaborative culture with the right conditions to achieve high levels of cooperation.

Why Team Collaboration Is Important: The Benefits

A group of employees has more impact on the success of a business compared to individual work. There’s a lot to gain from shared creation, knowledge, and innovation. By working together, team members understand how their colleagues think, work, and operate. In turn, employees learn from each other and build upon their strengths.

At the end of it all, the organization and employees benefit greatly from group collaboration. Some of the top benefits of team collaboration include:

Enhances Problem Solving Skills

Excellent collaboration in an organization can help with crisis management. When different individuals pool their talents, skills, knowledge, expertise, and perspectives, there’s a greater chance of finding plausible solutions.

For example, when a project hits a wall, the more eyes you add to the project, the easier it becomes to spot issues and resolve them.

The diversity that team collaboration brings in the workplace helps teams resolve problems more creatively and effectively.

Fuels Innovation

Collaboration brings together the various perspectives of different individuals. This exposes people to a wide pool of ideas and different approaches. Their skills complement each other, and through their interaction, they are constantly updated with new information.

This creates a continuous cycle of ideation, which can accelerate the generation of new creative ideas.

Increases Engagement

Employee engagement has several benefits in an organization. Apart from lowering absenteeism by up to 41 percent, highly engaged employees are 87 percent less likely to quit their jobs.

Similarly, according to a Stanford study, employees who worked on tasks collaboratively stuck 64 percent longer than their solitary colleagues. They even reported higher engagement levels. This proves that when employees support each other, there’s a boost in participation.

You also get a high-performing team that is ready to embrace change since collaboration makes it easy to solve any obstacles.

Promotes Open Communication

For teams to collaborate successfully, there must be strong communication. According to a Harvard University study, effective communication facilitates information exchange, transfer of ideas, and smooth workflow. People ask questions, dig deep into discussions, and even disagree in certain instances.

This creates honest communication that enables work to progress. A team that communicates well can comfortably share ideas and increase their level of participation. While communication isn’t always easy, especially with remote teams, you can foster effective team communication by integrating collaborative tools and encouraging active listening in the workplace.

Boosts Employee Morale and Happiness

Team collaboration in the workplace creates an atmosphere where each individual feels heard and valued. Employees can contribute equally towards the same goal and work together as a team, no matter their position.

According to an Accountemps survey, 33 percent of HR practitioners believe that poor collaboration is one of the major causes of morale issues. Meanwhile, 38 percent believe that communication is the most effective way to boost engagement.

INFOGRAPHIC - Team Collaboration and Employee Morale

Employees will feel happy knowing they are part of a team, and it’s this equality and happiness that boosts employee morale. This inspires them to perform at their best and are likely to stay longer at the company.

It’s also advantageous to your company since it will attract top-performing candidates looking for engaged workplaces.

Improves Productivity

When a collaborative and well-coordinated group comes together to work towards a common goal, the result is faster production. Working in groups makes employees more efficient, and the higher engagement levels maximize performance.

Additionally, sharing workloads reduces employee fatigue and burnout. An organization that prioritizes team collaboration promotes creative solutions to tough problems through group effort.

Fosters Skill Sharing

Part of team collaboration is tabling ideas and knowledge to try to solve problems or create new ideas. There will be lots of information flow and exchange of expertise, as well as feedback and viewpoints.

The diversity of knowledge and skills are shared between team members, boosting their experience and expanding their skills further.

Moreover, team collaboration allows a new team member to learn from more senior employees who have experience working for the company. This creates a great opportunity for mentorship.

Aligns Remote Teams

It’s clear by now that most companies are adopting a work-from-home policy, with Owl Lab research showing that 16 percent of companies globally operate fully remote. While it has its advantages, one downside of working remotely is that teams feel lonely and siloed. Of course, this can negatively impact performance and productivity.

Team collaboration brings teams together, and helps them stay connected, aligned, and updated.

Challenges of Team Collaboration

Realizing the fundamental importance of group collaboration in the workplace is just the beginning. The real work starts when you begin cultivating a collaborative work environment.

Your company culture will greatly contribute to the success of a collaborative team, and there will be many challenges to overcome:

●       Managing distributed teams. Where teams don’t know each other well, it can be tremendously difficult to share knowledge with one another. Teams will be less inclined to proactively cooperate and this can stall projects.

●       Resistance to change. Change is not everyone’s cup of tea. Some will take to new strategies with enthusiasm, while others will view them with negativity and skepticism. It won’t be easy to inspire team collaboration when a section of team members isn’t on board with your new initiatives.

●       Insufficient or outdated tools. There can’t be team collaboration without the right tools to support it in the first place. The world now operates digitally, meaning there’s heavy reliance on technologies that support internal communication and project management. If you don’t invest in the right tools, you won’t realize the full potential of a collaborative team.

●       Silo mentality. Apart from distance, the tension between departments, resource hoarding, and unhealthy competition can create a silo mentality in an organization. This is when team members fail or refuse to share information with other departments within the same organization. This can result in inefficiencies and poor performance of employees.

●       Information overload. Your collaboration approach may be great the first time, but then you end up overdoing it with information overload. If you implement too many training videos, communication tools, meetings, and so on, your employees will feel overwhelmed and confused. This can leave a negative impact on performance and participation.

What’s the Difference Between Teamwork Vs. Team Collaboration?

“Teamwork” and “collaboration” are usually used interchangeably in many contexts. While closely related, these two terms are quite distinct. Here are some major differences between team collaboration and teamwork:

Leadership

Usually, when teams are working together, there is a team leader who guides and manages the team. With team collaboration, there are no leaders. It’s a group of people working collectively and contributing equally.

Diversity of Skills

While teamwork relies on coordination to achieve a specific objective, collaboration thrives on improvisation. A collaborative team comprises experts and professionals who brainstorm ideas and opinions that enable them to solve problems and contrive innovation.

Creation

In teamwork, every individual is given specific roles and responsibilities to fulfill within the context of “team”. The outcomes and results are fairly defined, and tasks are performed within a familiar framework of expectations.

In contrast, team collaboration involves two or more individuals sharing new understandings, ideas, or perspectives that none had thought of or could think of on their own.

There is positive uncertainty and unpredictability in group collaboration since the outcome isn’t defined. The unique insights of each participating individual, along with active dialogue between collaborators lead to more creativity and better results.

Essential Elements for Team Collaboration

Keep in mind, collaboration isn’t something you can create and implement overnight. It’s a long process that requires careful planning, commitment, and execution. You’ll need to gain a better understanding of your team members so you’ll know how to foster a good working relationship.

Additionally, you’ll need to develop specific skills for teaming and collaboration:

1. Trust

Every team collaboration is based on good relationships, and trust is at the core of each relationship. Collaboration means that each individual relies on the other to do their jobs.

A lack of trust among the team members can lead to a breakdown of information flow and increases the risks of withholding information and failure to cooperate. Consequently, this results in unpleasant outcomes and poor work performance.

A high level of trust can only be achieved where there’s open communication, accountability, and transparency. Employees will also develop trust with supportive team members.

2. Communication

A report by McKinsey shows that well-connected teams register a 20-25 percent increase in productivity. Productive team collaboration cannot exist in an organization where communication is ineffective. Like trust, communication plays a crucial role in any relationship.

There are many aspects to communication, as well as, multiple channels of communication that you can apply. However, when it comes to team collaboration in a remote setup, what you say and how you say it matters a lot.

There are things like tone of voice, body language, and choice of words to consider. All these will vary depending on the means of communication. For example, with written communication, you can use emoticons to display emotions in your messages.

Additionally, you must practice being an active listener. This involves listening to understand, showing that you listened by summarizing what you think the speaker means, and asking follow-up questions.

3. Transparency

Transparency is the key to building trust with your teammates. It shows that you trust them enough to share things without waiting to be asked. It shows that you’re not hiding anything from them.

Transparency means providing access to vital company information and resources. From a team collaboration context, transparency involves various aspects:

●       Transparency of work, where all collaborators share their work openly and provide access to them.

●       Transparency of roles, where all collaborators know each other’s roles and responsibilities. This ensures balanced work distribution and prevents burnout.

●       Transparency of communication, where all collaborators share freely their progress reports on ongoing projects.

When teams operate transparently, they can quickly identify bottlenecks and fix them. Also, they can share knowledge and skills, helping each other reach their full potential.

4. Accountability

The most important value of team collaboration is accountability. Teams will be working collectively, and they must be willing and ready to accept responsibility for individual actions – whether failure or success.

A lack of accountability can lead to various issues, such as teams failing to hit deadlines or achieve project goals. In the end, resentments, blame, distrust, and tension among team members may arise, which could end up destabilizing the workplace relationship.

Pro Tip: Use an Employee Monitoring Tool

To ensure that everyone’s doing their share of work, use employee monitoring software. Traqq logs a user’s work hours, activity levels, website access, and app usage. This way, you will have plenty of markers that indicate how productive an employee is. You can ensure that everyone is responsible for the work expected from them.

apps & websites - traqq

At the same time, Traqq will also help you identify struggling workers and those who can take more tasks. By distributing jobs efficiently, you’re also fostering a healthy work culture.

5. Self-Awareness

Self-awareness contributes to emotional intelligence since it involves knowing your emotions and motivations – and how they affect everyone on the team. Being self-aware enables you to recognize your feelings and concerns and know how to manage them.

To develop self-awareness, actively seek out feedback from teammates – and not just positive feedback. Ask for your weaknesses and blind spots so you can do better. Likewise, try to check in with yourself to figure out the emotions you’re dealing with, so you know how to manage them.

Steps to Build Successful Team Collaboration

1. Create a Compelling Mission that Will Inspire Your Team

First and foremost, you need to provide a compelling reason why team members should be part of the company vision. You need to give employees a cause to be part of, something that will inspire them to show up to work each day. In a way, you’re also setting yourself up to be a transformational leader who motivates employees to be productive.

That’s why you should define your company’s mission so you can bring your staff together under one common goal that you’ll all be working towards. Your mission should be compelling enough to make them passionate about their jobs.

The more passionate they are, the more likely they’ll put more effort into achieving the organization’s mission.

2. Set the Team’s Goals

Team members must know their individual – as well as team – goals that they are working towards. These objectives will help them stay focused and productive while working collectively.

Be sure to communicate your team’s goals for each project and re-evaluate and redirect as necessary. At the end of each project, find effective ways to measure and celebrate progress, wins, and achievements and pinpoint what needs improvement.

3. Clarify Expectations

The best approach to minimize confusion is to communicate clearly defined expectations for collaboration. These should be set from the start and integrated into the company culture. In fact, you should make it part of employee onboarding so that new hires can join teams knowing you prioritize team collaboration.

You can implement your expectations by:

●       Explaining to each team member what’s expected of them and how their role contributes to team success.

●       Providing details about how they will carry out individual roles collaboratively.

●       Hosting weekly team meetings to check on how they are coping with their roles and responsibilities and gauge if they can take on more roles.

4. Incorporate Technology that Supports Collaboration

According to a Deloitte study, digital collaboration in the workplace brings satisfaction among employees. 17 percent of respondents were happier with their company culture when they had access to the right tools for teamwork. For these employees, digital collaboration programs improve productivity, transparency, communication quality, and morale.

INFOGRAPHIC: The Benefits of Digital Collaboration Tools

Companies can accomplish more by investing in the various technological tools available. Such tools can:

●       Connect remote workers regardless of their location

●      Track time, employee productivity levels, and project progress using a time tracking app

●       Allow members to share documents, projects, and anything work-related with ease

●       Create ways to share feedback, ideas, concerns, and insights

●       Provide solutions to work collaboratively on documents and projects

5. Highlight Individual Team Member’s Strengths

A report by Forbes shows that 66 percent of employees would quit their jobs if they didn’t feel appreciated. This percentage jumps to 76 percent among millennials. You probably identified an employee’s specific strengths during the recruiting process. A good strategy is to understand each of your employees and assign tasks that reflect their individual strengths.

Doing so will make your team feel trusted, supported, and valued. Additionally, when team members know each other’s strengths, they’ll know who to turn to when they need specific information or help.

6. Ask for Feedback

Employees will be more comfortable working when they are included in the decision-making process. Moreover, a Claremont Graduate University study reported that perceived autonomy impacts work output and effort. So, as a leader, ask your team to share ideas on the best approach to working collaboratively.

By asking for feedback, you’ll know how to effectively create teams comprising like-minded people who prefer the same work styles.

7. Recognize and Reward Successful Team Collaboration

One effective strategy to encourage workplace behaviors is through recognition and reward. When you reward collaborative behavior, you’re sending the right message to other team members about the values of your business.

They’ll know what actions or attitudes you expect from them, and this can help increase motivation and engagement.

Collaboration Makes the Team Work

Implementing your collaboration strategies takes a lot of work and a combination of the right tools. Its success, however, depends on various aspects like encouraging open communication, fostering cohesion among employees, and rewarding successful collaborations.

Most importantly, be sure to get team input before introducing any new initiatives. This makes them feel part of something bigger and more likely to embrace new changes.

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