A collaborative work environment is governed by tools, software, and management practices emphasizing the advantages of working as a unit across the organization rather than solely as individuals or separate teams. Collaborative work management empowers employees to communicate efficiently and achieve a common goal for the company’s benefit. When integrating collaborative work into different departments or even different organizations, there is a tremendous opportunity to improve productivity for individuals, teams, and the business as a whole.
What is Collaborative Work?
Collaborative work makes up the processes and partnerships involved in delivering a project or achieving another shared goal. The key feature of collaborative work is creating a work environment that promotes team efficiency, teamwork, and problem-solving.
Collaboration may take place between different employees, teams, or organizations across different areas.
Importance of Teamwork and Collaboration at Work
When companies gloss over teamwork and intentional collaboration, they may be missing out on more effective ways to complete tasks and, consequently, more effective ways to deliver projects. Whether the missing component is disjointed tools of communication and data storage or a workplace environment that discourages employees from sharing their ideas, organizations can benefit from a collaborative work environment.
Leverage employees’ full repertoire of skills
Employees may join the company based on a specific skill or skill set related to their professional position, but many times, employees possess a breadth of skills that may be overlooked when collaborative work is underutilized.
For example, a team member from the Finance department may have insights into a problem that the Engineering Department is having, and the Engineering Department may follow an inefficient path forward because the company works in a traditional segmentation of departments. Without an open channel of communication and a workplace that fosters collaborative work, Employee A from Finances cannot share their knowledge with the Engineering Team.
An open, collaborative workplace allows different perspectives to pitch into problem-solving.
Combines diverse perspectives and roles to solve problems faster
In a similar vein, this diverse collection of skills allows a collaborative work-friendly organization to solve problems in less time than their traditional counterparts. The combined power of various skill sets and cultural backgrounds allows fresh, new ideas to come to the surface–ideas that may very well solve long-standing problems in the company.
Supports remote work conditions
Another benefit of collaborative work that may not be evident for brick-and-mortar companies that require work on-site is that it supports remote working or hybrid on-site and remote arrangements.
Collaborative work management accommodates remote teams and is not restricted by location, time zones, and other hurdles that plague traditional companies. With the right software, governance, and company culture, remote teams can thrive.
Emphasizes shared goals
When teams are segmented, it’s easy for individuals to lose sight of shared goals–whether that’s a set of company values or a specific business goal. In an organization that values collaborative work, shared goals become a core driving force of the business, motivating and driving every team member.
Special, customized tools that are tailored to a collaborative work environment also help reduce time wasted in not achieving shared goals–for instance, task-tracking tools and shared data systems that eliminate the need for extraneous communication.
New and better ways of communication
In an organization that values collaborative work, new and more effective methods of communication are necessary, and thus, a pleasant advantage over traditional companies. Collaborative software that incorporates videoconferencing, direct messaging, and file sharing provides employees plenty of opportunities to connect with other teams or departments.
Additionally, transparency regarding data and files not only builds trust and accountability, but makes it easy for employees to access the data they need when they need it without wasting time on requesting access, navigating disjointed data repositories, and learning various software. With an all-in-one collaborative software tool, time spent on non-value-added work is greatly reduced.
Creates a supportive, pro-team atmosphere
Collaborative work also highlights the need for a unified front. And that front rests on the stable and positive relationships between departments and other team members—this starts with a collaborative work environment.
Additionally, teamwork highlights the necessity for soft skills in projects that bring people of different backgrounds together. Beyond teamwork, soft skills include active listening (interpersonal), critical thinking, and effective time management.
Principles of Effective Collaboration
Effective and successful collaboration relies on several key principles to create an impact.
Growth mindset and positive outlook
Workplace collaboration relies on the assumption that its teams hold a positive attitude and adopt a growth mindset. Without these two key components, a collaborative environment cannot exist.
All teams must believe that they are always capable of developing as both an individual and team member–this is where innovation and innovative ideas are born.
Ability to adapt and willingness to experiment
Following the same logic, team members who practice and participate in collaborative work must be willing to try different solutions and adapt when Plan A does not solve the problem.
One benefit of collaborative work is that employees can hold each other accountable. With a democratic hierarchy, everyone has ownership of their individual tasks, but teamwork makes every task matter to the overarching goal.
Accountability cannot exist without transparency and effective communication. Transparency applies not just to quantitative measures of success, but openness and positive relationship between employees and leaders.
Alignment of goals and values
Collaborative workplaces are, by definition, aligned on goals and values. This alignment is what drives the organization forward.
Aiming for success holds everyone accountable, promotes positivity, and fosters trust. The entire company, from individual team members to multi-team projects, must clarify goals to achieve a common goal.
Clear governance and roles
Successful collaborative teams have clearly defined roles and expectations. While innovation and a democratic “hierarchy” defines collaborative workplace management, there is usually a clear delineation of role expectations.
Defined key metrics
Similarly, defined key metrics are necessary to quantify and qualify the efficiency of team collaboration.
Benefits and Challenges of Collaborative Work
Cultivating a collaborative workplace can be challenging, but the benefits bolster an organization’s success.
There are a number of benefits that new technologies and collaboration tools will help cultivate in your organization.
Builds trust to foster 'one team' mentality
Saves time and resources
Boosts company interaction and virtual collaboration
Minimizes focus on traditional business hierarchy
Bolsters potential to meet deadlines and overcome challenges faster
Encourages employees to pitch in regardless of the official role they hold
A handful of hurdles can be created by collaboration software, which require attention to address.
The effort to change set processes and mindsets
Team resistance to new ideas
Competition between teams for a collaborative task
Engagement is lower than expected
Roles and expectations are unclear
Potential for different team processes to clash
Strategies for Improving Collaboration at Work
There are a number of strategies organizations can adopt to work towards fostering collaboration between teams in the workplace.
Define clear goals and set realistic expectations
Appoint a leader if necessary
Discuss pain points (and successes) in the collaborative process regularly
Set up a time for brainstorming and effective meetings
Cultivate a collaborative work environment and improve communication
Welcome all ideas to make team members and employees feel feel encouraged
Model collaborative principles (for leadership roles)
Establish overlapping work times if teams are remote
Adopt collaborative working tools or collaboration software
Reward team collaboration
Tools for Collaborative Work
Various tools–both technical and otherwise–help facilitate a strong sense of collaboration. Digital tools are especially crucial to perform communication that collaboration requires. Some tools include:
Calendar sharing tools
File/data sharing tools
Different channels for messaging/chatting
What is collaborative work?
Collaborative work is the collective effort employees from different teams across an organization put toward achieving a shared business goal. Collaborative work has many benefits such as faster problem-solving, more flexible modes of thinking and acting, and an overall more productive organization. Building relationships through the collaboration process allow group members to work as one unit, share knowledge, and find solutions.
What are the principles of effective collaboration?
The principles of effective collaboration include having a growth mindset, transparency, accountability, adaptability, and clear governance.
What are common challenges of collaborative work?
Some common challenges of collaborative work include poor governance, little to no engagement, unexpected competition between teams or employees, the unexpected conflict between teams or employees, and resistance to new technology and work values. Problems arise in workplace collaboration when team members are not versed or trained in active listening or group dynamics, resulting in a group that is not on the same page.
How can technology facilitate a collaborative workplace?
Technology can facilitate a collaborative workplace through effective and productivity-friendly modes of communication, data management, and workplace organization. The right collaborative software makes it easy to communicate with others from different teams or projects, pitch ideas for future projects, and manage data all in one common platform.