9 December 2020

Why effective collaboration starts with company culture

Remote working on a mountain

Collaboration is a powerful productivity tool that brings teams together and helps businesses succeed.

And yet, collaboration doesn’t simply appear out of thin air; it requires focus, initiative, and an all-in, group effort from employees and employers alike.

In other words, collaboration can’t just be another skill listed on each individual employee’s resume. It must be part of a company’s overarching culture in order to truly have a long-term effect on an organization’s success.

Why Collaborate?

It’s easy to throw collaboration in with other terms like “communication” and “productivity,” but what does it really mean to properly collaborate?

Not to get overly-technical, but the dictionary definition of collaborate reads as “to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor.”

Okay, not too complicated. The question that naturally arises, though, is how this simple concept of working together can play such an important role in a company’s success.

The Value of Collaboration

While it’s easy to simply say collaboration is “important,” sometimes it takes a few solid numbers to truly drive the point home. Salesforce did just that when they released a report titled “Is Poor Collaboration Killing Your Company?”

In the study, which included 1,400 corporate executives, educators, and employees, the company discovered that collaboration isn’t just important for success. In addition, a lack of collaboration can be the primary reason for failure. The report specifically cites that:

  • A whopping 86% of responses claimed a lack of collaboration or ineffective communication as the reason for workplace failures.
  • 97% of those asked said they believed a team’s lack of alignment directly impacted the outcome of any given task or project.

Along with positively affecting the outcome of group projects, collaboration can also help to create a sense of togetherness and community, both of which are essential to sustained success. For instance, in another study by Gusto, it was found that 54% of employees reported that they stayed at a job longer than was in their best interest specifically because of a “strong sense of belonging and community.”

Collaboration in Culture

It’s this crossover of collaboration and community that brings us to the cultural aspect in question.

While the effectiveness of collaboration is difficult to argue with, the findings of studies such as those referenced above also strongly hint at something else: that collaboration must be more than a tool — in fact, it should be part of your company culture.

What’s the difference? At the end of the day, perhaps the biggest difference between a skill and culture is the fact that work skills are teachable. Fitting into an established culture isn’t.

To put it another way, if collaboration is essential to your company culture, it will naturally attract those who thrive in a collaborative atmosphere, perpetuating the effects of healthy collaboration in the process.

The Building Blocks of Quality Collaboration

The important takeaway of all of this is the fact that you can’t simply create sustainable, healthy collaboration by signing up for a course or having employees take a training class.

If you want to tap into the genuine benefits of collaboration, you need to sow it into the very fiber of your organization’s culture. You can do that in several different ways:

The Management Factor

Effective collaboration needs to start at the top. If management isn’t committed to building a collaborative culture, it will quickly undermine any shallow initiatives directed at employees.

In order to establish an atmosphere of teamwork and participation, bosses, employers, team leaders, and project managers must steer whole-heartedly into the belief themselves. They must openly demonstrate collaboration initiatives by accepting input from others, empowering those around them, actively listening, and avoiding micromanaging like the plague.

Empowered Employees

In contrast to management’s need to relinquish control, if true collaboration is to be achieved, employees must also be empowered and encouraged to get involved.

Staff must buy-in to the collaboration concept alongside management and regularly engage with one another. This is especially important in a decentralized or remote workplace — such as was created en masse by the COVID-19 pandemic — where apathetic and uninvested attitudes can leave employees disconnected and isolated.

Part of the employee empowerment process comes from leaders inviting employees to offer their own thoughts and opinions. This encourages them to take ownership and become invested in the projects that they are participating in.

In addition, though, it’s also essential that leaders make an active attempt to recruit the best candidates suited to a collaborative, agile work environment. Like a quality professional sports team, if leadership can recruit the best candidates and then actively lead them to participate in their company culture, it can create a sustainable collaborative environment that consistently produces results.

Bringing It All Together

Once you have both employers and employees on the same page, it’s time to bring them together in a manner that perpetually fosters a collaborative culture. This can happen through several different avenues, such as:

  • Using communication apps: Your team must remain in close communication if they’re going to collaborate on a regular basis.
  • Using collaboration-specific apps: 80% of businesses use tools like those developed by Mindmeister to optimize tasks and generally collaborate in the workplace.
  • Using scheduling apps: Keeping track of meetings (either remote or in-person) is a critical aspect of keeping your team on the same page.
  • Using other team-building activities: If you’re in person, look for team-building challenges like cold-weather camping or rock climbing that your team can bond over.

Regardless of the specific tool or activity, it’s important to use the digital and traditional tools available to help propagate and enhance a collaborative company culture once it’s been established.

Using a Collaborative Company Culture to Succeed

From hiring the right personnel to getting corporate leadership on board to reinforcing cultural expectations with tools and activities, there are plenty of ways to cultivate a collaborative company culture.

The important thing is that leadership understands the fact that truly successful collaborative activity can’t simply be a skill-based endeavor. It must be a culturally-based one. If you can establish collaboration as a true cultural value within your company, you will be able to keep your teams aligned, your communication in sync, and your collaborative efforts both effective and productive on a regular basis.

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Luke Smith

Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics but HR and digital marketing topics are his favorite. When he isn't writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.

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