We should all care more about collaboration.
The benefits are well-known: When team members work well together they achieve greater productivity with less friction. As more people participate in the process, the result is usually better, more refined ideas. Information-sharing leads to better decision-making and outcomes. So, with all these benefits in mind, it’s surprising that one study by Fierce Inc. reported that 86 percent of employees blame workplace failures on lack of collaboration.
“The way we’ve become so dependent on technology, we can work in silos, but we forget that we don’t have all the answers,” says Melissa Mizer, founder of MoreSeekers, a Los Angeles-based leadership and business coaching firm. Business leaders must be collaborative themselves so employees understand that it is expected, she says. To foster a more interactive and open workplace, focus on these five behaviors.
Don’t assume that employees know collaboration and feedback is important-;that message has to come from leaders and co-workers. State the importance of collaboration in meetings, employee materials and training, says business consultant Katharine Halpin, founder The Halpin Companies Inc. in Phoenix.
“Leaders have to continually and consistently communicate what their shared vision is, they're trying to drive to, what success looks like,” Halpin says. If good collaboration is part of that picture, they must say so.
Get employee feedback
Clear communication must be followed by providing employees with the resources and assistance they need to collaborate. This is where feedback is invaluable, Mizer says. What are some of the barriers to collaboration? What factors are inhibiting employees from working together and sharing information? Sometimes new challenges like personality or company culture issues emerge from this feedback, but it’s important to be open to the feedback, whatever it may reveal, she says. “A lot of times, what happens from a collaboration standpoint is that we go in seeking help and then we feel like the other person doesn’t want to hear us or doesn’t have time for us,” she says.
Train new hires
New employees can have a big impact on the workplace, so be sure to include them in your efforts to be more collaborative, Halpin says. Look for people who show signs of having worked well with others in the past and ask questions about previous collaboration during interviews. Get new team members up to speed quickly on collaboration expectations and find ways like face-to-face meetings and coaching, to help them feel comfortable with the work style you’re trying to develop.
Halpin advises her clients to watch participation levels and seek out employees who are more reticent. Some people have an easier time putting themselves out there than others, so if you’ve got team members who aren’t participating, it’s important to find out why. Similarly, if you have someone who’s leading a very collaborative team or doing a great job at information-sharing, give positive feedback to reward that behavior, she says.
Choose the right tool for the job--including face time
Collaboration doesn’t happen in just one way, so it’s important to choose the right formats and have the right tools to help people interact effectively, Halpin says. These may include platforms like Google Documents, Slack or HipChat, which allow employees to literally be on the same page about projects and feedback, providing convenient platforms for information-sharing and project access. Sometimes, meeting in person is the best way to collaborate, build relationships, and create more enthusiasm for collaboration, she says. By supporting employees with the best tools, formats and training, you’ll make your culture of collaboration stronger and more successful, she says.
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