It’s no secret that collaboration is a must-have in the hybrid workplace. Whether your employees are working in the office, at home, or a bit of both.
But just how important is collaboration today? Here’s what the numbers show.
A study from McKinsey revealed that proper attention to collaboration can raise productivity by 20% to 30%. And employees agree as well: the Gensler US Workplace Survey indicated that 43% of workers search for office environments that “promote team building and collaboration.”
Project managers always strive to create a collaboration-focused work environment. Those who work together well do the job right, so what can you do to facilitate collaboration in your business?
Read on to learn the basics of collaboration, and why it’s one of the most important components of the modern, hybrid workplace.
Why Collaboration Matters Today
Businesses today accomplish goals that are too complex and broad for a single employee to achieve. Strong communication matters especially now that we’re living in a connected world, and embracing collaboration is one of the easiest ways for a business to stay competitive as it drives growth and development.
A large part of project management is fostering teamwork to deliver better results, as well as giving employees new skills and experiences. In a collaborative environment, employees always feel welcome to share thoughts and hear from others. The result is a boost to not only productivity but also morale.
The Must-Have Elements of a Collaborative Team
What are the ingredients for the perfect team-based workplace? While many employees get along by themselves, there are several steps management can take to build a sense of collaboration among team members.
Being an expert leader is about having the personal and organizational skills necessary to drive the group towards success while still accommodating for the needs of each individual in the team. Some of those skills are:
- Task and time management: Leadership often involves managing tasks and timeframes. What needs to get done today, and what can be finished tomorrow? And who is delegated to each task? Keeping everyone in sync should be the goal.
- Honesty: Praise team members for doing well but don’t be afraid to criticize constructively whenever necessary to keep everyone on track.
- Open-mindedness: Leaders don’t function alone and still rely on the contributions of the rest of the team. Be open to different opinions.
“Every group needs a strong leader that can get the job done
to the best of everybody’s abilities within a reasonable timeframe.”
Tell team members that they can feel free to ask questions to make things clear and actively listen to their questions and concerns. The benefits here are:
- Transparency in what you expect from everyone
- Reduced friction between employees
- A real sense of community
- More open-mindedness, which drives innovation
Open-mindedness matters here because meetings for business projects often end up becoming a mish-mash of various ideas and perspectives. The more open you are to the ideas of others, the more you can thrive in this sort of environment.
One strategy you can use at your next brainstorming session is to write down all the ideas anyone brings up on the board before discussing the details of each and whether to accept or deny any. This process shows that everyone’s opinion has a fair chance.
Disagreements are an inevitability in any business project, and conflict resolution is, therefore, an important skill for any project manager. At the same time, team members should be able to resolve these issues by themselves to some degree.
Remarkable team collaboration isn’t about avoiding conflicts altogether, which is nearly impossible. Rather, you should focus on resolving disagreements and strengthening the bond between group members.
Tying communication with conflict resolution is the ability to debate in a group. Debates are a necessary step for diverging opinions to come to a resolution that benefits the team as a whole. Innovation can only happen when your colleagues can argue without taking things too personally. Team leaders should encourage constructive debates.
Don’t Leave Anybody Behind
Some people might have trouble articulating their own opinions or points of view. Maybe spending too much time with the group as a whole makes it difficult to answer to individual needs. Either way, making sure no one gets left behind is a coveted skill for team leaders.
- If you see someone having trouble communicating properly, take that employee into a private meeting and try to understand what he has to say. Remember that everyone’s opinion deserves a chance.
- In the same vein, try to communicate in the way your employees prefer. Some people statistically prefer written over verbal communication, so accommodate accordingly during the meetings.
- Have well-defined roles for each team member. They are important for collaboration and flexibility in any business project. Some employees might have more skills in the technical aspects of the job while others can come up with excellent ideas to keep the project moving forward.
An effective collaboration space will allow you to get the most out of everyone’s skill sets in a team.
Keep Your Eye on the Ball
Think about your long-term goals and realize that collaboration is also about keeping the team focused on the shared purpose of the group. What ultimate objective are you all here to achieve?
If you can answer that question, you can tune your contributions to the team towards that goal. Specifically, employees who understand the main purpose of the team will make a stronger effort to stay aligned with those goals.
Having all members focused on the same target is especially important when priorities shift, setbacks occur, and other events outside of your control cause the project to go off-course temporarily. A properly collaborating group is able to adapt quickly and easily. Adaptability is a skill that can only be learned through experience, but the best step a project manager can make is to lead by example.
More and more businesses are switching at least partially to remote work, and project managers have the added responsibility of ensuring smooth communication amongst everyone despite the physical distancing.
“When you aren’t in the same room, it can be difficult or awkward to rely on
other group members.
Software and sometimes cloud-based collaboration tools now exist to fill in the gaps.
They can be seen as a centralized location to send messages, post updates,
make announcements, and plan out next steps.”
Choosing a Collaboration Platform
Companies everywhere are adopting collaboration software to help not only with remote work but also promote organization in complicated business teams. If you’re in the market for such a tool, look for:
- Strong feature sets: Look for features that cover all the aspects of team collaboration. You don’t have to invest in several fragmented pieces of software to get the job done.
- Ease of use: The longer it takes for everyone to learn how to use a platform, the less impactful it will be. If you can request a demo, look for an intuitive UI and help documentation.
- Integrations: You want integrations with your other business tools. Is the platform compatible with all the file systems your organization uses? Are there ways in which a collaboration tool can communicate with other systems to streamline the workflow?
- Cloud delivery: This is more important than ever before. Cloud-based delivery for collaboration software enables employees to contribute no matter where they are. While some project managers are rightly concerned about data privacy, many service providers do offer features for protecting sensitive files and processes.
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Collaboration is everything today. Your employees want it, your projects need it, and it’s the catalyst driving the hybrid workplace forward.
Finding collaboration-friendly solutions doesn’t have to be hard. You just need to know what to look for.
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