75% of employers rate teamwork and collaboration as “very important”, yet it seems that many companies don’t know how to get their employees working together in an efficient and collaborative manner. Many factors go into this, from company culture to the space you’re in, but there is pretty much always room for improvement when it comes to collaborative work among team members. So how exactly do you improve your collaborative culture? Here we look at 10 strategies for improving collaborative culture in the workplace, from brainstorming to social networks and collaboration tools. Let’s get to it!
1. Hold regular brainstorming sessions
Whether you’re Forbes or a small startup, a good brainstorming session is the cornerstone of collaboration in any workplace environment. These sessions give your employees a chance to work together, share their ideas, give their opinions, and see how other team members are thinking about a project. However, you need to be careful how you go about them. Brainstorming sessions shouldn’t be held in groups that are too large, as this tends to intimidate employees and make them naturally less willing to share their ideas with company leaders. Ideally, book a small conference room and keep the team members involved to around 6 or less if possible. The smaller and more intimate a brainstorming session feels, the more honest and open your employees will usually be, especially if they’re a more introverted personality type. It should feel like a safe environment rather than an intimidating stage.
2. Try updating your employee handbooks
It’s not the first thing that many people think of, but keeping your employee handbooks up to date is a great way to give new team members a quick reference guide for your company culture, including your culture of collaboration with other team members. 39% of US employees think that there isn’t enough collaboration in their workplace, but does your employee handbook address collaboration culture at all? If not, it’s time to get rewriting or adding in new chapters that reflect the best practices and collaborative values you’re hoping to instill. And in case you are still using paper based handbooks, it’s time you create your first online employee handbook using our employee handbook software. The benefit of having an online employee handbook is that you just have to make changes in one place and it gets updated across the board.
3. Use communications apps to keep people in the loop
Pretty much every modern workplace has its own Slack channel these days. If you don’t know, Slack is an app that can be used across various digital devices that is designed specifically for business communication between members of various teams and departments. Collaborative organizations specifically train new employees to use these apps. With apps like Slack, departments can keep their various team members updated on what they’re doing on their projects. You can start threads about certain topics, “@” people to get their attention, and set reminders for certain tasks you may need to complete. When using communications apps like Slack, your employees have no excuse for not being “in the know” about work – it’s all right there to access on their phone, laptop, or tablet.
4. Encourage the use of collaborative programs so everyone is up to date
It used to be that people would produce documents on MS Word or Excel, someone would amend it, and then various document versions would be passed around team members, leading to confusion. However, with the advent of programs like Google Docs and Asana, everyone can receive real-time updated versions of documents. It’s much less confusing. For example, Google Docs is free (yes, free!) and allows employees to make changes to a document in real-time, updating it instantly for everyone else. This means that you never have old versions of documents lying around just waiting to cause trouble. It’s much easier to collaborate when everyone instantly has the freshest document version. Up to 80% of modern businesses use social collaboration tools, and for good reason!
5. Hold team-building exercises and events
When a new bunch of people are thrust together in an office, it takes a while for them to get the lay of the land and figure out each other’s personalities and working styles. This makes early collaboration difficult because people don’t know where they stand with one another. This is what team-building exercises were made for! Team building events act as natural ice breakers for new employees, helping them to get to know their co-workers in a neutral environment where work isn’t an issue. Once employees know each other a little better, it’s much easier for them to work together in collaborative work teams without feeling too nervous or unsure of themselves. 54% of US employees will actually stay at a company for longer than necessary if it has a good sense of community, so that’s something else to take into consideration!
6. Hire collaborative people!
It sounds obvious, but in order to harness a culture of collaboration, you need collaborative hires who are already in the correct mindset. If you hire a lone wolf and then thrust them into a workplace culture of collaboration, don’t be surprised if they don’t click with the rest of the team’s collaborative working style. When hiring, make it very clear that collaboration is a large part of your business culture.
7. Make sure your onboarding is effective
In the past, employers used to often have a “sink or swim” attitude to onboarding – you’d throw a new hire in at the deep end and see how they did. Nowadays, most companies agree that it’s best to onboard new employees more gradually, introducing them to the team and your best practices at a manageable pace. Your onboarding should also promote a collaborative culture. When introducing employees to their new role, let them know how the collaboration in your company works – whether it’s through brainstorms, conference room meetings, communications programs, bulletin boards, or any other method.
8. Encourage after-work drinks and socials
In most cases, it’s not difficult to encourage people to go out for post-work drinks. While this is fun and relaxing for your employees, it’s also one of the best ways to instill collaboration without people even knowing that you’re doing it. Not only will employees naturally bond and become more comfortable with one another, but they’ll improve their communication patterns in the workplace. One study found that 50% of positive changes in the work environment could be attributed to after-work drinks and social events. So if you want your team to embrace a culture of collaboration in the office, a few beers after work might actually be the answer!
9. Remember your remote workers
It’s easy to forget about remote workers because… well, they’re not physically there. Nonetheless, 3.2 million Americans are now stay-at-home workers, so it’s essential to keep in touch with these employees and hold regular Zoom or Skype meetings to ensure that they’re kept up to speed with their team’s latest goals and efforts (and vice versa). Though you can’t work together physically, you can ensure that channels of communication remain firmly open across time zones. It’s essential for overall team performance.
10. Maintain open transparency and lines of communication
86% of US employees say that a lack of collaboration or ineffective communication is responsible for failures in the workplace, and this should not be dismissed. Many working environments are prone to team members being uninformed or misinformed through various stages of tasks, so keeping communication open is important. Your employees aren’t psychic! Encourage your teams to talk openly about their work, discuss any changes they’re making to things, and just generally keep everyone else in the team up-to-date on the latest happenings. Also consider changing your office layout (no cubicles, fewer walls etc.) so that it’s easier for people to speak to one another openly.
The Bottom Line
We hope you enjoyed these tips for improving collaborative culture in the workplace! From after-work drinks to employee handbooks, there are so many ways to improve collaboration culture in your business. Whatever your current space and work culture, these tips will help you to get your company where it needs to be in terms of teamwork and synergy. Hopefully these tips will help improve company culture and promote collaboration among your organization. Good luck!