There is a new product launch next month and you just come back from a meeting for it. Goals have been assigned, deadlines have been set, and everything needs to get moving right now. You meet again next week, but half of the team members are confused about their goals, there is no clarity about outcomes and overall, it is a mess. Sounds familiar?
The truth is, the only way to stay in the game for the long run in such competitive times is by constantly innovating. This requires creative teams in companies who have the tools to develop cut throat work. And creativity cannot be bought.
Even if you have the best talent on board, ensuring that they bring their best to work every day is a completely new challenge altogether. And an even bigger challenge? Ensuring that these talented folks are willing to collaborate and work together in harmony to create valuable products and services.
The best places to work are those that offer a creative and collaborative environment to their employees. And this does not mean superficial and temporary attempts such as foosball tables or coffee lounges alone. Creating a collaborative environment requires research and constant effort. Employees need to be given what they need so that they can be productive. Modern businesses need to find ways to encourage collaboration at all costs.
There is a lot of research that has been done in this field that proves that effective collaboration leads to enhanced performance. A study by Stanford found that even the mere perception of working collectively on a task can supercharge our performance. In the research, participants who were primed to act collaboratively were found to stick to their task 64 percent longer than those who worked in silos. The collaborative group also reported higher engagement, lower fatigue levels, and higher success.
There was another study that examined over 1100 companies that found that companies that promoted collaborative working were 5 times as likely to be high performing!
If you are trying to up the performance game for your employees, ensuring collaboration should be your top priority. Here are some ways to do it:
1. Make meetings count
9 out of 10 people daydream in meetings. This is because most of the meetings have no clear agendas set, do not let everyone contribute or are just plain boring!
Without a clear agenda and an early update for meetings, they become nothing but a waste of time and resources. Not to mention the frustration and mental fatigue that it causes in employees.
The idea behind conducting meetings is to ensure everyone has a heads up on latest developments, and also a common platform where everyone can contribute their ideas and opinions. Effective meetings are a rarity and they help build team spirit and coherence.
If you want your employees to collaborate, make sure clear agendas are set out well in advance before meetings happen. Following a detailed agenda and starting on time can reduce meeting times up to 80%. Make sure you let everyone know of the agenda way in advance so that everyone can come prepared. Be a leader who listens and encourages active participation by all. Most importantly, keep meetings short and to the point.
2. Work on physical space
The physical space in offices also plays a great role in creating an engaged workforce. A lot of organizations are innovating their office spaces in a way that can foster happiness and productivity through collaboration.
Several innovative office spaces are coming up that uses space efficiently. Even a small factor such as access to natural light, some color pop or having private rooms and increase employee satisfaction and productivity.
The idea is to not make employees get tied to their desks. Innovative workspaces also shake things up by inspiring people to do more. Workspaces should allow people to come together from different departments and bounce off ideas to solve problems with each other, instead of working in silos.
3. Stay united
Collaboration requires unity among team members. Without team members standing up for each other in times of crisis or supporting each other on a regular basis, collaboration can start to seem like a utopian concept.
Everybody wants to work with people they can trust and learn from at the same time. Only when people trust each other will they be able to build the foundation of any successful relationship. As a leader, you should be able to keep trust alive through actions and take care that it does not shatter.
A high sense of trust would make employees feel safe and secure with each other. This will eliminate negative elements and conflicts at work and lead to higher productivity and improved morale. Make sure every team member is empowered and given full ownership of tasks. Put teams together and allow them to make mutual decisions through brainstorming sessions and interactions.
4. Robust communication
There is no problem that transparent communication cannot solve. Collaboration refers to bringing diverse people with different skill sets, beliefs and attitudes together. Conflict and misunderstanding is bound to happen. But harmony can only prevail when everyone is treated fairly and given an equal status.
Make sure robust communication is an indispensable element in your interactions with team members. Whenever there is an update about any development, make sure everyone is told the same thing so that there are no feelings of exclusion. Along with this, also offer a safe environment where employees can also feel confident to voice their own concerns openly.
5. Choose collaboration over competition
For decades, the foundation of performance management practices has been the rating system, which, if loosely put, is pitting one employee against the other on the basis of a number. While healthy competition can lead to inspiration, too much comparison on the basis of scores can lead to an unhealthy attitude towards a colleague’s success.
Instead of focusing on such age-old practices, leaders should instead opt for a mindset that focuses on identifying the unique strengths of each employee and contribute to projects accordingly. Instead of creating competitiveness between team members, the goal should be to bring them together to solve larger goals and add a much higher value to a cause that matters. This will open up new possibilities of discovering new avenues for growth.
Always speak positively about different departments and cite examples of how well they have done as a team. Celebrate team success and go out of your way to support cross-functional collaboration through recognition and interaction.
Working with people we like and respect makes a lot of difference to the way we view work. We have all been in situations where we have worked with peers we admire or those we have no liking for.
Organizations need to ensure that they work towards supporting and promoting a collaborative working space. This is not an easy task, and requires leaders and senior staff to step in and play and active role in building values that can ensure collaboration. The entire way an organization works, right from attitudes of leaders, behavior, the systems in place, all play a crucial role in enabling or destroying a collaborative environment.