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We are a social species, and being a valued member of a goal-oriented collective is deeply rooted in our evolutionary history.
How we work together has evolved since the Neolithic era, perhaps never more rapidly than in the past five years, making the ongoing pursuit of team collaboration an ever-changing process.
A post-pandemic workforce is no longer expected to work from the same building, let alone the same time zone. With face-to-face sit-down meetings happening less and less, the need for effective collaboration is at an all-time high.
More importantly, as remote work and work-from-home arrangements are often the norm, organisations must take active steps to promote a sense of teamwork amongst their workforce if they expect to continue to drive innovation, efficiency and job satisfaction. The same - if not more more work - needs to be put in to foster a community and culture between individuals.
A Stanford study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology illustrates how vital collaboration is, finding that even the mere suggestion that a task was a team-based affair improved participants' performance, focus and time investment.
In this guide, we’ll provide a HR experts’ opinion on working together and why poor collaboration can impact a business. The HumanX team have then noted how to effectively make your organisation one that fosters teamwork, conversation and better conflict management.
A Snapshot of Collaboration in the Workplace
What is Collaboration in the Workplace?
We all know what collaboration means, but collaboration in the workplace can be a little more complex. It might not just be sharing a small task with the person next to you, or the partner you work with on a one to one or individual basis.
Collaboration in the workplace is about how teams and departments work together to achieve a common goal. Effective collaboration requires good communication, cooperation and mutual understanding between teams. In our experience, collaboration is most effective when roles and responsibilities are established, the setting facilitates open communication and alignment on a shared goal or outcome. Collaboration benefits the business most when individuals are able to voice their opinion, insight or concerns, too. This only occurs when collaboration is baked into the company’s culture.
However, implementing a culture of collaboration can be challenging, requiring long-term time investment and HR experience to dissect and change. The challenge is exacerbated by the increasingly global teams and new potential barriers to working together or establishing relationships. Today, teams can span many time zones, speak different languages and operate from different cultural contexts.
Another barrier to team collaboration is general resistance - individuals or teams not wanting to work with others, siloing away from the rest of the workplace and preventing quality communication or collaboration. Individual and team siloing may occur with legacy teams who want to hold on to their responsibilities, or as a reaction to change in the workplace. Whatever the original cause of siloing, it may create a toxic sub-culture in the workplace which directly works against collaboration.
In an attempt to improve team collaboration in the workplace, communication and even culture, businesses have a tendency to look to operations and tools. Introducing a new tool can only answer the ‘how a team can collaborate’. It cannot create real connection, incentive, or even answer ‘why’ teams should be working together. HumanX knows that promoting genuine collaboration takes more than a tool; it takes more investment and understanding - from everyone involved.
How Project or Planning Software is Preventing Collaboration
Often, management, in seeking to improve collaboration and visibility, may look to workplace planning tools as a solution. Some of these tools offer unique features and benefits that may or may not improve productivity, but in many cases, these tools rely more on effective marketing than providing improved results to gain traction.
Instead of being a collaborative magic bullet, a new tool can often interrupt existing workflows and add more tasks to overworked staff. This frustration can manifest in a lackadaisical onboarding process and low team buy-in. Instead of creating efficiency in the business, it becomes just another log-in to remember and another set of notifications to check on.
Implementation details aside, the real issue is the false belief that technology or a better ‘tool’ is a cure for improved collaboration. This ignores the most crucial element of collaboration - the human one.
True collaboration is rooted in a culture that fosters a sense of shared purpose, mutual trust and open communication from all sides. Without a ground-up and top-down promotion of this attitude, a tool is just that, an inanimate jumble of buttons and forms used sparsely and without enthusiasm.
The other step to solving team collaboration in the workplace that might be missing, by assuming a tool can do the trick, is understanding why collaboration might be failing in the workplace. Delving into your team’s motivations, beliefs and opinions will add another layer to the work you’re looking to do, but if you ask any one of our HR Consultants, it’s absolutely imperative.
The Impact of Poor Collaboration
Collaboration is the glue that binds many organisations, with over 50% of workers in the United States stating that they rely on collaboration to perform their jobs effectively. On the other hand, the repercussions of poor collaboration in the workplace are far-reaching, impacting both organisational success and the well-being of individual employees. When teamwork fails, the results can be widespread but also interpersonal. Some of these consequences include:
Project Failure and Personal Discontent
Poor collaboration can lead to teams getting mired in the drama of interpersonal conflicts, all the while missing important deadlines. These unsuccessful project outcomes affect the business’s bottom line and your employee's sense of achievement. In collaborative environments, employees are 64% more likely to stay on track with tasks, showing how important collaboration is to encourage commitment to projects.
Low Morale and Potential Toxic Culture
Businesses lacking a collaborative work culture can be struck with communication breakdowns and low employee morale. Before long, organisations can become toxic, leading to churn and quiet quitting. Companies promoting collaboration see a significant reduction in employee turnover (reducing rates by 50%), which underscores the link between team collaboration and employee retention.
Hostility and Unhappiness
A collaborative environment is essential for maintaining a positive and productive work atmosphere. In collaborative settings, employees are 22% more likely to believe their employer cares about their morale. In contrast, businesses with poor team collaboration are likely to invite hostility and dissatisfaction through their doors.
Like most HR issues in the workplace, poor collaboration can affect an organisation's bottom line. Businesses that foster a robust collaborative culture are five times more likely to be high performers, which suggests the business-wide impact of effective collaboration.
The message is clear: investing in a culture of collaboration isn’t a luxury but a necessity for a successful business.
Building a culture of collaboration goes far beyond tools and technology. Instead, it means fostering an environment where open communication, trust and shared goals are built into the DNA of a business. When employees feel like valued members of a collaborative and supportive team with a shared vision and idea of success, projects soar, and individuals see improved well-being. The strategic focus on collaboration can help transform an organisation, waving goodbye to workplace conflicts and hello to opportunities for innovation.
How to Improve Collaboration at Work With Your HR Strategy
HR strategy, implemented over the long haul, is the best way to improve and maintain a healthy culture of collaboration within your organisation. Unlike deploying a new tool, these strategies take persistence and consistency, but an experienced HR consultant can help put processes into place to ensure they are performed effectively. Below are just some of the effective strategies you can utilise in your business and why they work:
- Feedback Forms: The best way to understand how your organisation is going is to ask the people who run it. Anonymised feedback forms tailored to your organisation can help unearth patterns of poor collaboration and employee dissatisfaction before they become a more serious HR issue. While there are mixed reports on the impact of surveys on workplace performance as a standalone, they offer deep insights into how to implement further improvements to workplace collaboration.
- Communication Strategy: An effective communication strategy aims to establish clear two-way channels between HR and staff and promote a culture of open and transparent communication. Employees who communicate with their organisation, management and HR will go on to communicate more effectively within their teams. A Salesforce study found that employees who feel heard within their organisation are 4.6 times more productive.
- Collaboration as a Metric: Making collaboration a key part of your reporting strategy enables you to make data-driven decisions about the state of your organisation. One way to do this is to collect employee surveys, as mentioned. However, interpreting KPIs through the lens of collaboration can give insights into the health of an organisation's communication.
- Collaboration Through Culture: Creating a culture of collaboration is about leading from the front while including everyone along the way. Leaders and management must actively foster a culture of open dialogue and encourage collaboration in their departments and teams. If issues arise and teams begrudge the idea of a new way of working, individual and team coaching can help to align the organisation's goals, plug skill gaps and reward collaborative efforts.
- Conflict Management: Conflict is almost guaranteed, but staff that are appropriately trained in conflict management are not. Despite most of us assuming we know how to keep cool in heated moments, 60% of staff haven’t received formal training. Poor conflict management can lead to resentment, reduced communication and poor productivity. While collaboration is about working together, conflict management is about resolving the moments when we don’t.
- Hire for Collaboration: Choosing candidates based on their ability to work in teams is a great way to bake in a collaborative culture from the get-go. As one of the top five soft skills, collaboration can make or break a successful hire.
Cultivating Collaboration at HumanX
Building a collaborative culture is a dynamic, lengthy, multifaceted process that takes time and a commitment to a more communicative and open workplace. As a foundation of good business, collaboration can greatly impact your organisation's efficiency and productivity.
Turning to the latest SaaS might seem like an attractive shortcut, but it does nothing to address the root causes of good and poor collaboration. The latter of which can have serious negative consequences on the performance of your business.
At HumanX, we can work with you on building a culture where open communication, seamless conflict resolution and genuine team cohesion are the standard. We understand that collaboration is not just about working together; it's about creating a shared vision and mutual respect among diverse team members. HumanX is your ally in transforming everyday workplace interactions into opportunities for growth and innovation, making your workplace a model for effective collaboration.