Do you remember those awful group projects in school? Yes, the ones where a lot of the time you were stuck doing most of the work because others weren’t pulling their weight or because there was poor planning. It was the reality of school projects. Unfortunately, you may find yourself in the same situation, 20 years later in a different environment, this time with fellow employees. You may find yourself doing most of the work because of poor planning or because other employees are not contributing. Just as this was awful in school, it is awful in the workplace. However, there is a way to fix this situation and help your team be more productive and efficient, without leaving you to do all the work: collaboration.
There has been an increase in team projects in the workplace in recent years, so it is very likely that you will work on a team sometime during your career. With the increase in team projects, collaboration in the workplace has become much more of a focus for management, and the digitalization of many workplaces has only increased this even more. The process of collaborating is one of the biggest factors in the success of a team, so it is important to learn to collaborate effectively in the workplace.
What is collaboration in the workplace? Collaboration in the workplace is when team members and departments work together in accomplishing a project. Successful collaboration occurs when teams are highly efficient and are able to combine individual skill sets in achieving a common goal. Teams will make decisions together, but that doesn’t mean they need to be together. Today, with the increase of options to communicate across distances, teams can meet together over the phone or online. Regardless of if the team meets in-person or over a digital platform, they can work together to accomplish their goals. There are many benefits to this collaboration process.
Benefits of Collaboration in the Workplace
For some, collaborating can seem like extra and unnecessary work. In reality, there are many benefits of team collaboration in the workplace, and that is why so many projects involve teams. Here are three main benefits of collaborating in the workplace.
- Increased efficiency. With several people all working on the same project, the project can be finished with high-quality results in less time than if an individual was working on it alone. Tasks can be split among team members equally and in a way that utilizes each member’s skills and expertise. Altogether, this will increase efficiency.
- Helps you see the “big picture.” Sometimes when you work on a project, you only get to see the details and intricacies of what you’re working on. It is important to see those details, but seeing the bigger picture is also beneficial. When you collaborate in the workplace, you can see how each part of the project and each employee fits into the larger picture of the company. People can see reasons they should work together, and even if the project doesn’t end up successful, employees can still see the benefits of team collaboration.
- Skill development. When employees pool together their strengths and resources in a collaboration setting, the other team members are able to see how others work, think, and negotiate. This understanding of how others work can help employees pick up new skills from their team members. Collaboration also fosters relationships across departments and helps spread skills across departments to create a more highly skilled group of employees.
In the workplace, collaboration comes in many different forms — business meetings, presentations, and content editing with colleagues. In the digital age, these meetings and tasks can take place completely online. Whether in person or online, team collaboration plays a crucial role in the success of projects and companies. Some can argue it may be no different; however, here are some collaboration tips, ideas, and tools that can make collaboration in the workplace run a lot smoother.
5 Ideas for Collaboration in the Workplace
- Good Communication: Set goals and communicate expectations. When starting on a new project, there should be clear and concise objectives that must be accomplished. Brainstorming sessions should be held often to ensure that everyone on your team understands the goals and is on the same page. Help the newer members of your team who may not be comfortable sharing ideas to participate in these brainstorming sessions. When every member communicates, the overall project will be better. For communication in meetings, try to keep it short and focused. With longer meetings, many employees will start working on other tasks, and much of the communication will be lost. Shorter meetings will help keep employees focused on the project at hand and facilitate good communication. Good communication can help lead to better ideas, clarify any misunderstandings, and hit project deadlines on time. Be sure to be open-minded about critique and when you are challenged on your ideas. Sharing concepts can help open your mind to other points of view.
- Outline a Timeline: The timeline should also include the final end date of the project, so each of the employees can see when the entire project needs to be completed. Consider including the objectives on the timeline to help employees keep the overall purpose in mind. Schedule check-in meetings to make sure your projects are on time and all team members understand their contribution and targets they have to hit. Having a timeline when working collaboratively on long projects is crucial, so be sure to set up check-in meetings at least once a week. Also, be sure to communicate the times of check-in meetings to each team member so everyone can be present and contribute to discussions. During these check-in meetings, follow-up with every team member. If a team member is unable to meet deadlines, you will know in advance and be able to provide help with a task or split up the workload. A timeline will help team management follow employee progress and employees understand the overall goals of the project.
- Acknowledgement of Team Members: Remember to give credit where credit is due when working collaboratively, whether it’s a good idea contribution, hard work, or good constructive criticism. It creates a better work environment when praise is given and when team members feel appreciated and valued. Evaluate employee ideas but be sure not to eliminate an idea without fully understanding it. Consider discussing the idea with the team member that suggested it to validate the suggestion and acknowledge the team member’s contribution. Be sure not to overstep or micromanage your team members, which can cause friction and can send a clear message that you do not trust them to do their job. This can be detrimental when you are trying to foster a collaborative workplace. People need some independence and autonomy to feel as though they are working with purpose. All the same, a simple and genuine compliment can boost employee collaboration and encourage employees to keep working hard on the project.
- Visually Identify a Process: Many people think and communicate at a visual level, whether they realize it or not. Visuals are a great way to aid in strategic planning and thinking (and did you know visuals are scientifically proven to be up to 6 times more effective than words alone?). Consider including visuals alongside text you already have. Project management can have a big positive impact on productivity if they utilize visuals to outline a project and its goals. It can be effective to provide a visual for the entire process and for the timeline for the projects. A visual for the process of collaboration may also help employees collaborate more.
- Leverage Each Team Member’s Expertise: Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to work — some are planners, some are creative thinkers, and others are number crunchers. Using these strengths will help teams mesh and increase collaboration. Collaborating in the workplace means bringing team members’ strengths to the forefront to make something better than someone could do alone. Learn the strengths and skills each employee brings to the team to fully utilize their expertise. It is impossible to leverage a strength if you don’t know what it is, so it is important to spend time learning about your team members and understanding them. After you understand your team, divide the workload with consideration to the strengths and expertise of each member.
Bluescape visual collaboration software can help your company collaborate better and more efficiently by outlining your projects and goals and keeping them all in one digital workspace — which team members can access at anytime, minimizing what is lost in translation at any moment. By implementing each of these strategies for collaboration in one location, your company can fully utilize team collaboration to increase efficiency and create better products.
Bluescape enables companies to innovate, collaborate, and work faster and more efficiently. Its workspace collaboration solution gives dispersed internal and external teams an interactive digital workspace to meet, share, develop, and iterate on content, ideas, and products. Founded in 2012, Bluescape is headquartered in San Carlos, California, and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Haworth. Visit Bluescape and follow Bluescape on social media — Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook.