team-collaboration

Team collaboration

20 Expert Tips to Improve Collaboration at Work
20 Expert Tips to Improve Collaboration at Work

The modern workforce has adapted to several changes that have impacted the way we perform work. Obviously the COVID-19 pandemic is front and center, which resulted in many companies moving to completely remote or hybrid workplaces. These changes have also presented an excellent opportunity to find ways to improve collaboration at work. Many businesses are supported by distributed teams spread across different states or even around the world. According to a study conducted by the Institute for Corporate Productivity and Rob Cross, the Edward A. Madden Professor of Global Business at Babson College, high-performance organizations are up to 5.5x more likely than lower-performers to incentivize individual, team, and leader effectiveness in collaboration. The study of more than 1,100 companies—two-thirds of which include collaboration as a stated organizational value—found that the difference between productive and unproductive collaboration can be summed up in one word: purpose.  It’s the purposeful pursuit of collaboration that is the primary reason high-performance organizations, such as Patagonia, one of four companies highlighted in the study, can leverage collaboration to achieve desired business outcomes. Effective collaboration results from an effective company culture that is supported by management and embraces the entire organization. Simply think about the best team of which you’ve ever been a part. What made that team work? Was it the project? The people? The interpersonal dynamics? Did you enjoy being part of it? Did it bring out the best in you? Now think about the worst team you’ve ever been on. What made those experiences different? Collaborative teams equal enhanced productivity and results. When teams work, they work in the best of ways. But teamwork takes effort, and the reality is that teams can fall apart, break down and experience disruption for myriad reasons. In this post, we’ve combed article after article in order to compile 20 of the most common and most effective tips to help you improve collaboration at work. Be Strategic About Meetings to Improve Collaboration at WorkPrepare formal meeting agendas & keep communication styles in mind. If you’re leading a meeting or part of the team that called the meeting, keep in mind that some attendees might have a more reflective communication style, so if you want your meeting to be valuable and productive, proactively reach out to those team members ahead of the meeting to share specific topics in which you'd like them to contribute.  Defining a clear agenda for each meeting and considering the role of each person who is attending will help everyone involved understand how they can participate and what individual expectations entail. Not sure how to determine communication style?  No worries, there are tools for that. Always use ice-breaker questions. Never just jump into meeting business. It comes across as too cold and transactional, which makes it more difficult to develop report, connection, and trust as a meeting team. Instead of starting with the formal agenda topics, try these ice-breaker options from Atlassian, designed to build authentic connection. One of the best ways to improve collaboration and work and instill a stronger sense of teamwork is to give employees plenty of opportunities to learn more about each other. Don’t forget about the kickoff meeting. Whenever a new team is established to work on a shared goal, it’s a good idea to hold a formal kick-off event. This not only gives team members a chance to ask questions and learn about the project, but also helps create a shared sense of ownership. While these meetings don’t need to be complicated or even lengthy, depending on the complexity of the project, it’s always a good idea to solicit feedback about the agenda from team members. At minimum, reviewing the scope of the project, the shared objective, and key roles and needs of the project should be enough.Observe and Model Best Practices for Building an Environment to Support CollaborationCollaborate on the issue of collaboration. If the company culture dictates strong teams, take a look at the organization and see who else is doing it well. Talk to other managers about team dynamics, how they get people to collaborate and the behaviors they encourage. And make sure that you return the favor, sharing your own best practices and lessons learned. Don’t forget to look outside your company as well, talking with colleagues and mentors. You’d be surprised at how similar situations seem to come up across industries. Create accountability around team performance, not just individual performance. This helps draw out the lone ranger team member and forces the team to work collaboratively toward common goals. If one person isn’t participating as a team member, the others won’t carry that person and a shift will start to take place. If there is one particular cynic, take that person aside and discover why there is conflict, too much independent work, or general derailing of teamwork. Depending on personality, you can either be very direct here or ask a series of “why” questions to get to the bottom of the situation. Prioritize the employee experience. Seeing things from employees’ perspectives can help you learn a lot about work culture and some of the communication challenges that your company may be facing. Dedicating some time to explore employee experience and finding ways to improve both digital and physical work environments can go a long way towards making employees feel more satisfied and comfortable at work. Get digital. Especially for remote or hybrid teams, it can be difficult for employees to follow and understand what their coworkers are doing. This makes it difficult for workers to forge bonds and improve the way they communicate with each other. Using a shared digital platform that fosters teamwork can help improve visibility, create connection, foster belonging, and support more effective communication. Create tech-driven collaboration spaces. Internet speeds and improvements in technology have made audio and video conferencing remarkably convenient these days. To foster more meaningful communication among employees, consider adding personalized communication insights to your meeting tools so everyone knows how best to communicate with one another. Making meetings more valuable for everyone involved goes a long way toward developing a strong collaborative work culture. Promote learning and development. Many employees desire career advancement for the chance to apply their skills to new projects and learning opportunities, all of which contributes to effective and collaborative relationship building within the company. In fact, companies that encourage mindful risk-taking and learning from mistakes often realize greater innovation and workplace effectiveness. According to the July 2021 Monster Job Index:80% of professionals don’t think their current employer provides growth opportunities.  54% of employees fear they don’t have the skills they need to thrive in a workforce that emphasizes collaboration using technology.  49% of employees expect their employer to support career growth.Check in consistently. Have a formal check-in periodically, once a month or at minimum once per quarter, to make sure relationships are developing and collaboration is growing. Especially important if you’re repairing a team, check in to make sure things are on track and to gain a better understanding of what’s working, what isn’t, and what needs to be adjusted. If you start the teamwork ball rolling but then neglect the process, any progress you’ve made will quickly evaporate.How Leaders Can Improve Collaboration at WorkSet clear goals. Employees are more likely to collaborate with each other when they clearly understand their individual roles and the team goals that everyone is working toward. Well-defined goals give the entire team a sense of shared purpose and can help foster innovation and problem-solving. One clear sign of an effective team is one that can self-assess and identify issues that lead to meaningful improvements over time. Provide team incentives. “The lack of incentives and rewards is the most common and powerful barrier to effective collaboration. Yet, most talent management systems are designed to reward individual achievement, not team accomplishments,” says Kevin Martin, Chief Research Officer, i4cp. “Finding ways to recognize and reward individuals, leaders, and teams who engage in productive collaborative behaviors can pay off in a big way.” Communicate expectations for collaboration. It’s easy to be a cheerleader for collaboration, but without clear direction, it can be challenging for employees to understand what to do. From the start, set your expectation for collaboration as a minimum standard. Even better, it should be part of your onboarding process so that potential recruits know you prioritize teamwork. Employees' job descriptions should include details about their own individual roles, as well as roles they're expected to carry out collaboratively. By differentiating these, you're setting clear boundaries between what they should be taking personal responsibility for, and what they need to work on collectively. Define the company culture. If a company culture is well-designed and supported, it should truly represent the behaviors and actions of employees throughout the organization. Create a slide deck and supporting materials that define the mission, vision, and core values of the company. These points should act as a guiding resource for employees and can be especially powerful when managing communications and challenges. Celebrate wins often. Especially when dealing with long-term or complex projects, it’s not always easy for employees to appreciate the achievements they are making along the way. Teams can benefit from taking time to celebrate wins and milestones together in a formal or informal setting. These celebrations can be small, as any chance to recognize and appreciate effective team collaboration is valuable.Focus on Communication to Improve Collaboration at WorkEncourage active listening. Part of the challenge in facilitating effective workplace communication is balancing discussions among different team members. This can be particularly difficult when dealing with different cultures, personalities, and challenging topics. Helping employees, and especially managers, develop their active listening skills can help everyone feel heard and more involved. Communication format matters. When the need to communicate some information arises, think carefully about the format you use to share it. Some communications may work best as text messages, while others are more suitable for an email or phone call. Particularly important or sensitive information may also require a meeting to allow for questions and discussion to clear up any confusion and ensure everyone is on the same page. Don’t neglect asynchronous communication. Asynchronous communication involves information that is shared at different times. One example would be a post made on a company message board that others can respond to at any time. Many collaboration platforms include features that enable this form of communication. Asynchronous communication can be particularly effective for remote teams and those working across multiple time zones. Adopt hybrid communication models. One of the best ways to foster communication and enhance collaboration is to give employees a number of tools to communicate with each other. Utilizing several tools such as email, chat or messaging, video, and a company intranet will allow employees to communicate information in a way that is effective for them. And if you have plug-in tools that provide specific tips or suggestions for collaborating with particular teammates, even better! This makes it easier for everyone to share insights at any time and contribute to an individual, team, or corporate discussion. Organize next steps and feedback. When employees collaborate to develop a new strategy or review an important document, they can share ideas in a number of different ways. After the work of brainstorming and sharing is done – i.e. the meeting – set clear expectations for processing the notes and feedback to avoid creating a backlog of partially developed ideas that go nowhere. Asynchronous collaboration tools are an essential asset but need to be well-managed to get the most value out of the communications, and importantly, move the project along.On a final note, don’t underestimate the benefits of informal collaboration. You can certainly accomplish a lot in meetings and formally organized work activities, but most of the real work gets done between employees themselves. Whatever you can do to Make it easy for your team members to get together or communicate more effectively not only helps improve collaboration, but also will allow many of them to forge long-term or even lifelong relationships.  If teams are important for your organization, you need to do what you can to facilitate their effectiveness. Make sure open communication exists. Create opportunities for all voices to be heard. Connect with the shared values that unite the team. Effective collaboration is one of the biggest drivers of success in modern organizations. Following these expert tips will help you implement the right processes and technologies to enhance collaboration and incentivize effective collaboration among individuals, teams, and leaders.

5 Ways to Create a Feedback-Friendly Team Environment & Why It Matters
5 Ways to Create a Feedback-Friendly Team Environment & Why It Matters

Whether good or bad, feedback is one of the best ways for us to know if we’re doing something right or wrong. And while it's a must for a healthy culture, still not every business has guidelines about when or how feedback is provided. A strong feedback culture welcomes feedback and uses it to foster the growth of individuals, teams, and the organization. In a feedback-friendly culture, employee voices are valued. And to become more effective and fulfilled at work, people need a keen understanding of their impact on others and the extent to which they’re achieving their goals. That’s called feedback, and direct feedback is the most efficient way for them to gather this information and learn from it. Typically, this information -- what we like to call intel on our efforts -- comes in three forms: Appreciation...recognition for great work. Appreciation connects and motivates people, and it’s vital since intrinsic motivation is one of the critical factors for higher performance. Coaching for Continuous Improvement...helping someone expand their knowledge, skills and capabilities. Coaching is also an opportunity to address concerns, feelings, or ideas, which helps balance and strengthen relationships. Evaluation...more formally assessing someone against a set of standards, aligning expectations and informing decision-making. Why a Feedback Culture is Important Even people who aren’t interested in or skilled at giving or receiving feedback will participate in the process and improve when they’re working in a feedback-rich environment. On the flip side, even the most ardent and capable of feedback champions will give up if the organizational or team culture doesn’t support their efforts. So in addition to helping your more reserved team members improve, feedback carries with it a slew of benefits. Here are just three of the most important. Feedback Saves Time, Money & Resources It’s estimated that a company of 10,000 employees spends a staggering $35 million a year to conduct performance appraisals. Yet 9 in 10 managers are dissatisfied with how their companies conduct annual performance reviews, and nearly 90 percent HR leaders say the process doesn’t yield accurate information. Moreover, the average manager spends about 210 hours a year on activities related to reviews. That’s more than 26 work days. However, when you supplement performance reviews with ongoing, real-time feedback, you can help ease the pressure and expense of the annual review. When you think about performance reviews, it’s really just an aggregation of all the feedback data an employee should have received throughout the year.  Better Performance in a Feedback Culture Now, imagine the loss in productivity throughout that year when that employee doesn't receive ongoing intel on his/her efforts throughout the year. When you save it for an annual performance review, you're missing out on opportunities where your employee could have been improving. When employees enjoy their work, understand their goals, and know the values and competencies of the job, performance increases. The link between effective feedback and productivity has been well established. One study found that 69 percent of employees would work harder if they felt their efforts were better recognized. Continuous feedback helps align goals, clarifies expectations, and motivates employees. It also creates a positive workplace, one dedicated to encouraging people to be better will improve the level of performance and employee engagement. Strengthened Interpersonal Relationships Engaging in open feedback and dialogue with colleagues, recognizing efforts after a job well done, and helping employees meet their goals will help create meaningful workplace relationships. Fostering these types of relationships among employees is a driver both for improved collaboration within and across teams as well as for retention.  Once a foundation of feedback has been set, sustaining it will become easier with each feedback conversation. Here's how the experts say to do it. How to Build a Continuous Feedback Culture To foster an environment of both personal and professional growth, people need to feel safe about giving and receiving feedback. A feedback culture is a fluid, two-way exchange between employees as well as employees and management. The end goal is a safe space where employees feel comfortable voicing their concerns, suggestions, and advancement plans while employers are equally able to express constructive feedback.A healthy feedback culture is one where feedback is the norm rather than a signal that something is wrong. That means when improvements are needed, asking for change won’t come off as awkward or out of the blue for either staff or employers. Instead, you’ll be able to enhance business processes while empowering employees to excel in their roles. Here are some ways you can start embedding a continuous feedback culture into your workplace.Set and reinforce expectations during onboarding, performance reviews, manager 1:1s, town halls, and department meetings for giving, receiving, and using constructive feedback. Train people to focus on the quality of the feedback. It’s worth noting that there is a difference between good and bad feedback. Encouraging people to say "good job" isn't going to improve employee performance or build an effective feedback culture. Building a culture of feedback starts with providing meaningful feedback - that is, feedback that is behavior based (not trait-based), forward looking (instead of backward), objective, continuous, in real-time and direct. Create multiple channels for giving and receiving feedback...like newsletters, email inboxes, surveys, town halls, office hours and more. Some folks like to write it out, while others prefer vocalizing -- be inclusive of how you solicit and provide feedback. Couple feedback with recognition so that employees associate feedback with a positive form of reinforcement. It will help reinforce the kind of behaviors that are helping move the organization. Make it routine. When feedback happens routinely, it becomes expected. Hold employees accountable by incorporating feedback giving and receiving KPIs. Ensure that managers are having regular feedback conversations and check-ins with their direct reports. Moreover, encourage employees to ask and share feedback.As a rule of thumb, more frequent, directionally correct but incomplete feedback outperforms more detailed and accurate but less frequent feedback. This means that consistency and iteration are what makes feedback good. When asking or giving feedback, many refer to the 30/60/90 Feedback Framework. It states that one should receive feedback when a task is 30% complete, again at 60% complete, and finally at 90% complete. Transforming your culture into one built on continuous feedback can propel your teams to approach tasks from a different perspective and find new solutions to your company’s biggest challenges. And the first step in your culture transformation is a team culture mapping, where we’ll help you unlock the behaviors, motivators, and work energizers of your team so you can empower better performance.