Collaboration is a topic that’s frequently discussed by senior leaders and covered in training programs for a reason: it is essential to business performance.
Creating a culture of collaboration requires thoughtful planning, time and effort, but the results speak for themselves: Higher productivity. Happier customers. More resource sharing and fewer wasted costs. More innovation. All this adds up, of course, to higher profits.
Not sure how to start? Here are three simple ways to boost collaboration in the workplace.
1) Communicate and Reinforce Expectations
Create and ensure clear and measurable goals. A team focused on shared goals will help ensure department and individual efforts are aligned with desired outcomes.
PrintingForLess.com has a Project Insta Team or PIT Stop process. Employees from sales through manufacturing have the power to stop any order to ensure accuracy and quality. This way, every member of the team knows they are equally accountable for customer satisfaction and will work together to achieve that outcome.
Make it clear, too, that employees will be evaluated not only by the ability to meet ultimate objectives, but also by how they achieve them. If they push a project through without agreement from the team-even if it ultimately succeeds-they are not contributing to a culture of collaboration.
2) Incentivize Collaboration
Once you’ve set the expectations, take time to reward employees who exemplify the characteristics of a strong collaborator.
Consider providing on-the-spot bonuses to teams that excel, rather than only rewarding exceptional individuals. You could even offer employees the opportunity to nominate their peers to receive a gift card or an unexpected perk for being collaborative. Zappos has a well-known program well-known that allows employees to reward co-workers who exemplify a culture of collaboration or go above and beyond to help another team member.
3) Foster A Collaborative Environment
Collaboration can’t be forced. Companies that foster collaboration work hard at providing opportunities for employees to develop relationships. They encourage autonomy and empower employees.
At ING Direct Canada, employees have no job titles and no offices. The CEO welcomes both negative and positive feedback, and employees know their input will be valued.
Your company doesn’t have to eliminate titles altogether, but you do need to make sure all employees feel equally valued. As you delegate more and give employees more space, you may see them naturally gravitate closer to each other.
Your work environment itself can make a big difference, too. Some companies tout the benefits of an open office concept, although it isn’t without drawbacks. Find what works best for your staff. It may not be an office entirely without doors or one with a giant slide running through the center, but it could be a common area with an inviting layout that’s more conducive to brainstorming.
If your team isn’t physically located under the same roof, purposeful interactions using virtual tools can create a collaborative environment. Collaborative meeting software that allows you to more easily manage conversations, while project management software helps your team manage accountability. These tools can go a long way to bridge the distance, but they are only as effective as the leader who uses them. Managers who understand the unique approach needed to lead from a distance can build more productive teams no matter where they are located.