How to Create a Collaborative Culture at Work

Collaboration is nothing new. A collaborative workforce is happier, more productive and better able to solve complex problems.

Here are 5 things that you can do to establish a culture of collaboration at work…

1. Set team goals

While you need to make sure that each employee has individual goals they can achieve, setting goals for teams is a great way to get everyone working together and thinking as one.

According to staffing firm Robert Half, team goals can be more effective than individual goals…

“Every team needs to be driven by a deeply rooted sense of mission – shared team goals that are seen as more important than individual agendas. It is these team objectives that bind a team together and keep it cohesive even when obstacles or internal disagreements arise.”

2. Appoint a collaboration coordinator

If you’re thinking of shifting your focus to team collaboration for the first time, you might want to consider putting someone in charge of developing and managing your collaborative culture.

Business strategy experts Anecdote recommend appointing a “collaboration coordinator” to help you integrate collaboration into your workflow. The collaboration coordinator could help find opportunities where collaboration would help, connecting people and ideas and helping people learn about collaborative processes and tools.

3. Get social

Encouraging your employees to socialize outside of work is a great way to encourage willingness to collaborate inside work.

Alexander Kjerulf, Chief Happiness Officer at Woohoo Inc, believes socializing with your colleagues is key to forming a collaborative culture…

“If you’re not able to relate to your coworkers as human beings and build positive relationships, your career will suffer. Socializing and getting to know them as people will help you to communicate better, trust each other more and work better together.”

4. Design your workspace for collaboration

A culture of collaboration can be much more tangible than changing attitudes and working processes. If each of your employees is working in separate, individual offices, they may struggle to collaborate more than those who work in an open plan office.

Author and Associate Professor of Marketing and Psychology at NYU’s Stern School of Business, Adam Alter, proposed 4 key features of a collaborative office space in this article for 99U

  • An open plan and other design features (e.g., high-traffic staircases) that encourage accidental interactions.

  • More common areas than are strictly necessary—multiple cafeterias, other places to read and work that encourage workers to leave confined offices.

  • Emphasis on areas that hold two or more people, rather than single-occupancy offices.

  • Purpose-free generic “thinking” areas in open-plan spaces, which encourage workers to do their thinking in the presence of other people, rather than alone.

5. Rethink Rewards

Of course you want to be rewarding your team for their hard work as individuals, but consider offering rewards based on collaborative efforts.

Jacob Morgan, author of The Collaborative Organization, believes placing too much focus on individual performance can have a negative effect on collaboration…

“If your organization focuses on rewarding employees for individual performance as the main driver of success then it will become quite hard to encourage employees to share and communicate with each other. Why would they want to? There is nothing wrong with rewarding employees for great performance but it’s also crucial to reward teamwork. For example organizations can make a percentage of an employee’s bonus tied to how well they collaborate with their co-workers. A supportive environment also means having training and education resources available for employees as well as evangelists within the organization.”

Collaboration strategist, Michael Sampson, notes that teams who work closely are able to appreciate and recognize the efforts that individuals have put in.

“Within the team, there is scope for team members to recognize each other for the contributions they’ve made. The team members know the blood, sweat, and tears that have gone into achieving high performance, and can then appropriately recognize what individual people have contributed … if that’s necessary.”

Try peer to peer feedback to encourage collaborative teams to thank and congratulate each other.

How do you encourage collaboration? Share your experiences in the comments below.

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