Understanding Collaborative Culture and SEVEN Critical Strategies to Build Collaborativ

Employee Engagement, Employee Relations, Rewards and Recognition

Some of the most leading organizations such as Facebook, Google, Zappos, Adobe and Accenture, among many others, have cited collaborative work culture as the core foundation of their success. Various studies have time and again proven the benefits of collaborative working or drawbacks of poor collaboration. For instance,

  • A joint study by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) and Rob Cross, Edward A. Madden Professor of Global Business at Babson College highlighted that organizations which promote collaborative working were 5 times as likely as to be high performing.
  • Another survey by Gusto that offers all-in-one people management platform revealed that 37% of employees say working with a great team is their primary reason for staying in their role and 75% of employers rate teamwork and collaboration as ‘very important.’
  • A survey by leadership development and training company found that 97% of employees and executives believe lack of alignment within a team impacts the outcome of a task or project.
  • 33% of employees said a lack of open, honest communication has the most negative impact on employee morale.

Now, in spite of the fact that collaboration has been identified as one of the crucial keys to the success of any project or achievement of organizational goals, it still remains the most underutilized tool in organizations. The reason behind this could be attributed to the lack of clear understanding of collaborative culture and ineffective implementation.

Let’s address both these issues here.

What is a Collaborative Culture?

Collaborative culture can be termed as an ideology or a mindset. It is deep-rooted in the organization’s way of working in such a way that it becomes a norm. In simpler terms, collaborative culture means bringing a group of people together to work towards a common goal, solve problems, explore ideas, foster innovation and leverage cross-functional expertise. It works on the premise that teamwork can get more work done faster and overcome the limitations of individual perceptions or vision. It gives everyone an opportunity to thrive together.

Key Strategies to Build Collaborative Culture

It is important to understand that collaborative culture can’t be built overnight or in a span of a few weeks to months. It is a long-term and continuous process. The following seven strategies can help you build collaborative culture effectively:

Begin the Change and Communication from Top Management - An organizations’ culture has its genesis in the philosophy of top management. When the company’s board, leaders or senior members lead by example, it will cascade the message to employees in the hierarchy. The management should also send out clear communication at regular intervals to its employee on its vision regarding collaborative culture. Gradually, its importance and seriousness will begin to rub on employees.

Encourage Personal Connections - People can work together productively and without conflicts only when they have a sense of trust, comfort, belonging and camaraderie with each other. This can happen only when they get an opportunity to know each other socially. Organizations should conduct informal team meets, whether it is for lunch, picnic, games or any event. This will break the ice between employees and encourage them to connect on a personal level.

Create Opportunities for Collaboration - All talk and no action wouldn’t result in collaborative culture on its own. Organizations need to make conscious efforts to create projects or tasks where employees can get an opportunity to collaborate. Rather than conducting meets in silos with each employee or department working on a project, everyone should be encouraged to brainstorm or contribute through team meetings. The role and responsibilities should be outlined clearly. This will also reduce conflicts and communication gaps.

Avoid Micromanagement - One of the basic principles of collaboration is to give autonomy to employees. They need to be empowered and trusted for their actions and decisions. It is fine to provide some basic framework or guidelines to define the scope of their work and intervene when interpersonal conflicts escalate to the point of its negative impact on the achievement of goals. But, in between, it is a good idea to let the employees do things their way. Or else, micromanaging every little aspect of their work will stifle collaboration.

Leverage Social Collaboration Tools - These days, an organization’s workforce is scattered across the globe and different time zones. There is also an increasing number of employees who work flexi hours or on a freelance basis. In such scenarios, it becomes difficult for organizations to bring their employees face-to-face in a single place or at a particular time. Social collaboration tools can overcome these limitations and enable employees to stay on the same page. Moreover, since these tools are online, it also maintains consistency of data, thereby avoiding communication misunderstandings. A study by McKinsey & Company revealed that organizations could enhance communication and collaboration by 20-25% by incorporating social technologies!

Reward Collaboration Efforts - Employees need appreciation for their efforts or else; they lose motivation to work. Whenever any team successfully collaborates to achieve the goal, the organization should reward it. It could be a memento, gift card or anything that shows appreciation. This will also encourage other employees to work on their collaboration practices.

Continue to Evolve and Adapt - Today’s businesses operate in a highly dynamic and volatile environment – nothing is permanent. Organizations need to be agile and proactive to respond to the changes. The similar logic applies to collaborative culture - it can sustain only when it is made to evolve and adapt with time. So, organizations should make continuous efforts to monitor their collaboration practices and tools for their effectiveness and improvise them as and when required.

A collaborative culture is a solid foundation on which organization can build its success. Working with others enables one to see connections between different initiatives and departments so that workers don’t feel siloed and they understand that their work relates to a larger goal than their specific project. This sense of purpose provides value by giving employees a meaningful reason to work together.

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