Organizations after organizations have realized this- their employees are the most important driver of their competitive advantage. This makes employee collaboration of the utmost importance, as it allows a bunch of talented professionals to bring in the best of their work and ideas and allows them to build on it. Therefore, today’s digital workplaces emphasize team collaboration and have systems to encourage and reward it. So, what benefits of team collaboration do organizations want to gain?
When employees from varying backgrounds and different skill sets come together to solve problems, everyone learns from each other and can produce an output that is much greater than any individual.
Collaboration instils a sense of belongingness and loyalty, which leads to a higher commitment to the organization. Building on each other’s inputs and adding value to the team on an individual level adds to the more significant benefit of the organization.
As employees get to know each other better, it makes solid social connections in the digital workplace and beyond. They are also reassured that they are working with colleagues and not rivals. This can also lead to higher employee well-being and lower absenteeism, increasing job satisfaction.
Collaboration through screens is more challenging, but a culture of collaboration can break through the difficulties posed by remote working setups. It reduces the virtual isolation workers face and enables people to speak up and share their concerns.
The list of benefits of team collaboration can go on, but it is also important to tackle the issue of effective collaboration. Cross-team collaboration or virtual collaboration will only help an organization if done effectively. Let’s first understand the pitfalls that hamper successful collaboration.
Team size is one of the first hurdles to successful team collaboration. Technology has allowed teams to expand like never before. However, an HBR study found that when the size of any team becomes more than 20, the tendency to collaborate naturally decreases. Remote working also hurts the quality of collaboration. This was especially true for organizations that failed to build a strong collaborative culture, and the pandemic could affect the same.
While a high amount of diversity among team members increases the value of their collaboration, it can also hinder it. If there are too many strangers on a team, or some members view others as “alike” and “different”, it leads to faultlines in teams that make it very difficult for all the members to be a cohesive unit. It is also noticed that if team members’ education levels are high, they see each other more as rivals and less as people they can collaborate with. The more experts, the higher the risk of conflict in the team.
So, in light of these pitfalls, what can organizations do to ensure effective collaboration and reduce the chances of these obstacles coming the way?
The most essential step in establishing a collaborative culture is ensuring the buy-in of the senior leadership. They must build strong relationships to spread the message to others. They can also facilitate collaboration through organizational practices and shared infrastructure. Senior leaders should also take part in active mentoring and rewarding the right behaviour.
The next biggest stakeholder is the HR department, as it can design formal policies that encourage and prepare people to collaborate. HR is a key enabler from performance management systems with the right incentives to training to forming cross-departmental collaborative teams. HR can also check the competency for collaboration and interpersonal skills for important teams while hiring.
There are broadly two types of people in teams- task-oriented and relationship-oriented. As the name suggests, a task-oriented leader would emphasize producing the desired results and judge a group’s success based on targets. On the other hand, the latter focuses more on creating a positive working relationship among team members and looks to enhance their satisfaction and motivation. As it is very apparent from their descriptions, both these leadership styles can not exist in isolation. Different contexts require different kinds of leaders to step up, and therefore both are needed to be in cross-functional collaborative teams to make it work.
Another essential aspect to consider is establishing individual accountability and clarity for all the team members. Collaborative teams have the possibility of some members falling into the habit of social loafing, which would increase the workload on the other team members and lead to a dysfunctional working environment. Therefore, both group and individual success metrics need to be set up.
One of the most important tips for building team collaboration is to promote new ideas from the team members. Giving an open space to discuss will encourage free communication. A place where employees can express themselves freely will always have a better understanding of themselves.
Before the pandemic, simple things such as meeting people in the hallway or at the water coolers could aid collaboration and social connections. However, strengthening a culture of collaboration in the virtual setup is quite tricky. In such a scenario, technology tools become the absolute saviour. Many tools like Slack or Teams allowed organizations to work through the pandemic and ensured that collaborative groups faced as little disruption as possible. However, it is to move from essential video conferencing tools to more advanced ones.
Many organizations went a step ahead and invested and trained their employees in technology tools such as Kanban boards to improve work across human systems. The visual interface and tools are great for taking collaboration to the next level. Many project management tools and frameworks have made their presence dominant during the pandemic, allowing teams to stay on top of all that others are up to and add their inputs and status updates.
The long-term benefits of team collaboration for any organization are immense; therefore, every organization aiming at success must invest heavily to ensure collaboration. There also needs to be a shift in the mindset of all stakeholders to make collaboration a priority and to remove any hurdles that the process might face.
Technology platforms are another important aspect for which organizations must be on the lookout. Tech revolutions such as no-code low-code platforms allow employees to do away with manual and repetitive tasks and focus their time on what matters the most. They can collaborate better because they have better bandwidth and morale. Such platforms also instill a culture of digital dexterity in organizations, allowing employees to make the most out of the technology at their helm.
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