It is no secret:
No matter the project, you need people to come together, collaborate, and work effectively to hit their goals.
But how do you create an environment that allows for effective team collaboration?
Well, in this article, we are going to show you the research-backed ways you can help your teams to work better together.
What Is Team Collaboration (And Why Is It Important)?
Team collaboration is all about cultivating a teamwork-focused environment.
When you create an atmosphere where your employees feel safe, valued, and able to share their ideas and solutions, they become more:
All of which results in better outcomes for your brand. After all:
But the problem facing today’s brands is not with building teams or understanding the important role that teamwork plays in achieving our goals.
You could likely name two or three teams in your organization working on projects right now, and you may even have some collaboration-focused initiatives in place like hot desking.
Instead, the problem lies in getting those people to collaborate and work effectively with one another. And, it seems a large number of team members agree.
Research from Salesforce found that:
- 99.1% of employees prefer an open, honest, and collaborative working environment
- 89% of employees felt a lack of collaboration is responsible for workplace failures
- < 50% of employees feel that their employers provide a collaborative environment
This shows that both brands and employees want collaborative team environments in their workplace. So, that begs the question:
How do you go about cultivating team collaboration?
Well, in the rest of this article, we are going to show you some research-driven ways you can do it.
6 Research-Driven Ways To Cultivate Team Collaboration
There are six ways you can begin to foster a greater sense of collaboration and teamwork in your workplace:
- Make giving a priority
- Create a sense of psychological safety
- Ensure your leaders are inclusive
- Create structured workflows
- Use team-building exercises
- Create collaborative spaces (both online and off)
Let’s take a closer look at each of them, why they are useful, and how you can implement them.
1. Make Giving A Priority
Growing up you probably heard the old proverb, “it is better to give than to receive.”
It was the go-to line for parents looking to guilt-trip their kids into giving. But, it turns out there is real scientific evidence to back it up.
Adam Grant in his book, Give And Take: A Revolutionary Approach To Success, shows that the workplace is made up of three types of people:
- Takers: those looking to receive from others
- Matchers: those looking to reciprocate as much as they receive (and no more)
- Givers: those who share without expectation
And according to his research teams that are made up of givers tend to be more:
This is because they do not see success as a zero-sum game. Instead, they look at their teams as one unit who can benefit from the free-flow of information, advice, and support.
“Givers,” Grant writes, “get to the top without cutting others down, […] expanding the pie that benefits themselves and the people around them […] in groups of givers, it may be true that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.”
These findings are also backed up by research from the University of Western Australia.
When looking at teams of students working toward a common go, they found that interdependence and the willingness to share were vital to a team’s success.
In teams where individuals were:
- Not forthcoming with helpful information
Teamwork broke down to an unproductive level, and they eventually became unsuccessful in reaching their objective.
Although the individual maybe stood out, the team, on the whole, fell apart and nobody reached their initial goal. So, it shows the team that gives more wins more.
By creating an environment in your workplace to focuses on and rewards:
- Collaborative achievements
You can dramatically increase the productivity and outcomes of your team.
2. Create A Sense Of Psychological Safety
Psychological safety is vital for team collaboration. When team members feel they can share:
Without fear of retribution, they are more likely to interact with their teammates and contribute to projects and tasks.
Google performed a two-year internal study to look at the factors that made their most effective teams so successful.
What they found was that their most collaboratively effective teams shared five common traits:
- Psychological safety
- Clear meaning behind their work
- Clear impact of their work
The most surprising finding from this study, though, is that each of the other four elements cannot exist without psychological safety to underpin it.
Adam Grant also found this when researching for his Give And Take book; medical workers in psychologically safe environments made fewer errors and reduced mistakes in future projects.
But, why does this happen?
Because, as Google Analyst, Julia Rozovksy writes in an article for Google’s re:Work:
“We are all reluctant to engage in behaviors that could negatively influence how others perceive our competence, awareness, and positivity”
Basically, nobody wants to be the person who lets the side down.
You can create a feeling of psychological safety in your workplace by creating a space for people to share recent:
- Mistakes made
- Risks taken
- Problems faced
Where others can openly discuss these, look for solutions, and collaborate on each individual’s experience.
3. Ensure Your Leaders Are Inclusive
Leaders have a significant impact on their teams. But, did you know that inclusive leaders can supercharge your team’s collaboration and performance?
Firstly, let’s define what an “inclusive leader” is. They are someone who:
- Makes team members feel valued
- Ensures equal and respectful treatment of all team members
- Gives team members a sense of belonging
- Is both confident about, and inspired by, the team’s work
- Does not make judgments made on race, disability, gender, or orientation
Research conducted by the Harvard Business Review found that inclusive leaders who fit this description bring about real statistical change to a team’s performance and mindset.
The results show that teams with inclusive leaders are:
- 17% more likely to report they are high performing
- 20% more likely to say they make high-quality decisions
- 29% more likely to report behaving collaboratively
- 10% more consistent at coming to work (about 1 day per year better than other teams)
These results were most evident when the inclusive leaders also shared the following traits:
- Visible commitment
- Awareness of bias:
- Curiosity about others
- Cultural intelligence
- Effective collaboration-mindset
You will also notice that everything we have mentioned here about inclusive leaders also has a direct impact on psychological safety.
Having someone who allows team members to feel safe can do wonders for your team’s creativity and collaboration.
4. Create Structured Workflows
Structured workflows take the stress out of collaboration.
They provide you with a seamless process of how your team is going to approach a task, and everyone’s responsibilities along the way.
You implement this by agreeing in advance all of the:
- Clearly defined roles
- Repeatable steps
That each team member needs to adhere to within the workflow.
Using online platforms — such as Loomly’s Brand Success Tool — can also help to improve communication and collaboration between departments that would otherwise not interact.
They also give team memberships ownership of the process and can help contribute to the sense of purpose they need to drive collaboration.
You can use workflows for any goal- or process-oriented task, from your social media marketing through to product developments.
If you want to learn more about workflows and how they can impact your workplace, we recommend you take a look at our guide to social media workflows here.
5. Team-Building Exercises
Let’s face it:
People tend to roll their eyes when they hear someone suggest, “team-building exercises.” In fact, your expression probably looked like this when you read the heading:
But, when done correctly, there is evidence to suggest that team-building exercises do work.
Researchers from the University of Central Florida looked to find the impact of these exercises on teams in an on-the-nose titled study, Does Team Building Work?
They found that, on the whole, team-building exercises were able to increase:
In the teams that took part in them; primarily if the team-building exercises focused on goal-setting tasks.
The researchers also found that team-building exercises had more impact on larger teams. The more people who took part, the better the overall results were.
The key element to focus on here is doing team building “correctly”.
This means choosing tasks, exercises, and excursions that are the right fit for your team. There is little to be gained from forcing a team to do something they do not want to.
But if you focus on:
- Fun activities
- Goal-setting tasks
That resonate with your brand or team culture then you can create a truly impactful team-building experience.
6. Create A Collaborative Space
Open office spaces are a subject of much debate; some think they are a passing trend, others think they are the best thing to ever happen to their office.
So, what does the research say?
Well, it seems that if the goal of your office space is to increase collaboration, they can be a great resource.
Quartz At Work recently analyzed a large pool of data looking at how open offices impact collaboration. And, they found three interesting takeaways.
Firstly, they found that proximity automatically increased the likelihood of interactions. If you place employees near each other, they are highly likely to start talking to each other.
These workplace “collisions” can function as a sort-of petri dish for collaboration. Especially if these people are from different departments or external teams.
Speaking of which…
The second takeaway was that collaboration with people in external teams — meaning, teams they are not a part of — increased by 54% in open office spaces.
This data shows the people are happy to collaborate on other projects at a higher rate, just because they work near someone and you have cultivated a giving environment.
Engagements with external team members did come at the expense of internal collaboration, which actually reduced by around 45% because the proximity to teammates was lessened.
But, that’s not necessarily bad news.
This change in internal communication could be offset by an increase in “focused” work. Employees were happy to buckle down and work on their projects at a much higher rate.
You can also use online tools such as:
- Microsoft Teams
To help maintain the communication within specific teams while using the open-office space to foster external collaboration.
The key takeaway here is to create a space where all of the previous points on this list can be put into action, and that gently brings people throughout your organization together.
Working In A Remote Team? Here Is What To Do
If you work as part of a remote team — or have remote members of larger teams — you can still apply many of these principles.
Culture-driven elements like:
- Focusing on giving
- Providing psychological safety
- Appointing inclusive leaders
- Creating structured workflows
Can all be used in the online world of remote work; they stem from your interactions, your hiring decisions, and how you choose to conduct your work.
The most important part of cultivating remote team collaboration is to ensure that both communication and togetherness are focused on.
Here are some tactics you can employ to do this:
- Create a Slack channel where people can chat informally (at Loomly, we have a #watercooler channel)
- Create a rule that all Skype calls must be video based
- Encourage in-person team meetups
- Look for online team-building opportunities
You will need to get creative within the parameters of your team, but there are lots of opportunities there for you.
Wrapping This Up!
Team collaboration is about creating an environment where your brand’s teams can flourish and effectively pursue their common goals.
Collaboration can make teams more creative, productive, effective, and innovative. You can foster this teamwork-focused environment by:
- Creating a giving-first environment
- Helping team members feel psychologically safe
- Having inclusive team leaders
- Creating structured workflows
- Making time for team-building exercises
- Using an open-plan office layout
Each of these can also be applied to remote teams using communication and workflow management tools.