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The Importance of Collaboration in the Workplace

Summary. Collaboration is equally critical to the success of companies and individuals, read to find out more about how to incorporate it efficiently.

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The concept of working together to achieve a common goal is wired into our nature, the desire to be part of a group it is part of the human psyche as it increases chances for survival, the most fundamental objective of the human being. Similarly in the workplace, collaboration is a way of maintaining the spirit of the group while achieving an objective that benefits the company. Not to confused it with teamwork which is a similar concept but within a predefined collective of people or rather team members, collaboration can be cross-teams, cross departments, or between only 2 individuals. Companies who embrace collaboration and make it into a pillar in their culture tend to be more successful in terms of human resources retention, this is because a well implemented collaborative framework for the company can achieve the below:


  1. Accessibility: silos in the workplace can lead to loneliness, feeling invisible and under-appreciated. Collaboration can break the silos and make employees more engaged, and more interested in the company, which means better retention and positive vibes. Companies who tend to be small in size where everyone can see everyone else on the floor have an advantage, larger companies need to work harder to provide a positive environment where employees can access each other and not be intimidated to skip management levels or reach out outside their teams without being told off or stopped by management.


  1. Visibility & Trust: collaboration means you can know what others are working on, what the other individuals and teams’ objectives are. This provides a sense of relieve and a more relaxed and trusting environment as no hidden agendas are suspected. People are more likely to trust and like each other, when they know what the others are up to, and collaboration in the workplace should be built in a culture that appreciates and implements transparency.


  1. Motivation & Success: the other side of making employees more visible at work is the biggest motivator to keep going and achieve more, mainly because when your work is visible you are more likely to be appreciated and thanked for it. Employees whose names are out there, are more likely to be promoted, get better responsibilities, and can negotiate better incentives to remain in the company as they are viewed as needed valuable resource. Collaboration can give an employee the chance for someone else to see their work and appreciate them outside their direct management. This means if there are any issues with their direct report, their skills are backed up by their collaboration partners, and they can leverage these networks and relationships to internally relocate in worst case. Motivation also means dual success to both the individual and the company. Motivated people give their best to everyone around them and to their role. They also tend to stay longer in the company, complete their work within time and budget, and invest in others, which are key criteria to a successful organisation. All these factors lead to more financial benefit (money) and a better sustainable culture.


  1. Communication: if a company wants to improve the communication and social intelligence skills in the organisation such as negotiation of interests, conflict resolution, and working in better harmony, then collaboration is key to achieve it. When you work often with people you grow to be more accepting of difference of opinion, ways of work, and a thicker skin in dealing with difficult situations. These are all skills that employees usually gain in time – if they are not born with it – and they are skills that help in climbing the corporate ladder and getting promoted.


  1. Inspiration and Creativity: few years ago, I wrote a paper with 3 other ladies from my department. I noticed that although I consider myself to be relatively creative, and as an introvert, I like being and thinking by myself, I was much more creative when I worked with other people. I had more ideas during our brainstorming sessions. This is because we humans link ideas to create new ideas, so when there are 3 ideas as opposed to 1 idea to start with, the number of new ideas that can come up from this start point can be much larger. This is a mimic of the concept of ‘2 heads are better than one’, and ‘bouncing ideas of each other’. We humans tend to be good at inspiring each other because of our diverse and unique thoughts and personalities. I call it: “Collaborative Brainstorming”.


However, in the workplace collaboration is usually limited, most likely as an employee, you are told who to collaborate with, when: as in book brainstorming meetings, and where the collaboration would end. This is because most collaboration opportunities are tied to projects that have a well-defined objectives, timelines, and budgets.


So, how can one embed organic non-forced collaboration into the workplace?


Here is how:

  1. Reward people for collaboration, even if the collaboration does not result in a direct material benefit to the company
  2. Allow skip level communication to be free, no one should need a permission from their direct manager to reach out to other people regardless of where they sit on the company
  3. Support all employees to engage with each other by giving them the luxury of time to do so. Many companies make the mistake of providing extensive training on collaboration and successful communicate, then they assume the employee will find the ‘time’ or work extra to squeeze in a collaborative opportunity into their busy schedule.
  4. Make it part of culture, promote collaboration, and raise awareness of its benefits to the individual rather than the company.
  5. Lead by example: any new insertion into the culture framework should start from the top. Collaboration between heads of departments and the decisions makers leading the company is a necessity. If department heads don’t get along, don’t want to work together, don’t like each other, want to hog all the credit, see other heads as an enemy rather than a friend, or promote the ‘us versus them’ culture, then you have a serious problem! The law should be equally applied on anyone, and culture should be enriched by everyone.
  6. Create open space culture where people can see each other but can also have private spaces to work together and brainstorm. Make the décor of your offices warm and welcoming with many plants (nature is inspiring and works out the juices of any brain believe me). If your employees work from home, enable relaxed chat rooms, and encourage them to engage with other people cross the organisation that they would like to have in their professional lives. Sometimes simple inticing acts like bringing food will bring more people together.
  7. Most important: do not force it on anyone! Collaboration is only fruitful at its best when it is derived from within.


If you like this article, why not check out similar topics on organisation management and top tips for leaders and managers from our business section.

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