In business, your people will always be your biggest asset. But building a strong team doesn’t start and end with making intelligent hires; employees need to actually work together effectively. While the importance of good team collaboration is long established, achieving it is arguably more difficult than ever before.
The modern team is by no means an actual physical thing operating neatly from the same office – with flexible working, consultancy and remote working all on the rise, managers need to redefine their approach to continue to maximize team collaboration. Here are four pointers to get you started.
1. Establish clear communication
Effective collaboration depends on effective communication. And in a word that means “open”. An open, transparent dialogue – where advice and constructive criticism go both ways – helps solidify trust, develop relationships and improve performance. If you don’t have trust, you don’t have a team.
Every team member – no matter their role or where they’re based – should be able to communicate fairly and with authority. So have a deep think about what communication should look like for your team and set a clear approach:
- How and when should people contact each other?
- What are different communication channels for?
- Have you set response time expectations?
- How do you overcome the disruption of immediate availability?
- When (if ever) should you use email?
- Can people easily catch-up on critical updates when they need to?
- How do you make sure you’re not blocking colleagues in different time zones?
2. Prioritize employee engagement
Engagement is another ‘must-have’ for maximizing collaboration. Disillusioned, weary employees feel detached from their work and don’t collaborate nearly half as well. But how do you increase engagement?
Firstly, make employees feel valued. They should know what their purpose is and how their work impacts the wider company. They should also feel trusted as masters of their work and sources of useful ideas. Make sure everyone is involved in growing the company – from holding team-wide sessions brainstorming the next product to leading projects to design more efficient processes. Get input often, include people early and give everyone with space to own and direct their workload.
Secondly, avoid burnout like the plague. Your team’s productivity can come at a great cost, so do everything in your power to stop employees from experiencing collaborative overload. Get full visibility over how much everyone in your team works to ensure employees are keeping a healthy balance. By sharing schedules and seeing how many hours people work each day, you can quickly identify who needs extra support and who has room to help out.
3. Pick the right collaboration tools
From project management, task organization, team communication and workflow management, there are a ton of collaboration tools available which can really transform your team’s effectiveness. Always trial them out with your team and look for these essential features when conducting your research: real-time communication, simple work app integration, clean and intuitive design, employee privacy and data security.
For managers, it’s important to get a centralized view of how the whole team’s doing. When you use a handful of apps to manage team capacity, monitor workloads and record employee hours, whole chunks of your day just evaporate. So choose tools that groups together all your main team management functions. Tools like Timely give you full visibility of your whole team’s activity from one dashboard – you don’t have to waste time hunting for information and no important details slip through the cracks.
It’s also a good idea to privilege apps designed for mobile working – tools like Slack, MangoApps and Yammer in particular nail mobile access. Device flexibility allows your team to stay connected while on the move, enabling constant collaboration and connectivity. Removing your dependence on desktop also means you never have to delay tasks while travelling, winding up with a to-do list as long as your arm.
4. Make opportunities to socialize
Humans are social animals. We want to know the people we’re working with and, if possible, we want to like them too. When strengthen relationships at work, team communication, affinity and collaboration all benefit as a result. Make sure you fully invest in effective team-building activities and social events, and create spaces for meaningful colleague interaction.
But what if your team works remotely? Thankfully, so much of our socializing is already done online, and pretty much every social activity can now be done virtually. Hold regular video coffee breaks and get new employees to “tell their story” however they like. It’s essential to let employees design their own social events as well – it makes socializing a group responsibility, and also lets people create useful interactions which actually reflect their own individual approaches and interests.
There are so many small things you can do that make a big impression. Celebrate new employees by creating a personalized emoji when they reach their sixth-month work anniversary, hold regular off-site socials that remove the focus on work talk, and send actual cakes to remote employee homes for their birthdays. How you get employees talking isn’t too important – whether you actually enable it is.