Importance of Collaboration at the Workplace

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What is Collaborative Culture?

Collaboration is the basis for the workplace. It is the way employees are making decisions, accomplish tasks, solve problems and create innovations. In this article, you will learn about the importance of collaboration at the workplace.

Importance of Collaboration at the Workplace

We usually understand collaboration as a group of people working on a project together.  However, true collaboration is more than just that. Collaboration is actually a process governed by a set of norms and behaviors. This maximizes all individuals or employees’ contribution within the group or team. This allows employees with different perspectives to come together and constructively explore their differences. This further helps employees to search for specific solutions that go beyond their own limited visions and beliefs, and help improve organizational work quality and decision-making process.

Why Teamwork and Collaboration in Workplace Matters?

Collaborative culture is a highly effective tool that helps to collectively explore ideas from all the members or employees to generate solutions that extend beyond the limited vision or knowledge of a single person.

Research from Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) found that organizations promoting collaborative working are 5 times more likely to be better performing and productive than organizations that don’t. Further research found that collaboration improves employee morale, retention, and gives a competitive advantage to the organization. There are many other benefits of collaboration in the workplace.

How is Collaboration Different From Cooperation?

Here, collaboration should not be confused with cooperation. Cooperation involves individuals working for themselves and sharing those plans with others. Hence, the focus is on individual actions and achievement rather than on a collective strategy. Whereas, through collaboration, organizational goals are prioritized over individual plans and goals.

How To Create A Culture of Collaboration At The Workplace?

Collaborative culture can be enhanced in organization through following approaches: 

  1. Executive support: Teams do especially well when executives themselves support collaborative behavior.

This leads to a “gift culture”. Here, the gift does not mean physical gifts, it means the valuable interactions employees have with their leaders and colleagues. Executives can also model collaborative behavior themselves that further promotes it within the employees. One effective way to do this is through more participation of executives in team meetings.

  1. HR practices: Research from the Cooperative Research Project of London Business School found that there are two practices that improve team performance and collaboration.

Those two practices are: 

  • Training in skills related to collaborative behavior:  Sometimes employees want to collaborate but they don’t know how to. In such cases, HR can help them build collaboration by providing them adequate training. A few skills that could be covered in training include appreciating others, engaging in purposeful discussions, and innovatively resolving conflicts.

  • Support for informal community building: HR can build collaboration by sponsoring group events and activities. Those activities might include women’s networks, weekend dinners, and sports coaching, or creating policies and strategies that promote them.

  1. Team leader: A leader can foster collaboration by building a task-relationship leadership.

A leader should also know when to change this style depending on the need of the project. To enhance relationship skills, managers can ask employees to describe their peer network. They also must provide examples of how they’ve used relationship-building to get things done. To enhance task skills, managers can make clear goals and plans, and help to clarify the responsibilities of employees.

  • Read more about the leader’s role in the collaboration process.

  1. Enhancing the structure of the team: Makeup and structure of the team itself affect the collaboration process.

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The same research from the Cooperative Research Project of London Business School found that building ‘heritage relationships’ does lead to a collaborative culture. Hence, newly built teams need to spend a good time together before making decisions that need more open criticism and feedback from each other.

Furthermore, research suggests collaboration increases when team members have clearly understood their roles and responsibilities.

A collaborative culture is a continuous process that helps the organization’s work by allowing employees with different perspectives to come together and constructively explore their differences. There are four approaches that collectively help to enhance collaboration at the workplace, those are, HR practices, executive support, team leader and enhancing the structure of the team.

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