Collaboration, which enables groups and individuals to achieve a common goal, has long been a vital component in the workplace that has only become at the forefront of businesses in recent years. However, opportunities for collaboration are not limited to the four walls of the office, as they can also be found within other parts of the organisation and outside of it, including virtual and in-person interactions with other professionals.
By gathering great minds within the company and letting them brainstorm, communicate, and bounce off ideas on each other, they can spark brilliant ideas, innovations, and improved processes that could be game changers for the organisation’s business journey.
As such, it pays to learn about the various types of collaboration and improve them to best identify the ways to meet and work with others. Below, we go over the most common forms of collaboration and tips to improve the activity among your workforce!
Types of collaborations
1. Team collaboration
As one of the most prevalent types of collaboration, team collaborations typically occur among sub-teams of three or more people in a department working together to meet their group’s goals and organisational goals. For instance, a sales department aims to increase revenue by 10 per cent. Teams within the department collaborate to meet this common goal, such as through projects, by assisting one another to accomplish their tasks or holding them accountable for meeting deadlines.
2. Internal collaboration
Internal collaboration is a broad category of collaboration wherein groups and individuals share their knowledge and work as one across various levels of the organisation. Fostering internal collaboration promotes transparency that helps everyone share ideas and information necessary to achieve goals.
There are many opportunities to collaborate internally, whether when asking a colleague for help or when working on team projects. Business leaders can set up collaborative in-person or virtual spaces to promote these collaborative efforts, such as hosting internal discussion forums or websites where they can post updates and employees can share advice and ask questions.
3. External collaboration
External collaboration entails sharing information and/or working with others outside the organisation, such as vendors, customers, competitors, and others. This collaboration supports businesses in several ways, including gathering feedback or launching new products. External collaboration is essential because there are times when they can offer something unavailable within the organisation.
4. Cross-departmental collaboration
Cross-departmental collaboration is a subtype of internal collaboration in which teams and employees from different departments come together for various reasons, such as for specific projects wherein one party shares key resources or information that the other needs. Sharing each other’s experiences can help both parties improve their work efficiency, and they can even learn a thing or two that will help them in their future projects.
5. Virtual collaboration
With work from home being the standard working model amid the current pandemic, collaboration has taken to the digital space through video conferencing platforms. Virtual collaboration is crucial for remote teams and beneficial for in-person offices, allowing communication without leaving one’s desk. From presentations to screen sharing, it leverages modern technology to allow for all types of collaboration to take place regardless of the distance between participants.
Tips on improving collaborative efforts in your workplace
No matter which type of collaboration takes place in your workplace, many strategies can further improve them to be more effective and produce better results.
- Foster a supportive work environment
Employees would be hard-pressed to express their ideas in an environment where they think they will only be met with ridicule. As such, it is vital to foster a supportive work environment where everyone’s contributions are respected and appreciated. The time and effort invested in spreading positivity and achieving this will pay dividends as teams develop empathy toward one another and better understand the strengths of their members.
- Be transparent when communicating expectations
When creating collaborative teams, it is crucial to let employees know your exact expectations from them. This is to ensure that those with no experience in this kind of work environment know that everyone will be pulling their weight, unlike in school group projects where only a few people do most of the work. Furthermore, allow them to share their thoughts about having to work collaboratively, regardless of whether it is positive. The latter can be supported and their concerns resolved from the outset to achieve collaboration and improvement in the team.
- Make the most of your employees’ strengths
Placing people in the roles that best fit their skillset is key to a successful collaboration. There are many ways to learn about an employee’s strengths, such as personality tests, which reveal insights about themselves. For instance, if a member works best with small groups, prefers organisation and order, and is highly detail-oriented, it would be disadvantageous to assign them to projects where they must think of the ‘big picture’ and work with a large and disorganised team.
- Encourage team members to socialise outside of work
Seeing as collaborative projects can take time to complete, members must develop a genuine camaraderie for a more seamless working relationship and communication. Organising team-building activities or casual outings for employees to spend time together outside the office lets them see their team members as individuals, not their job titles. This low-key manner of bringing people together allows teams to know one another more deeply without feeling like they are attending another corporate event.
- Create overlap zones for spontaneous employee interactions
Given the growing preference for flexible working among employees today, it is best to let them work anywhere in the office and not sit at their assigned desks for the entire day. This freedom of movement allows team members and other individuals to meet and engage in unplanned interactions while taking a break, getting lunch, or waiting for a meeting to start. To better promote these spontaneous encounters, you may consider introducing overlap zones within the office where people can congregate and talk to each other about anything, from challenges in their work to mundane small talk. By getting another perspective, teams may well find the solutions they need.
Working collaboratively enables employees to express their ideas while better understanding how their team members work, think, and operate. In turn, this lets them learn from their peers and build upon their strengths, resulting in collaboration efforts that prove mutually beneficial to employees and the organisation.
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