“Collaboration” is a concept everyone agrees is important, both in life and in business. Transforming this concept into a productive reality is another matter altogether. This is where business culture occasionally falls short—to the detriment of all involved.
The stakes couldn’t be higher. As Forbes notes, the survival of a business “may depend on how well it can combine the potential of its people and the quality of the information they possess” with their readiness “to share what they know with their teammates and across departmental, hierarchical, and functional boundaries.”
To promote greater employee collaboration, keep these tips in mind:
Make sure business goals are clearly understood.
When employees are uncertain about a company’s strategic objectives, a lack of collaboration often follows. By contrast, when those objectives are clearly communicated, people understand how working together to achieve the goals makes more sense than going it alone.
Get employee feedback.
If your workplace is plagued by a lack of cooperation, start to resolve the problem by soliciting input from the people most closely involved. Survey employees and “make them feel like their perceptions and opinions are important,” notes SUCCESS magazine. Then give them a task to complete, “step back and observe the team in action in a particular setting and … come to your own conclusion.”
Offer cross-functional opportunities.
Collaboration naturally arises out of situations where business leaders encourage teams or departments to work more closely together. To get the ball rolling, appoint “a cross-functional team to tackle a nagging business challenge while providing the tools and resources needed to achieve a favorable outcome.” This approach will promote greater team participation.
Match employees with the right tasks.
Employees—like everyone else in life—bring different skills and strengths to their positions. By identifying “what people are good at, you can set them up for success by pairing them with appropriate tasks and roles that suit their strengths,” notes Marketcircle. This approach facilitates collaboration “by understanding the different personality types in your team so you can manage each type successfully.”
Maintain focus on what really matters—the customer.
Splintering within an organization sometimes occurs when employees get too caught up in the small details of their jobs and lose focus on satisfying customers. Your goal is to remind employees at every juncture that customer service is the overriding priority. Clarify how working more closely together—with a laser-sharp effort to always please your customers—will keep the company growing.
Sponsor an offsite “Strategy Planning Day.”
You can further enhance a spirit of collaboration by holding an offsite “Strategy Planning Day.” This event involves a schedule of intensive activities designed to get people thinking outside the box and learning more about ways in which they can work closely together, rather than apart in their separate departments.
Key elements of a successful “Strategy Planning Day” include:
- The services of a skilled facilitator
- A comprehensive review of key strategic objectives
- A no-holds-barred SWOT analysis
- A list of planned action steps
The action-steps component is particularly important. Put together a team of employees (ideally, of a cross-functional nature) to complete these action steps, together with a schedule for getting things done. Then use your “bully pulpit” as business leader to maintain interest “by promoting the work of these teams and individuals with everyone in the organization.”
In other words, encourage active collaboration and make sure everyone in the company knows about it.
Learn more about how you can shape your company’s culture to reach key strategic objectives. Register for the free TAB Boss Webinar, “Culture: If You Build It, They Will Stay.”