The term “workplace collaboration” was coined in the mid-20th century as methods of project management grew from activities overseen by an individual to multiple team members to strengthen process and output. Collaboration was officially acknowledged as a successful workplace practice by the Project Management Institute in 1960.
1960 was also the year the Etch A Sketch was launched.
Here we are, sixty years and a global pandemic later, and things are really beginning to get interesting. Technologies enabling workforces to collaborate from nearly anywhere with an Internet connection have become commonplace and their impact is pervading business culture.
A study from the Institute of Corporate Productivity suggests that businesses incorporating collaboration into their cultures are up to 5 times more likely to be high-performing – and that has a positive impact on their bottom line.
Many small businesses use platforms like Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace. That means modern tools are in place, but you may need a hand supercharging your business culture with the power of collaboration.
Start with your people
Tools don’t help unless they’re used effectively. The first step to introduce collaboration into your business is engaging your team, and it needs to happen from the top down. If you want collaboration to become a part of your business culture, it needs real buy-in from your leadership team. They need to be a part of any initiatives around collaboration and lead by example whenever possible.
Identify team leaders; people who are flexible, and who utilize both task and relationship-oriented approaches when leading a team. Flexibility will be key, particularly if your business operates on a work-from-home or hybrid model.
The ability to communicate is just as important. Collaboration is a group effort that is subject to and benefits from iterative improvement – but only if your team can contribute in a manner that is received constructively and leads to action.
Set realistic expectations
Transparency in expectations is just as important as clarity in communications.
Use a collaborative approach with your team to build strategies that meet business expectations. Doing so helps promote collaboration as part of your business culture and transforms the concept into something that has practical application from daily tasks to larger goals.
Set priorities and make sure each team member understands where their skills are needed and will make the greatest contributions. Create workflows that encourage the exchange of information and promote greater awareness of progress toward goals, demonstrating the impact of your collaborative practices.
Provide the right tools and support
With your team onboard, expectations set, and a strategy in place, the collaborative features in Microsoft 365, Google Workspace, and similar platforms can give you an edge over your competition in terms of output and customer experience – if they’re leveraged properly.
Be sure to provide your team with a centralized location for information storage and exchange. Both Microsoft SharePoint and Google Workspace are ideal choices and can be customized to meet most small business needs.
Tools to improve communication are also key. Apps that offer multiple ways to communicate – voice and video calling, text-based chat, conferencing, and traditional phone calling allow your team to work however they’re most comfortable doing so. Microsoft Teams, Google Chat, and Slack are just a few examples of widely used communication tools whose features promote collaboration among a team.
Integration between these tools and other common applications for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations can offer a seamless work experience that encourages collaboration. No matter what technologies your business uses, implementing a regular training schedule is critical. Platforms are upgraded, services are improved, and your team will need to learn how to use new features before you can find efficiencies in their use.
Most importantly, don’t force collaboration into your business. Instead, build it into roles and provide the tools and training your team needs to make it a part of your business culture.