Effective collaboration is essential to the modern workplace. As organizations are split between different locations, different time zones, and even different languages, successful communication becomes even more important for keeping projects on track and initiatives aligned.
Additionally, growing team collaboration brings other benefits that lead to operational excellence.
- Companies that promoted collaborative working were five times as likely to be high performing (Institute of Corporate Productivity)
- Even the perception of collaborating on a task can boost performance. Participants who were primed to work together kept with the task 64% longer than those working solo and reported higher engagement levels, lower fatigue, and a higher success rate. (Stanford)
However, many companies still struggle to implement effective collaboration.
- 86% of 1,400 executives, employees, and educators surveyed noted a lack of collaboration was responsible for failures in the workplace. (Salesforce)
- Only 17% of C-suite executives in 2019 said they “regularly collaborate on long-term interdependent work,” down from 38% in 2018. (Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends)
Why does this disconnect happen?
Invisible Barriers To Collaboration
In the first chapter of the book Creativity, Inc., Pixar Animation co-founder Ed Catmull talks about an issue his company encountered in its meeting formats.
Pixar wanted to encourage a collaborative environment and would hold brainstorming meetings in a conference room with a long and skinny rectangular table. The executives would sit at the centre of the table with name cards noting their seats, and other staff members would gradually fill the rest of the table and chairs around the edges of the room.
However, the collaborating wasn’t happening. People were showing up to meetings and the executives were constantly saying they valued input and collaboration, but most of the conversation was happening around the centre of the table, where the leaders sat.
Catmull realized the problem was that they were not living up to their values. He had the long table removed and a more intimate square table brought in and then moved the name cards. The leaders consciously started sitting in other places – not all grouped together – and suddenly, collaboration was happening again.
This story from Pixar illustrates the importance of team collaboration — and how a seemingly small barrier can derail it completely.
Whether it’s a physical block or a cultural one, these roadblocks to collaboration must be addressed.
There are plenty of benefits to team collaboration, but as Pixar found there can also be challenges. However, companies that take the time and effort to address these challenges can reap some real rewards.
Benefits of Team Collaboration
- Increase employee engagement and retention
As skilled labour shortages and other challenges affect manufacturers, employee retention is vital.
Effective communication and collaboration is a key part in making sure that staff members feel valued and engaged at work. A recent survey of more than 19,000 people worldwide from ADP Research Institute found that that teams are “the single most significant driver of engagement.”
Employees who reported being part of a team were 2.3 times more likely to describe themselves as “fully engaged.”
According to Harvard Business Review, engaged organizations have double the rate of success compared to less engaged organizations. HBR also found that organizations that scored higher in employee engagement reported 48% fewer safety incidents and 41% fewer patient safety incidents.
As well, if you have teams working remotely, collaboration technology can help facilitate good working relationships.
The State of Remote Work 2020 from Buffer found that while remote work is growing in popularity — and the majority of survey respondents intend to continue working remotely for the rest of their career — communication, collaboration, and loneliness continue to be top challenges for remote workers and remote organizations.
- Break down silos
No department works alone, yet many operate that way. A study from Harvard found that 67% of respondents reported siloed organization/lack of collaboration across departments as the top barrier to success in their workplace.
According to Entrepreneur, silos can lead to duplicated work, inefficiencies, misaligned priorities, limited collaboration, and dangerous groupthink.
Chris Fussell, co-author of One Mission: How Leaders Build a Team of Teams and a former Navy SEAL, says silos become a problem when they are too disconnected.
“…information travels too slowly, resulting in a failure to adapt,” said Fussell in a 2017 Inc.com interview. “The trick is to connect the silos together effectively.”
Collaboration tools can help achieve that by prioritizing communication across the organization – not only within a team, but also cross-departmentally.
The Harvard study found that “respondents from organizations prioritizing collaboration were more likely to be growing faster or marching ahead of their competitors than companies whose leaders didn’t favor the practice.”
Videoconferencing, document sharing, remote access, and project management systems along with email and phones all help facilitate organizational collaboration.
- Boost efficiency
Traditional meetings take up a lot of time. Sometimes that time is necessary, but in other cases it could be minimized. A 2019 report from Doodle studied 19 million meetings and interviews with more than 6,500 professionals in the U.S., U.K., and Germany.
They found that the cost of poorly organized meetings in 2019 would reach $399 billion in the U.S. and $58 billion in the U.K. Additionally, 44% of those surveyed said that poorly organized meetings don’t leave attendees with enough time to complete their work.
Collaboration tools can help cut down on meetings and boost productivity.
A Forrester study on The Total Economic Impact™ Of Microsoft Teams found that businesses that empowered their employees with the Teams collaboration tool replaced 150 average overnight trips with online meetings by Year 3 of implementation. They also discovered that there was an 18.9% reduction in meetings each week and that 45 minutes per week are saved by first-line workers collaborating with colleagues.
Another issue with meetings — even seemingly effective ones — is that they may not be the best communication style for everyone on your team. In-person sessions typically favour the loudest person in a room. If you have introverts on your staff, they may not feel able to speak up.
This is where technology can really help — by giving everyone a venue to share their thoughts.
- Enable innovation
According to PwC, effective collaboration is the key ingredient to making innovation happen.
“The collaborative approach is remarkably effective at building consensus, increasing levels of motivation and participation, pulling teams together, and coaching more junior members,” PwC wrote. “It provides a fertile ground for experimentation, resulting in more innovative results.”
Pixar found this too as it encouraged team members to come up with new ways to continually improve the company, such as its Notes Day when the entire organization took a day to discuss key issues affecting the culture.
NASA also took this approach — Harvard Business Review reported that NASA leaders asked employees to help understand and transform several major barriers to innovation. They received nearly 300 recommendations.
Collaboration can help encourage a culture of feedback and fuel a growth mindset for the long-term.
Team Collaboration Tools To Consider
While Pixar struggled with table design, today’s team collaboration often doesn’t require a table — or even meeting in person.
Technology is making it possible for team members to stay in contact remotely, reducing the need for long meetings, emailing documents back-and-forth, limiting silos, and more. This can help reduce the barriers to collaboration and encourage regular, cross-department communication. It is a great option for teams working in different sites or even different countries.
There are many tools to consider, including video conferencing, chat technology, email/calendar syncing, document sharing, remote access, and more.
When it comes to collaboration tools, implementation is usually simple, however, the training can be a challenge. You want your team to feel comfortable using these tools to their full capabilities.
Finding a team collaboration tool that works for your business is essential. As you weigh options, keep in mind:
- Whether it will integrate with your current software
- What will be required for implementation
- How much training will be needed
Look for software that mimics social tools your teams might already be using, but that integrates with your current software for more efficiency. You may even already have this capability in your current software, but not be taking advantage of it.
If you do have the capability, it’s often a great choice to improve collaboration.
The Forrester study found that information workers save 15 minutes per day and first-line workers five minutes per day by having features and information sources available within Microsoft Teams, rather than switching between apps. The total savings over three years is nearly $4.8 million.
Microsoft Teams integrates seamlessly with Dynamics 365 for document collaboration, file integration, video conferencing, and more. It also has a mobile app so it can be used on-the-go.
SYSPRO Harmony is another high-quality collaboration tool, which integrates with the SYSPRO database. Team members can post and collaborate within the network of the organization using real-time information. Users can query information directly in the chat, such as stock information, sales order statuses, customer information, and so on, as well as share pictures, reference conversations, and reply and like messages that have been posted.
Talk to your VAR about what collaboration tools would work best for your business. They can make recommendations or let you know if the function already exists in your current systems.
At SHEA, we are experts in collaboration tools and can help your organization find the right one to achieve business better. Reach out to us today for a free consultation.