Collaboration isn’t magic, and it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Implementing effective collaboration strategies in the workplace only happens when facility managers (FMs) and other workplace leaders make it a priority. They must create the right strategies and environments to support collaboration.
In this article, we review 10 critical strategies that can help improve workplace collaboration. They can also create a more flexible and resilient workplace in the process.
Discover the strategies leading organizations are using to make hybrid work.
Walk the talk! Leaders and management teams must show what they want from their employees, by demonstrating the collaborative behaviors they want to see. This means management teams should share a common goal to collaborate often with different departments. They may also want to implement a cross-functional management team meeting on a weekly basis. Reason being, to align goals and ensure everyone stays on the same page.
And of course, leaders should welcome both formal and informal communication with their subordinates as much as possible.
Companies thrive when they respect workers and treat them like adults. Allowing for the right level of autonomy is one of the most important management tools a company has. Research shows that, not surprisingly, encouraging workers to make decisions and take action on their own can save time on ‘time sapping review and approvals.’
For example, we know that overall employee experience scores jump from 45% to 74% when workers are given complete control over their work schedule. Employee engagement is essential to collaboration strategies in the workplace. Like, workplace strategist Angie Earlywine, Senior Director in the Total Workplace division of Global Occupier Services at Cushman & Wakefield, reminds us, “most people enjoy the work that they’re doing. The labor market is too competitive now to not be doing what you love.”
Of course, with more autonomy, should come more accountability. A higher level of autonomy should always be coupled with employees being held more accountable for their own projects.
One of the most critical ways to encourage more partnerships as well as more collaborative work and behaviors, is to create a collaborative environment that supports them.
Thanks to the rise of both remote work and hybrid work, more workers are seeing the physical office as a place to collaborate. Conversely, they stay home (or at their local coffee shop) for heads-down work.
Companies can embrace this new reality by turning their physical office space into ‘collaboration central,’ using workplace strategies like agile working, activity-based working, and flexible seating. Implementing collaboration strategies in the workplace like office neighborhoods, in which workers are always sitting with the right people, can prove helpful. Especially given that a report from Cornerstone and Harvard Business School found a 15% increase in organizational performance when the right workers were in close proximity.
Of course, a flexible workplace is quite different from one where anything goes. Employees will need access to robust desk booking and room booking tools. This way, people don’t waste time looking for a workspace that could be better spent tackling the next big project with their coworkers.
Ultimately, the goal should be to create a physical and digital workspace that fosters a flexible work culture that is supportive and cooperative.
A good workplace design helps to increase the possibility of chance encounters through a balance between individual workstations and collaborative spaces. Ying Hua, International Journal of Facility Management, A model of workplace environment satisfaction, collaboration experience, and perceived collaboration effectiveness: A survey instrument
A good workplace design helps to increase the possibility of chance encounters through a balance between individual workstations and collaborative spaces.
Given our new realities, companies should also incorporate health and wellness into their workplace strategies. They may want to consider a distancing planner that makes it easier to maintain social distancing, for example. Employees that engage in collaboration most are going to be those that also feel safe.
Thanks to the aforementioned rise in hybrid work, good collaboration software and collaboration tools are important now more than ever. Especially when it comes to project management and problem-solving for remote teams. The right communication tools and apps are especially important when dealing with a distributed workforce.
In short, you need to support hybrid workers with digital workplace solutions like Zoom, Slack, and Microsoft Teams, which are cloud-based and easy to access via mobile app. Ideally, any new team collaboration tools will be able to integrate with your existing workplace management solutions. That way, employees aren’t always having to learn new things.
Finally, it’s also important to consider visibility when working to optimize collaboration strategies in the workplace. Namely, employees need to be able to ‘see’ where everyone is. Especially when they’re spread out across floors, buildings, or even cities or countries. This is usually best accomplished with a visual directory that is easy to access and integrate with existing software solutions.
Better wayfinding signage in the physical workspace can also play a key role in creating more visibility.
To create a more collaborative workspace, workplace leaders should closely examine existing departments to see if there are any with shared or overlapping goals and duties that would be better brought under one umbrella.
Remember both the importance of preventing silos, along with ensuring the right people are working closely together. This helps both team communication and team goals. One of the best ways to do this is to merge teams that already work together often. This is one of the easiest ways to boost collaboration, while also reducing unnecessary friction between departments. At the very least, overlapping departments should be meeting regularly and working as a project team when necessary
Note that this is why many companies opt to merge facility management, human resources, and human resources into one successful team.
Contrary to what may seem like common sense, meetings do not inherently bring about good collaboration. In fact, with the wrong meeting policies, meetings may end up doing more harm than good. One of the best collaboration strategies for the workplace is to streamline meetings to be more efficient and effective.
Namely, employees can spend up to 30 minutes a day looking for meeting spaces, while 20% of meetings are late because of tech issues. And in fact, some research suggests that unproductive meetings waste $37 billion a year.
Especially when considering hybrid meetings, companies will need to ensure they’re following best practices, so that employees aren’t forced to waste time on unproductive meetings. It’s also essential to provide accessible meeting room booking software, good video conferencing hardware, and, ideally, Zoom meeting calendar integration.
To elicit better collaboration, companies need to provide employees with clear guidelines and messaging about what is appropriate and/or expected. It is essential to share knowledge around what’s expected. The more guidelines and communications that the company provides around collaboration and where to find information, the more often employees can solve issues autonomously by collaborating with the right people to ask the right questions.
Resetting norms regarding when and how to initiate e-mail requests or meeting invitations can free up a great deal of wasted time.Rob Cross, Reb Rebele, and Adam Grant, Harvard Business Review
Resetting norms regarding when and how to initiate e-mail requests or meeting invitations can free up a great deal of wasted time.
For example, ensure that all employees know if they can set up meetings or chats with each other as needed, if there are certain timeframes to follow, or topics to leave for face-to-face meetings.
Employees also need to be able to find everything they need for collaboration. Is there an intranet with specific answers to internal questions? Or an internal job board or a career page that employees can share? Is there a spot where to find detailed product documentation or marketing materials to share externally?
If you want employees to go above and beyond to reach out to different teams to problem solve, then it usually makes sense to offer incentives to do so. For example, you may want to reward employees who reach out across departments to solve problems autonomously.
Remember, seeking out information and colleagues you may not be familiar with takes extra effort and time. Given the benefits of implementing collaboration strategies in the workplace, it’s a good idea to incentivize them to do so.
Diverse companies have a cash flow that is 2.3 times higher per employee than their less diverse counterparts. Ensuring that everyone is included, heard, and has the ability and opportunity to collaborate isn’t just the right thing to do. It’s the smart thing, especially if you want to build trust within the company.
All the collaboration strategies we’ve covered so far boil down to one simple guideline: make collaboration easy.
Whether it’s making sure you provide resources to other departments, having regular meetings with key stakeholders from various teams, or participating in online activities to socialize with groups or offices that employees may not see often, there are many ways to simplify collaboration strategies in the workplace. Ultimately, the easier it is to collaborate, the more employees can and will rise to the occasion.
The above list of strategies aren’t the only things FMs can do to provide a higher level of collaboration in their work environment. It can also be used to help with brainstorming sessions. FMs and teams can share ideas and discover new ways to add more collaboration into the company culture. Whether it’s through team building activities, enhancing collaboration skills, or having clear goals, there’s always room for improvement.
The key to successfully implementing collaboration strategies in the workplace is making that a priority. As mentioned earlier, teamwork and collaboration don’t happen in a vacuum. It needs to be planned and embraced by both leadership teams and team members alike.
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Photos: skynesher, Delmaine Donson, shapecharge