Lots of companies and organizations covet a culture of collaboration, but they expect it is something that will happen miraculously if they talk to their employees about it or bring in a consultant for a seminar about it.
It just doesn’t work that way.
It takes skill and planning and a strong foundation of attitudes of encouragement before collaboration is born. Once alive, it permeates the culture and actions of all your employees, spreading from department to department, until it is an ingrained reality of how you do business.
Essentially there are 4 foundations for building that base, regardless of how big or how small your organization is.
It starts with ensuring that your company has a clear purpose and communicates that purpose to each and every employee. What is your company trying to do? What does it stand for? What is the end game of each transaction? Does your company have a social conscience that moves hand in hand with its need to make money? What are its corporate values? Is this written anywhere or even discussed with your employees?
Having a purpose and sharing it is the single most important contributing base of a collaborative culture. People cannot band together if they have no idea what they are doing it for.
The second base is creating an environment where employee contributions are appreciated and respected. People don’t step up to the plate or go that extra mile for you when they may end up ridiculed or chastised for their extra efforts. People won’t speak up with their innovative ideas if they are ignored or receive rude responses.
The company trying to build collaboration will prize contribution highly as one of the most important employee traits.
But knowing what your company stands for and feeling like your contributions are wanted and needed isn’t enough.
The third base is to ensure that there is a clear and obvious mechanism in place through which employees are encouraged to work together on projects.
A great product that allows you to do this is BoostHQ. BoostHQ is the best way to share links and files with your team and ignite discussion on the content. It allows your entire team to share content, not just your boss, and allows for feedback and commentary from everyone. If everyone is kept in their own separate work station, it is difficult to foster collaboration. BoostHQ can help make your team feel closer together. But also to build that kind of culture, you have to be creative about projects and build teams that place people together even if they don’t normally work with each other.
Select people with different skills and knowledge bases, and different personalities. Give them a project that has a realistic chance of success and an appropriate deadline.
Build on the successes of the collaborations. Add and subtract members, move people around to give them a chance to broaden their knowledge base, and always ensure that the mission is clear.
Finally, make it a mandate to put an infrastructure in place that values and honors collaboration with specific and personal rewards. Collaboration, however valuable it may be, can still be controversial for the employee who just wants to get the job done and believes that they know the best way to accomplish that.
If that same employee sees a specific reward for taking the time and energy to collaborate, they will be more inclined to seek out the opinions of others and respond to suggestions from their colleagues.
In today’s rushed pace of work, many employees may believe there is value to collaboration, but they feel like it just takes too much effort. They may not trust that their colleagues can contribute at the level they need.
There is only one way to get around this, and that is to specifically create mechanisms where collaboration is a part of a person’s job. If they are assigned to a series of tasks, one or two of them will be to seek out a colleague in another department and get their feedback on a proposed plan of action.
Hold regular short and informative meetings where everyone is kept in the loop and use mobile technology (BoostHQ) to keep all team members advised of new developments in their project. Encourage team leaders to send short messages of praise when one team member comes up with a great initiative.
Your employees know that collaboration is a good thing. The adage “two heads are better than one” is as old as time and most of today’s workers know it is true. But they need the time, the inclination, and the support to put their collaboration instincts into practice.