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team collaboration

Team Collaboration: What It Is and How to Improve It 

Seems like everyone these days is talking about team collaboration and how it affects their business’s productivity, efficiency, and overall success. You may have even used the term a time or two yourself.

But what exactly is team collaboration? And how can you improve it to achieve a more streamlined workflow that lends itself to creativity and innovation?

In this article, we’ll answer those questions to help you build and maintain the best team for your business.

Table of contents

Team collaboration defined

Wall with Together We Create written with spray paint

According to Oxford Languages, collaboration is:

The action of working with someone to produce or create something.

As definitions go, it’s a good place to start. But the definition doesn’t really address the variables that govern team collaboration in a business setting.

For that, we need a more detailed explanation of what’s involved:

[Team collaboration is] a combined philosophy and approach that emphasizes teamwork, diversity, equal participation, and innovative thinking as a way to further the interests of the business that implements it (typically through communication and project management).

This definition — and the boots-on-the-ground, rubber-meets-the-road processes that it inspires — applies to teams that work face-to-face in the same office or those that work online from different parts of the country (or the world).

As we discuss ways to improve how your business works, it’s important to understand that effective team collaboration isn’t just about technology (though it can certainly help).

In fact, the concept of collaboration existed long before any of the rapid communication solutions that make businesses so productive these days and will go on existing as that technology becomes obsolete.

What does that mean for your business?

It means that effective team collaboration relies more on your company culture — the values, norms, ethics, beliefs, and habits — than on any fancy hardware or software your business employs.

Company culture serves as the foundation on which strong team collaboration is built. Keep that underlying principle in mind as we discuss what you can do to improve team communication in your business.

How to improve team collaboration

Team collaboration meeting

1) Give your team autonomy

Autonomy at work is like the metaphorical grease that keeps the team collaboration wheels turning smoothly.

Giving each employee the freedom to work the way they think is best (within the framework of your business, of course), removes the worry and doubt that can sabotage productivity and the willingness to collaborate with the rest of the team.

If this leadership style is new to you, consider implementing the following suggestions to get things started:

  • Give your team the freedom to work without restrictions
  • Empower each employee to make their own decisions
  • Emphasize that those decisions should benefit the team, the project, and the business
  • Help your team members grow personally and professionally (through on-the-job training)
  • Communicate frequently and honestly
  • Ask for that same communication from your team members
  • Trust your employees’ instincts
  • Respect individual differences
  • Encourage outside-the-box thinking

Letting your team work autonomously promotes a feeling of safety and security and a motivation to do what’s best for your business and everyone involved.

2) Upgrade your office space

Not all offices lend themselves to team collaboration. You can change that and make working together easier by upgrading your team’s workspace.

Here are some suggestions for creating an office that promotes teamwork:

  • Offer a variety of seat and desk options
  • Decorate with mobile furniture
  • Set up an open-concept office
  • Create multipurpose workspaces
  • Provide private and quiet spaces for individual work

As we mentioned in that last point, it’s important to reserve some space for private and quiet time so that group work doesn’t preclude individual work.

A flexible office space allows this to happen organically without forcing your employees into one option or the other.

3) Use the right tools

Zoom meeting

The right tools are essential for effective team collaboration whether everyone works in the office or in their own home.

But which tools work equally well for in-person and remote teams alike?

Try these suggestions for a truly collaborative environment:

With the right tools for the job, your team collaboration will transform from a slow, plodding process into a quick and easy activity that feels natural, regardless of how your employees prefer to work.

4) Lead team collaboration activities

Don’t expect team collaboration to happen automatically — you’ll need to promote and train your employees to adopt this work strategy.

Try leading activities such as team meals, brainstorming sessions, office Olympics, and murder mysteries to emphasize the collective spirit in your business.

Whichever team collaboration activities you choose, be consistent (e.g., 15 minutes once or twice a week) so the message isn’t lost on your employees.

For more fun team collaboration activities, check out these articles from the Sling blog:

5) Become a master of motivation

As we mentioned in the previous section, team collaboration won’t just happen without your encouragement.

Team games go a long way toward training your employees in the hows and whys of working together, but motivation makes them want to do so.

That’s where becoming a master of motivation really pays off. Learn how to motivate your team and then make it a point to do so every day.

If you’re unsure how to do this, try these simple suggestions to get you started:

  • Define your expectations
  • Celebrate achievements
  • Show your appreciation
  • Maintain a positive attitude
  • Give your team opportunities to grow
  • Lead by example
  • Find ways to have fun

When you make time to motivate your employees — and do it often — their willingness to participate in team collaboration will skyrocket.

6) Allow for delays in team communication

Sling app for team collaboration

One of the many benefits of modern business technology is the very real possibility for instantaneous communication between employees — whether they’re working across the room from each other or across the country.

Unfortunately, the instantaneous nature of those communication tools creates a sense that employees have to be available at all times. If, for some reason, they don’t respond right away, they may feel that they’ve somehow failed.

When employees feel like they’re operating in a state of “always on,” it takes away from their quiet time and individual work.

That can lead to communication burnout, which, in turn, counteracts the effectiveness of your team collaboration.

To keep communication burnout at bay, allow for delays in team communication — whether it’s between you and an employee or between two team members.

Doing so means that you and they won’t have to interrupt the current task (and the focus it demands) to address an issue on some other task.

7) Work within your organizational strategy

In many ways, team collaboration operates best when it has an organizational strategy running throughout and underneath.

Such a strategy informs and influences everything your employees do — from their ability to adapt when adversity rears its ugly head all the way down to basic behaviors, such as setting priorities and making good decisions.

If your team is working without a strategy to back up their efforts, they won’t have any short- or long-term goals to use as guidance.

Lack of any kind of strategy can affect their team collaboration — and their overall productivity — for the worse.

Take the time to explain your organizational strategy so that everyone has a set of standards and values they can use to base their decisions and actions — both individually and as a team.

For more information on business strategy, take a few minutes to read these helpful articles from the Sling blog:

Improve team collaboration with Sling

Scrabble game

As a busy manager, it can be extremely difficult to find time to work on improving team collaboration. That’s why it’s so important to schedule time into your team’s busy day so you and they can focus on the activities on this list.

Sling can help.

Sling is a software suite with the sole purpose of streamlining and simplifying every aspect of your workforce management, all with the goal of giving you more time to make your business run better.

There’s no limit to what your team can accomplish when you collaborate schedules, communications, tasks, labor reports and more, all in the same place.

For more free resources to help you improve team collaboration, organize and schedule your workforce, and track and calculate labor costs, visit GetSling.com today.

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