Just because over half of American workers view collaboration as very important doesn't mean everyone has the skills. While some team members may already work well with others, your work environment itself needs to be collaborative to encourage people to use their collaboration skills. Fostering these skills gives you and your people what's needed to create a workplace where collaboration can thrive.
Whether your people work fully remote, fully in person, or in a hybrid model, fostering collaboration skills creates a more successful, productive work environment and team-centric mindset.
What are collaboration skills?
Collaboration skills are traits that enable people to work effectively with each other
Collaboration skills are traits that enable people to work effectively with each other. These skills are essential in most workplaces, especially where people are expected to work well in teams. Team members have different goals, preferences, strengths, and weaknesses. Collaboration skills enable each person to bring all these aspects to the table while working well together to achieve a common goal — the very definition of collaborating.
In most cases, collaborating involves more than simply completing a project with coworkers. Effective collaboration skills allow your people to resolve conflict, build relationships, and be inclusive and respectful. Your people could use these skills to intervene and dissolve tension between peers, share insightful tips to improve team processes, or graciously accept and implement constructive feedback. Strong collaboration skills make a more reliable team member, so fostering collaboration skills in your workplace strengthens your team.
Rather than expecting your people to know how and when to collaborate, develop the necessary skills within your company. Cultivating collaboration skills ensures your teams know your expectations for collaboration — especially since every workplace values collaboration differently — and prepares your people to work well together. Collaboration skills take time and dedication to develop, and there are always ways to improve.
Benefits of fostering collaboration skills in your company
Many companies rely heavily on collaboration, and for good reason. Developing team collaboration is highly beneficial for most workplaces because it encourages improvement and allows your company to become more productive and efficient while producing high-quality work. Consider these and other benefits of nurturing collaboration skills in your company.
Enhances the ability to work together
If some team members don't know how to collaborate effectively, you can't expect to see quality collaboration. Above all else, fostering collaboration skills improves your team's collaborative ability and gives them the tools they need to succeed. When your people know what your company requires and expects of them regarding collaboration, they'll be better prepared to perform at that level.
Streamlines team engagement
Collaboration encourages team members to be more engaged in group and individual work. Fostering collaboration skills gets your people to interact with each other more often and work together on both basic and significant tasks. They'll be more satisfied with their work as they see how their contributions impact your company's overall success. People who feel valued as part of a team are more likely to continue contributing.
Increases productivity and efficiency
Boost productivity and efficiency by developing collaboration skills
When working together, teams complete more work at a faster pace. Collaboration improves productivity rates and overall team efficiency because team members have each other to rely on. When one person gets stuck, another employee can help them or use their unique strengths to compensate, maintaining progress on the task. As teams work more efficiently, they'll complete more tasks.
Improves the quality of work
Better collaboration skills improve the quality of your team's work. Each person offers a different perspective, experience level, and new ideas, driving innovation and progress at your company. As team members bounce ideas off each other, they'll generate new thoughts and create their best work together.
Creates a positive work environment
As employees work together and build collaboration skills, they'll develop stronger relationships with each other, creating a more positive work environment. When your people feel more comfortable and supported in their work environment, everyone will feel more relaxed and confident about their work. Positive atmospheres also lead to more satisfied team members and higher productivity rates.
8 collaboration skills to foster
Successful collaboration relies on various skills, many of which should be used together to encourage effective collaboration in the workplace. Each team member will develop different strengths and weaknesses, and not everyone needs to be great at each skill. The beauty of collaboration is that together, your team can collectively put these skills to use.
Here are eight valuable skills to focus on when fostering a collaborative work environment.
Focus on fostering written, verbal, nonverbal, and active listening skills
Communication skills are often difficult to foster because everyone communicates differently. Some people prefer to discuss in groups, while others prefer one-on-one conversations or written communication. When fostering communication skills, consider the different communication styles and how you and your team can adapt to different types of communicators.
Make room for all communication types so all team members have a voice. Encourage team members to communicate with people how they prefer. Good communication skills come in various formats.
A significant amount of collaboration happens through written communication, especially when all or most of your team works from a remote or hybrid setup. When communicating through writing, ensure the message is easy to understand. Many messages get misconstrued in writing because you can't use tone and nonverbal cues for context. To foster effective communication skills, ensure your teams know how their messages may be received. For example, sarcasm is difficult to communicate through writing, so avoiding it in written collaboration is best.
Verbal communication includes what you say and how you say it. Tone is an important aspect of verbal communication, especially when collaborating. Foster empathetic tones and the ability to verbalize clear messages. The way team members verbally communicate indicates a lot about their demeanor toward others and how they're perceived in the workplace.
Nonverbal communication refers to factors like body language and facial expressions that impact verbal communication and alter the meaning of words. Nonverbal cues often indicate a person's underlying thoughts or emotions. Ensure team members understand how their nonverbal cues can affect their communication.
For example, crossed arms can be perceived as defensive, stern, or closed off, none of which a person would likely be when delivering good news to a team member. This nonverbal cue can throw off the meaning of the message, making its intent confusing for the receiver.
Active listening is a crucial skill to foster in effective collaboration. While communicating information is important to share updates and ideas, active listening allows team members to understand what's being communicated. Active listening involves listening intently with an open mind to understand without judgment. Ask open-ended and clarifying questions and summarize the message to ensure you understand.
Active listening skills take time and practice to master, though your team will always communicate and collaborate more effectively when team members actively listen to others.
2. Emotional intelligence and empathy
Everyone has days when they're struggling with an assignment or dealing with issues outside of work, making it difficult to perform their best. Fostering empathy and emotional intelligence in the workplace gives team members the soft skills to recognize and appropriately react to their own and others' emotions at work.
Team members with emotional intelligence recognize that moodiness and irritability can be signs of burnout or needing assistance. Empathetic team members also know not to take emotions personally when they're signs of a larger issue. Rather, teaching emotional intelligence increases your team's ability to assist one another and collaborate regardless of the situation. Collaboration comes much more naturally when team members can empathize with and support each other.
3. Respect and open-mindedness
One reason collaboration is valued in the workplace is that each person brings something different to the table. Diverse workforces include team members from different cultures, backgrounds, and experiences, which allows each person to present new perspectives and ideas.
Fresh perspectives lead to creativity and innovation, though traditional team members may stifle them and hold your team back because they lack the right mindset. To prevent that issue and create a safe collaboration space, foster respect and open-mindedness within your company.
Respecting team members' backgrounds creates a space where your people can feel comfortable contributing to group discussions. Open-mindedness involves listening to and accepting new ideas. Encourage everyone to be curious about others' ideas. For example, you may make a rule that all ideas be heard and debated before decisions are made in a brainstorming session.
Because collaboration relies heavily on exchanging ideas and working together, open-mindedness helps employees avoid needing to impress or be better than others. Encourage this mindset so team members contribute their ideas without fear of judgment, helping your company become more innovative.
When working with a team, you'll inevitably encounter unexpected issues. Whether it's priority changes, delays, budget issues, or otherwise not following the plan, adaptability keeps your team moving forward despite setbacks. Adaptability involves adjusting to new conditions at a moment's notice. This skill is important for collaborative teams to function under pressure and solve problems, especially when employees work hybrid or remotely.
Adaptability can be difficult to teach, as it requires practice and patience. The best way to foster adaptability is demonstrating it through leadership. If things go awry, lead by example — stay calm and focus on the team's next steps. Facilitate discussions regarding how the team can adapt and encourage team members to take action.
Organizational skills are a must-have, especially on hybrid or remote teams, as each team member's schedule may differ. When collaborating on projects, employees should stay organized and manage their time to get their work done so others can finish their work, too. Have a hierarchy of prioritized projects that factors in deadlines and which stages of a project people need to complete to keep things moving.
To cultivate organization as a team quality, make collaboration a daily routine. The more often your people have to coordinate responsibilities and schedules, the more effectively they'll organize their workload.
6. Conflict resolution
Workplace conflicts can be detrimental to collaborative teams. If conflicts or disagreements remain unresolved, your teams will struggle to finish any work. While disagreements are natural, they can be stressful and impact the team's work quality. Conflicts also make work tense, even for those uninvolved. Regardless of what your people may clash over, having the skills to amicably and quickly resolve issues keeps the work environment productive and comfortable.
Team members should accept personal responsibility and maintain accountability rather than deflecting blame onto others. Foster the ability to talk through disputes respectfully and hear others out to determine amicable solutions. Conflict resolution skills allow your people to acknowledge and move on from disputes as a group for the team's betterment.
Cultivate productive debates by encouraging constructive, regulated discussions
Debate drives innovation, keeps projects moving forward, and weeds out less effective ideas. Debating during collaboration can be difficult for employees who get emotionally attached to their ideas and take criticism personally. The key to cultivating productive debate skills is encouraging constructive, regulated discussions. Team members should be polite when debating ideas, and leaders can step in when the debate is no longer productive. Debate can happen in person if your teams are present, or you may create an online discussion with collaboration software for remote team members to contribute.
Fostering debate skills helps people provide and hear constructive feedback, making collaboration more productive in the long run. When your people can provide suggestions during discussions and respectfully debate the best direction, your teams will move projects and ideas forward much more efficiently.
8. Long-term thinking
Some of your people may struggle to collaborate because it's difficult for them to see how their contributions help the team or your company as a whole. When team members have long-term thinking skills, they envision the final result of collaborative work and recognize how their contributions impact the shared goal. Foster an understanding of every person's role in a project and its scope so your people know why they're part of the team.
Team members that understand their purpose and how collaboration is used to achieve company goals are better equipped to make meaningful contributions. Long-term thinking also lets your people anticipate how collaborative decisions and ideas can help teams progress toward their goals rather than simply hoping for the best.
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