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Collaboration in the workplace: Your guide to making it happen

a man and woman helping their teammate is showing collaboration in the workplace

There's a reason why humans have evolved to thrive in collaborative environments. We're social beings, and we naturally do better when we're part of a group that shares a common goal.

Bringing team members together and facilitating teamwork isn't always easy, but workplace collaboration alone can increase employee engagement and boost performance across the board. 

So it's certainly worth doing properly: here's all you need to know about collaboration in the workplace.

Table of contents
What is collaboration?
What are the benefits of collaboration?
What are the types of collaborative working?
How can I increase collaboration as a leader?
Work on your team's dynamics to improve collaboration

What is collaboration?

Collaboration happens when two or more people decide to join forces, sharing knowledge, ideas, and expertise to get work done and complete tasks more quickly and efficiently.

Collaboration is all about improving communication and setting operational frameworks that can increase productivity and employee engagement.

Great teamwork benefits the company, but employees, too, know well the benefits of collaboration. Being part of a supportive and understanding team that shares common goals can boost morale and facilitate personal growth.

What are the benefits of collaboration?

Employee collaboration contributes to better results and project success, allowing personal growth and greatly benefitting your organization at multiple levels. Here are some of the benefits of team collaboration in more detail:

Happier employees

Employees who take part in workplace collaboration are more satisfied with their job than employees who don't. How much more satisfied? 17%, according to a study conducted by Deloitte, involving 3,600 employees of major European organizations.

You shouldn't underestimate the importance of connections and relationships developed through collaborative culture. Happy employees, valued for their unique skill sets and abilities, are much more likely to remain active and help others; they positively impact company culture and contribute to a better working environment. 

When employees are happy, turnover rates go down as staff retention goes up. If team members spend most of their time collaborating on projects, they're bound to connect with other colleagues at a more personal level. As they grow together, develop bonds, and see their efforts pay off with tangible results, they're much more likely to stick around. When confidence and engagement rates increase, turnover rates can be reduced by up to 59%.

Reduced costs

A collaborative workplace doesn't magically cut costs. However, it does improve effective communication, limiting counterproductive chitchat and endless, meaningless meetings that lead nowhere. 

When team members work together and remain focused, they don't need to be micromanaged to share ideas and get things done. Open communication fosters trust and increases productivity. At the same time, it allows managers to dedicate more time and resources to coordinating different departments and expediting crucial processes.

Better ideas

Companies stagnate when employees come to work and spend the whole day completing tasks without interacting with their colleagues.

Poor collaboration is especially common in a digital workplace. Without cross functional collaboration sparking inspiration, brainstorming, and idea-sharing, there's no innovation. And when creativity is thrown out the window and stagnation becomes the norm, problem-solving is a struggle and performance suffers.

By giving everyone a chance to express themselves, you can bring new ideas and fresh inspiration to the table. Effective collaboration can bring different perspectives to the forefront, improving performance as a result. 

According to Frost & Sullivan, companies that promote collaboration enjoy 36% increased productivity and 26% profit growth while also being 30% more innovative.


Colleagues who feel comfortable sharing their ideas, and aren't afraid to express their concerns, create more agile and flexible teams. The business world is constantly changing, and having teams eager to face new challenges is one positive result of a collaborative environment in the workplace.

Even in the face of adversity, a well-oiled team can quickly adapt to new standards and environments. Each team member knows what they're supposed to do, which gives their team leader and management plenty of room to approach projects with a much clearer mind.

A collaborative team that understands and respects each other can quickly take control of a difficult situation. But if discord plagues the workplace, leaders have to spend valuable time resolving conflicts instead of focusing on the bigger picture.

Improved performance

It's no surprise, then, that performance as a whole improves when team members engage in a collaborative effort. If the environment allows it, people from different backgrounds and with very different views can develop a sense of camaraderie, which can help them achieve a common goal.

According to a study conducted at Boston College, businesses that actively promote collaborative working environments are five times more likely to be high-performing. Researchers found that the key to productive teamwork was a strong sense of purpose.

Have you heard of Aristotle's famous adage: "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts"? If everyone's more productive, then the whole team benefits – and the company thrives as a result. For example, three high achievers will likely perform much better together than they would apart, especially if they're oriented towards extroversion.

More opportunities to learn

Solving problems together means being exposed to new and different ways of thinking. Effective team collaboration is only possible through a mutual sharing of knowledge, feedback, and opinions. As we open up, we begin to understand the failures, struggles, and successes of others.

Why is this person more/less productive than the rest of the team? What is it about their workflow that stands out? What are their priorities, pain points, and way of thinking? What can different teams learn from their experiences as we move forward?

These are all questions that can provide both managers and employees with invaluable insight.

Less stress

There's plenty of evidence to suggest a correlation between collaborative work and improved mental health for those involved. When team members feel valued, respected, and appreciated, they tend to leave their worries and insecurities behind - they know someone's got their back, and they can focus on the task at hand.

You can reduce stress in the workplace by building trust and managing teams holistically instead of micromanaging individuals. According to a study by the American Institute of Stress (published in Harvard Business Review), 80% of employees feel stressed at work, and 92% of work-related stress issues point back to lacking team dynamics.

More efficient remote teams

Our modern interconnected world has recently seen a rise in the number of teams with remote employees. Digital workplaces reduce costs and increase flexibility, but remote work can leave employees feeling disconnected from their coworkers.

When teamwork is put first, all members receive the same real-time information through apps, messaging, and other online collaboration tools. Successful online workspaces allow employees to stay updated while also giving them plenty of opportunities to actively participate in meetings, webinars, and events (e.g., through video conferencing). Virtual collaboration won't replace all in-person work, but it's certainly gone through significant growth from 2020 onwards.

Improved customer experience

The customer is always right, as they say, but things can get complicated when employees encounter problems and don't know how to deal with certain concerns. Healthy team collaboration means everyone knows exactly what to do and who to contact when issues arise.

When teams are organized, their diligence and commitment to excellent customer service are evident as issues are resolved quickly. Disorganized teams are slow to react and give customers a hard time, negatively affecting the brand's image as a result. So collaboration skills are worth investing in, for all customer-facing employees.

Better communication with stakeholders

Meetings with stakeholders are simpler when everyone knows how their work and contribution fit into the organization's goal. Managers can quickly get all the important information they need by breaking down the project into parts and contacting the individual members in charge.

If you're in an industry where jargon and complicated terminology reign supreme, you should make an effort to promote collaboration skills throughout your team early on, making sure every aspect of the project is understandable and communicated well.

What are the types of collaborative working?

Now that you know how effective collaboration can help your business grow, it's time to explore how you can incorporate different forms of collaboration into your current schedule:

Team collaboration and brainstorming: This is the most common type of collaboration as it allows team members to actively share their ideas and contribute to discussions. It builds trust and instills a sense of purpose.

Diverse team building: Designing cognitively diverse teams that consist of individuals with varying levels of experience and expertise is always a good idea. By mixing things up and playing around with team dynamics, you're bringing in fresh ideas that can potentially attract larger audiences.

Open discussion: All meetings should be as democratic as possible, with the goal being to incite dialogue and openly discuss issues. When employees feel that all opinions are heard and valued, they're more likely to open up. Leaders and managers can then take this information and use it to keep team members happy and engaged.

How can I increase collaboration as a leader?

When it comes to collaboration in the workplace, leaders can instill a sense of camaraderie by:

  • Spending enough time around team members to learn as much as possible about their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Delegating tasks based on those team members' individual strengths.
  • Actively listening and responding to their team's worries and concerns.
  • Facilitating open group discussions whenever possible.
  • Making sure communication between team members is always respectful and constructive.
  • Identifying and resolving issues before they can negatively affect productivity and performance.

These collaborative practices are enough to coordinate even the largest of teams, but you can incorporate them into a more general set of best practices for best results:

1) Be the leader your team needs

All great leaders must lead by example. If you want to increase collaboration between employees and team members, you should pave the way. Listen to what others have to say, show enthusiasm about new and creative ideas, and allow others to critique your own opinions and suggestions. 

2) Keep communication channels open

Give everyone plenty of opportunities to share their input and express any concerns they may have. Remember, team meetings shouldn't resemble lectures. Even if your team's working remotely, you should reserve enough time for discussion on digital channels and video meetings.

3) Break goals down into smaller tasks

Management can sometimes propose vaguely-defined, number-bound goals (e.g., increase productivity by 20% by Q2 of next year). While such goals are great as starting points, team members don't know what to do with them if they're not actionable.

Teamwork is great, but you should maintain some individually-driven workflow. While the general goal and more significant objectives should concern the team, try to keep some individual agency by delegating smaller tasks.

4) Acknowledge hard work

It might be a team effort, but you still need to give credit where it's due. When team members go above and beyond, positive reinforcement helps them stay the course while also inspiring others to work just as hard.

5) Learn to adapt

Workplace environments, people, goals and objectives change all the time. You should be ready and willing to experiment with different tools and approaches until you come up with a method that works best for your team or project. As your company grows and priorities swift, you might end up reassessing and reevaluating your processes and practices more than once.

Work on your team's dynamics to improve collaboration

A large part of collaboration discussion has to do with internal interaction. Your team members' interpersonal relationships, personalities, and behaviors will likely determine crucial metrics, such as productivity, engagement, and quality of work.

You might have the best intentions as a leader, but things may still not go your way. If you feel like you've already laid all the groundwork but still don't know how to properly manage your team, our guide to team dynamics will help you take control. It explains everything you need to know about current research on the topic, and with some extra tips you can use to improve collaboration in the workplace.

Are you ready to create a positive work environment reinforced by strong team dynamics? You can easily build your first team dynamics workshop using our online tools. First, have your team take the trait assessment test, and then download our free Team Dynamics Playbook. It takes about 30 minutes to prepare for the workshop and about two hours to complete it (plus, you can invite up to 12 people to participate).

By taking the assessment and choosing an appropriate expert program, you can bring positive change in just 15 minutes a week. Choose a plan designed for your specific needs now, and you should be able to watch your team evolve right before your eyes.

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