Your company’s success depends, in part, on your team’s ability to collaborate with each other. No matter how individually talented your employees are, it’s only through cooperation and exchange that your most important tasks will be accomplished, and that those team members will be able to improve.
For example, when an employee runs into a problem, they’ll need to consult with another to solve it quickly. When an employee gets stuck on an idea, it takes brainstorming with others to help them break free. Effective collaboration can also improve morale, which in turn, can increase your team’s overall productivity.
The question is, what steps can you take to inspire more collaboration within your team, and make that collaboration more effective?
Establish an Intranet
First, consider establishing an intranet. Just like the internet connects computers into a single network over vast distances, an intranet connects a smaller number of computers and devices in an office environment—securely and efficiently.
With a high-speed intranet in place, your employees will be able to share files faster, work on files together in real time, and communicate with greater efficiency. And since you can rely on cloud hosting for your intranet, it’s easier than ever to set one up.
Change Your Physical Space
If you have the time and resources, you can also rearrange your physical office space. There’s some evidence to suggest that the open office floor plan can do more harm than good, but at the same time, putting up tall walls between employee workspaces can send the wrong message.
Make sure your employees have lots of space to interact with each other and work together; for example, you could invest in a spacious meeting room, or rooms specifically dedicated to group work. You could also create a more inviting break room, where your team members can freely engage with each other and feel at home.
Next, go out of your way to notice and reward employees collaborating with each other. If you see two employees in a meeting room trying to tackle a complex problem together, give them verbal praise for the endeavor.
If a group of people are, through teamwork, able to complete a project faster than expected or at an especially high level of quality, write up a review that praises them, or consider giving them all a cash bonus.
Rely on Multiple Communication Channels
People tend to have very different communication preferences. Some prefer email, while others prefer phone calls, and still others would prefer an instant chat conversation. If you’re going to enable these people to work with each other efficiently, you’ll need to allow as many of these communication channels as possible.
Equip your team with a diverse suite of communication tools, and encourage them to use all of them, with pointers on how to use each tool to its strengths; for example, a complex dialogue is better had over the phone than via email.
Your employees will feel more comfortable working with each other if they have some kind of personal connection with each other. That doesn’t mean your employees all have to be best friends with each other, but they should be able to find common ground.
Encourage your employees to take breaks together, and consider hosting occasional teambuilding events; for example, you might force your team to face a tough challenge together, like an escape room, or you might throw gatherings like holiday parties or barbecues.
Make Employees Unafraid to Voice Their Opinions
Some employees are naturally intimidated to express their opinions, even in a team brainstorming environment. But it’s not true collaboration unless your teammates are willing to be honest and direct. You can encourage your employees to be more sincere and upfront with their opinions by publicly praising people that make possibly controversial statements (so long as they make them respectfully). Make your employees feel sure they won’t experience retaliation for disagreeing with their bosses.
Encourage Diversity and Novelty
The best ideas arise when two people with very different perspectives work together, and the most creative ideas arise out of novel environments or situations. The more you encourage diversity and novelty within your team, and within your office environment, the more likely your collaboration will be fruitful.
For example, you can hire people from a diverse array of backgrounds, and introduce novelty by occasionally rearranging the office, playing new music, or introducing your team to new problems to solve.
The more you encourage collaboration, the better your team is going to work. Brainstorming, cooperation, and communication will unfold more efficiently and more frequently, and your employees will be happier. It might take some time, money, and effort to get your workplace up to speed, but it’s worth it.