Effective collaboration can have an overwhelmingly positive impact on employee engagement, well-being, and productivity.
Three essential elements of a collaborative business include:
- A collaborative culture
- The right tools
- Clearly defined goals
Let’s examine what a collaborative work environment looks like and why it trumps a competitive one.
What Is Collaboration in Business?
Collaboration in business is the practice of working together towards a common goal or purpose.
While teams or individuals might collaborate on a one-time basis to achieve a short-term goal, collaboration as a company-wide practice involves creating connections over time. Sharing different perspectives and skill sets long term is what fosters a collaborative environment.
Collaboration can happen on a micro and macro level. There’s the quick, real-time exchanges in meetings and instant messaging. There’s also collaboration that happens over longer periods of time using tools like enterprise collaboration software.
In a post-COVID world, shared workspaces are becoming increasingly virtual. Companies are investing more time into finding digital tools that bring out the benefits of collaboration in business.
Why Collaboration Matters in Business
The modern workplace is a bit of a paradox. It’s more dispersed, yet it’s also more connected than ever before.
More people are choosing to work remotely. At the same time, employees have access to tools that let them connect with colleagues regardless of time and location.
But connection doesn’t necessarily lead to collaboration. Creating a collaborative work environment requires planning, but the business benefits are well worth the effort.
A Stanford study found that people who were in a collaborative mindset were 64% more likely to stick to a task than those working alone. They also reported feeling less tired and more engaged in what they were doing.
That’s the power of collaboration: simply feeling like we’re in a collaborative environment motivates us to do better work.
Collaboration vs. Competition
The term “healthy competition” has its time and place, but creating a competitive rather than collaborative work environment can be detrimental to project success. Here’s why:
- Competition doesn’t encourage sharing information. When you’re trying to perform better than your colleagues, you’re less likely to give up knowledge that could make the work process more efficient.
- Competition creates separation. Not only are colleagues less likely to collaborate if the workplace rewards competition, but whole departments can become siloed.
- Not everyone thrives in a competitive environment. While some people have a more naturally competitive spirit, others might become less motivated and more overwhelmed in that context.
Collaborative work environments, on the other hand:
- Foster a sense of team ownership and accountability
- Promote transparency and knowledge sharing
- Encourage communication across teams and departments
- Bring out the best in all employees rather than just a select few
Top 5 Benefits of Collaboration in Business
1. Boost Employee Engagement
An engaged employee is someone who actively seeks to benefit the team and company they work for. A highly engaged workforce can lead to increased productivity, retention rates and customer satisfaction.
What motivates employees to become and stay engaged? It mostly comes down to the environment they work in.
An ADP Research study found that the highest levels of engagement happen on dynamic teams where employees had the most opportunities to collaborate and encounter new challenges.
2. Expand Skills and Learning
While companies may have formal training and upskilling programs in place, a collaborative work environment also fosters learning in a more organic way. As teams work together, individual members can learn from each other through giving and receiving feedback and sharing different perspectives.
Competitive work environments might motivate some workers to seek out learning opportunities and excel on their own. But collaboration encourages teams to expand their skill set as a whole. When facing new challenges, teams have a broader depth of knowledge to draw from to solve problems more efficiently.
3. Improve Employee Well-Being
Lack of collaboration in the workplace doesn’t only affect the health of the company in a negative way. It can also impact individual well-being.
A study by Wrike found that poor teamwork – in the form of poor communication, bottlenecks, and team members not pulling their weight – contributed the most to workplace stress.
Stress can lead employees to become disengaged or even quit altogether. Collaboration promotes open communication, avoids bottlenecks, and encourages a more even workload distribution.
4. Speed Up Production
Projects rarely transition smoothly from idea to completion. There are usually unexpected problems, delays, and detours along the way. A collaborative environment might not get rid of these issues, but it does limit the time needed to solve them.
While an employee working on their own might take weeks to solve a problem, a team might tackle it in a matter of hours. With open communication and an intention to move a project along together, production gets faster and more efficient.
5. Unify a Dispersed Workforce
For many industries that employ a dispersed workforce, collaboration seems challenging to coordinate. Frontline employees that work on-site and don’t have direct contact with corporate HQ have less opportunities to voice their input on the production process, employee experience, or customer satisfaction.
Frontline industries can create a collaborative work environment by adopting mobile platforms with real-time communication capabilities. Tools like Beekeeper give non-desk workers a chance to connect with colleagues and solve problems on the spot.