To increase team collaboration is critical to any business’s success. Healthy collaboration within your team can lead to innovation that helps a company scale. Conversely, an out-of-sync office space creates inefficiencies and workplace dissatisfaction. 99% of employees surveyed say they prefer an open and collaborative working environment.
Collaboration not only prevents snafus (86% of executives and employees blame a lack of collaboration for problems and failures on the job), but it also helps worker retention. More than half of workers say a strong sense of community retained them longer than they might have otherwise stayed.
However, creating that collaborative environment is one of the most demanding challenges businesses face. Employees too often feel siloed and cut off from communications even within their own departments, let alone from other departments. And those problems are only compounded at a time when many employees work remotely across time zones. How can employees work collaboratively when so many no longer even work the same hours?
Thankfully, technology is making it easier to address those challenges. A good IT provider can help companies set up systems for cohesive remote work now that offices are more decentralized. And because well-integrated technology makes remote work more seamless, it can save companies real money; by some estimates, employers save more than $10,000 for each employee that works remotely.
Whether your workers are remote, centralized or spread across multiple job sites, good collaboration tools keep your employees in sync and productive.
1. It Starts With Workflow and Communication
Before looking at how technology facilitates collaboration, there’s an important caveat. In the end, no IT service or project management software can fix an office culture that doesn’t prioritize collaboration. And nurturing collaboration begins with two things: a clear workflow and regular communication.
Workers need a clear understanding of workflow, including which duties they are responsible for and which fall to their coworkers. Otherwise they can’t work productively. Any system that a business implements must specifics about assigned tasks and deadlines. After all, one worker’s blown deadline can prevent their coworkers from meeting subsequent deadlines. Every worker needs to understand what’s expected from themselves and from others.
In an ideal world, managers could delegate responsibilities and deadlines once and simply trust the process. But that’s not how business works. Logistics change, challenges arise and deadlines get blown. It’s inevitable. That’s where communication comes in. A good system will keep your entire team on the same page, minimizing disruptions. To foster that communication, employees must be encouraged and rewarded for sharing information, feedback and suggestions, both with their superiors and with each other.
You could have some of the most talented workers in the world, but without a cohesive team, an active and harmonious culture can’t sustain itself. In order to improve communication, employers must entrust people to share information, challenges, feedback and anything that will help to make work easier.
There are many ways businesses can foster that communication. Some create a sense of unity and inclusion by organizing team-building exercises outside the office. Spending time outside of work helps employees bond and see each other not just as colleagues but as other people. Many businesses schedule weekly team check-ups, where every worker is encouraged to share their ideas and opinions.
As a general rule, the more communication a business can foster, the better. Regular meetings can help solve problems before they escalate, and sometimes prevent them altogether.
2. Centralize Communications as Much as Possible
Here’s where your business is going to have to start making some decisions. Too many companies allow their employees to communicate across different (and sometimes competing) communication channels, meaning some correspondences may get lost or may not be accessible to everybody who needs them.
Between phone calls, text messages, instant messages, video conferences, emails and even faxes, it’s easy to see how that happens — and that’s before you add project management systems that may not be compatible with each other. Businesses should try to centralize communications into as few platforms as necessary. If an employee is expecting a message or file on Teams or Slack, but loses time waiting for it because it arrives by email, that’s a delay that could have been avoided.
Centralizing communications eliminates redundant back and forth, and makes it faster and easier for employees to access the information they need. It also reduces the need for unnecessary meetings, and allows teams more time to use those meetings focusing on big-picture concerns instead of logistical ones.
3. Find the Right Project Management Tool
A good project management tool can do wonders. Whether you’re a staffing agency, a construction company, a marketing firm or a manufacturer, a project management tool can keep all of your business’s projects and tasks organized.
From Microsoft Project to ClickUp, Basecamp, Asana, Trello and Monday, the list of project management tools goes on and on, and each has its own benefits and disadvantages. ClickUp, for instance, has been praised for its communication tools but criticized for its steep learning curve. Some companies may prefer a more basic project management system.
Finding the right project management tool for your needs is a big decision, which is where your IT provider comes in. They can help you select the right one and implement it in your organization.
Again, the idea here is to centralize your systems as much as possible. When shopping around for project management tools, look for one that can handle the needs of your entire organization, not just select departments. The goal is to reduce how much your employees need to toggle between apps to stay in touch with each other.
4. Use Virtual Meeting Rooms
Now that you’ve settled on the tools and systems that are right for you, we can get to the fun part: using them to their fullest. One feature you’ll want to use a lot is virtual meeting rooms. Google Workspace has an especially refined one that allows your team to conference for both scheduled meetings and for spontaneous huddles for as long as they need, without having to worry about being timed out or having to clear the meeting room for the next booked event.
Microsoft Teams, which is included in the Microsoft 365 suite, is also a powerful conferencing platform for both audio and video calls. It seamlessly integrates with Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel, making it a strong choice for teams that need to share a lot of files or deliver presentations. Its video chat allows for up to 250 participants at once, or presentations for audiences of up to 10,000 people, and meetings are easy to schedule in the Teams app (which is similar to Slack) and through Outlook.
Zoom is also an option, of course, but there are added security concerns to consider with that platform, and the presentation options aren’t as sophisticated as those provided by Google and Microsoft.
5. Store Files Where Everybody Can Access Them
Every organization needs to be able to easily share files and documents with the right employees, while preventing confidential or sensitive information from being accessed by the wrong ones. Both Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 make it easy to set the proper security permissions.
If your workers are in the habit of emailing documents back and forth, it’s long past time for your organization to implement a shared drive, since it’s more efficient and secure than email, where user errors can lead to inappropriate information accidentally being shared.
6. Create Groups to Ensure Everybody is in the Loop
To make sure everybody in your team is receiving the same communications, you can create a shared team email address so there’s no need to use multiple individual email addresses. This is easy to do in Google Workspace: simply go to Groups, click “create group” and enter the email addresses you want to include. You can add the workers you’d like to include in your group, and control the information that you want to share, be it calendars, documents or websites. In Microsoft 365 applications, you can create groups under Teams, Sharepoint and Outlook for collaborating in email and calendars.
You can also change the access permissions to your groups at any time. So if somebody leaves the organization, they can no longer access anything shared with the group.
7. Use Shared Editing
Another strength of both Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace is that they both offer shared editing tools. Since files are stored on shared drives that anybody with permission can access, it’s easy for employees to review them together in real time to make comments, changes or suggestions, each of which is marked with a time stamp (ensuring that employees who may not work the same hours have a clear timeline for each conversation). Encourage your employees to use these tools; they’re an easy way to collect valuable feedback from everybody on your team.
No matter which tools you adopt or how you use them, make sure your team has a clear understanding of what’s expected of them, including expectations for response time to questions or discussions that come up over workspace platforms. Making employees feel they need to stay plugged in around the clock can not only lead to burnout, but also to resentment. To the extent they’re able, employers should encourage standard work hours so that everybody’s on the same page and knows when to expect communications from each other.
Still Have Questions About How to Increase Team Collaboration? Ask an IT Provider
When implementing these systems and making decisions about how your workers can communicate most efficiently, it helps to have a guiding hand. An IT provider can assist you through the process.
Strategic planning is one of Cortavo’s specialties. While other IT providers offer basic services à la carte, Cortavo fully manages your entire IT infrastructure, including hardware, software, communications and support, all at one flat rate, with no hidden fees or surprises. One of the only all-inclusive IT providers in the industry, we’ve customized our services to small and medium-sized businesses, with a simplified price model that scales with your business.
If you would like to learn more about how Cortavo can unburden your business of complicated IT issues, call us at (866) 267-8286 or contact us through www.cortavo.com/contact-us/. We’ll provide everything you need to optimize your technology infrastructure for peak collaboration.