Positive Effects of Collaboration in Small Businesses

In today’s world, collaboration isn’t just nice to have—it is key to ensuring your organization’s resilience and success. Collaboration can help your employees come up with better ideas, lead to solutions to complex problems, boost organizational efficiency, and ultimately, improve your bottom line.

In fact, according to a 2013 Aberdeen Next-Generation Communications (NGC) study examining the communication practices of over 125 organizations, the more an organization actively fosters collaboration, the more improvement it sees in key business indicators year after year. Robust communication in and between teams translated into a 16 percent year-on-year increase in customer retention, a 15 percent increase in employee productivity, and a 13 percent increase in employee satisfaction. Communication is key.

“Collaboration is simply good business,” Erica Dhawan explains in Forbes. “Since the 1990s, collaborative activities in the workplace have increased by 50%. On a recent list of the 20 Best Companies for Leadership worldwide, 90% have established systems that compel top executives to cooperate with one another. As traditional hierarchies continue to flatten, collaboration has become a key to success.”

But while collaboration might be a business imperative in today’s world, collaborating well is much easier said than done. Wondering what you should know to ensure collaboration success? Be sure to check out the following tips.

Diversity is Powerful

Great collaboration often comes from a combination of truly diverse minds. To facilitate successful collaboration within your own team, make sure that you have a range of viewpoints, experience levels, and skillsets on board. This kind of diversity is an excellent way to inject new ideas into brainstorming sessions, as it has been proven that people with similar skills, experiences, and backgrounds tend to think alike, which ultimately narrows the scope of possibility. Diversity is absolutely essential to widening that scope. 

“Experiments at the University of Michigan found that, when challenged with a difficult problem, groups composed of highly adept members performed worse than groups whose members had varying levels of skill and knowledge,” Carol Kinsey Goman explains in Forbes. “The reason for this seemingly odd outcome has to do with the power of diverse thinking. Group members who think alike or are trained in similar disciplines with similar bases of knowledge run the risk of becoming insular in their ideas. Diversity causes people to consider perspectives and possibilities that would otherwise be ignored.”

You Can Incentivize Effective Collaboration With Rewards

Once the people in your organization have a clear picture of what effective collaboration looks like, it can be advantageous to incentivize collaboration by offering rewards. Research conducted by a number of different organizations, including both Cisco and the Hay Group, shows that a direct reward in a collaborative environment can be a truly powerful incentive. The Hay Group, for example, discovered that some of the best Fortune 500 companies link reward programs to corporate performance as a whole, incentivizing collaboration and teamwork above the performance of just one individual on the team. And these rewards don’t just need to be monetary—even just recognition can go a long way in inspiring employees to collaborate.

Support Has to Come From the Top

If you want your organization to be a thriving collaborative environment, make sure your company’s management is fully committed to collaboration. Research consistently demonstrates that the perceived behavior of the most senior executives at a company actually has a fairly influential role in how collaborative and cooperative teams are.

“At the most basic level, a team’s success or failure at collaborating reflects the philosophy of top executives in the organization,” Lynda Gratton and Tamara J. Erickson explains in the Harvard Business Review “Teams do well when executives invest in supporting social relationships, demonstrate collaborative behavior themselves, and create what we call a ‘gift culture’—one in which employees experience interactions with leaders and colleagues as something valuable and generously offered, a gift.” In other words, don’t just assume that collaboration will happen naturally. Make sure you’re modeling collaboration from the top down.

Put Processes and Tools in Place

A collaborative culture won’t just spontaneously emerge at your organization. You need to do the work to lay the foundations, and that means getting the right processes and tools in place to facilitate collaborative work. Figure out what kind of things you may need to implement. Do you need a better company-wide communication system to facilitate better communication? Would more common spaces to facilitate interaction be advantageous? Could you build more of team spirit if you were to invest in more team activities or team-building exercises? You need to identify what your organization needs to make it more conducive to collaboration and the put the processes and tools in place to ensure you get there.

Developing Trust is Key

Open and candid communication is the key to ensuring collaboration – and that requires trust. After all, you can’t expect team members to collaborate if they aren’t comfortable sharing their ideas. That means you need to make sure that your employees know how to engage in respectful dialogue, are good at resolving conflicts, and have excellent communication skills. It can be a wise idea to invest in training here for these kinds of “soft” skills, as improvements in these skills across an organization can go a long way in facilitating collaboration.

PwC, for example, has excellent capabilities across its organization in collaboration, in part because of its excellent training programs, which have worked to enhance soft skills and foster trust. “With responsibility for developing 140,000 employees in nearly 150 countries, PwC’s training includes modules that address teamwork, emotional intelligence, networking, holding difficult conversations, coaching, corporate social responsibility, and communicating the firm’s strategy and shared values. PwC also teaches employees how to influence others effectively and build healthy partnerships,” Gratton and Erickson explain.

In conclusion, facilitating a collaborative environment in your organization can be done. However, it requires time and commitment. You can’t just expect a culture of collaboration to emerge overnight. When a collaborative culture takes hold, it can have a positive transformative effect on your business, boosting productivity, improving problem-solving capabilities and employee satisfaction. 

To learn about how to enhance communication and cooperative efforts within your business contact 10twelve.