In an ideal world, you’d be able to hire team members, stick them on a job together, and they’d all get along great. Communication and collaboration among employees would be a breeze.
In the real world, however, that takes a little more effort on the front end.
The two biggest factors in employee collaboration are team morale and communication. If you can nail those two, you’ll be on your way to becoming a well-oiled collaboration machine. Here are eight ways to get there:
Start by Building Team Morale
Gone are the days when employers expected staff to put their heads down, leave their personal lives at the door and simply get the job done. Today’s workers know their bosses expect a lot, but that also means they respect the employee as a whole human … not just a number.
Focusing on morale not only allows you to build a healthy company culture, but it can also be the tipping point in your favor with highly sought-after employees.
1. Play to their strengths
As a team manager, my strategy has always been to recognize an employee’s strengths— and then squeeze every last ounce of it. The good news is that if it’s truly a top strength, they’ll never run out. Plus, they always feel like they’re making a meaningful contribution.
One of my favorite tools to identify strengths is Clifton StrengthsFinder by Gallup. It’s a small investment to make for your team, but the payoff is huge.
For about $20 each, they’ll take a questionnaire and learn their top five strengths and how to lean into them. The next step is learning how their strengths complement their coworkers’ strengths.
So, if you’ve got a team member who scores high in relationship building, place them in a highly visible customer experience position.
Meanwhile, if you have someone who is high in strategic thinking, he, she or they may feel more comfortable behind the scenes, working to solve problems.
The beauty of StrengthsFinder is that it focuses on just that: Strengths, rather than weaknesses. I always say: I’m a writer. I’ll never be able to do algebra. Let’s not torture each other with that.
Workgroups that focus on strengths development see up to 19% more sales.—Gallup
2. Embrace mistakes
Yes, we’re all human and everyone makes mistakes. But how you, as a leader, respond to those mistakes is what will stick with your employees — and how they work together.
If you run a business that has to move fast, get used to the occasional mistake. Because you can either have the work done slowly and perfectly or quickly and pretty well most of the time. However, fast and perfect do not go together.
The goal is to create an environment where employees can move quickly to get the job done efficiently, while having room to learn from their mistakes. Patience is key— especially for the boss.
If you’re a perfectionist who flips out whenever mistakes are made, you’ll foster the opposite of collaboration among employees. Instead, they’ll cover their tracks at all costs, or worse, point the finger at a teammate.
Letting your team try and fail can sometimes create happy accidents and even innovative solutions. Just ask our most famous failure, Thomas Edison, who failed 1,000 times before the lightbulb actually worked.
4. Encourage cross-function brainstorming
One of the most impactful exercises for a team is to have members shadow one another for a day and learn about the other’s job. While this in itself can foster a great deal of empathy and understanding, the deeper knowledge of one another’s roles can aid in brainstorming and problem solving.
While you may have the best of the best in key roles on your team, when a big problem or opportunity hits, anyone can get too stuck in the weeds to see a way forward.
They may inadvertently rely on “the way it’s always been done,” when what they really need is innovative and strategic thinking.
To do that, create an opportunity for people from various teams to get together. While you want to tap into their expertise, ask them to put aside their specific job duties for this exercise, and think about problem solving from any and all angles. This will require trust and openness from all of the participants.
Start by setting a goal or identifying a problem to solve. Then encourage them to share ideas openly. You may even consider leaving the room to allow them to speak freely. Instruct them to identify action items and a timeline for their solution.
Doing this exercise cross-functionally can foster truly innovative thinking, stronger collaboration among employees and full buy-in across the organization— especially if they’ve been encouraged to do it on their own.
5. Make a team playlist
OK, this is a quick, easy and fun idea to bolster team camaraderie. Create a channel on a music streaming service like Spotify. Invite team members to join and add their favorite work jams.
This can be a conversation starter for like-minded folks while creating bonding— especially for fully-remote workgroups that need something to tie them together.
Picking the right type of music, at the right time, and for the right task, can be a powerful productivity booster.—Harvard Business Review
Boost Employee Collaboration Through Communication
Everything we do in every relationship is centered around communication. If you can get your message and your expectations across clearly, you’re more than halfway there.
Of course, communication is a two-way street— the speaking and the listening. Team members who can do both have a better understanding of what needs to be done and how to get there more efficiently. They’re also more likely to stay loyal to the team.
6. Foster good communication skills
If you suspect that faulty communication is a problem, go back to basics. Provide your team members the occasional reminder of communication skills, such as:
- Let the speaker finish. Don’t interrupt, which can be perceived as rude, and wait for signals to enter the conversation.
- Your body language is silently speaking for you. Making eye contact, sitting up straight and actively listening will show your coworkers that you’re engaged and invested.
- Ask questions about the current topic. Don’t go off on a tangent or change the subject.
- Follow up on tasks or requests in a reasonable timeframe.
As the leader of a team, keep an eye out for team members who are detouring from these basics, and privately remind them to get back on track.
7. Provide next-level chat tools
There are tons of chatting tools on the market, and that’s a problem in and of itself. Everyone is using multiple platforms on various devices. While some may use email while working on their laptop, they may opt for a chat app on their phone.
Have you ever had multiple conversations going on with the same person, but in different spots? A conversation about restaurants over Facebook Messenger while making actual dinner plans through text message?
Now, put that scenario in the workplace— talk about inefficient!
A chatting platform that’s connected to your business software helps you keep everything in one place. That’s why Thryv created TeamChat. You and your office managers can work in TeamChat while in the Thryv dashboard while your team utilizes the TeamChat app while they’re in the field. Win-win!
But TeamChat isn’t an ordinary chat or texting app. With it, you can:
- Optimize chatting by using @ to tag or mention a team member or # to tag client activity
- # Tag customers, appointments, invoices, conversations and more to easily stay on top of projects.
- Mark up photos before sending them through TeamChat. You can draw on or add notes, shapes and stickers to photos.
- Set your status so the team knows if you’re in a meeting, out to lunch or on vacation.
- Sent private, individual messages or set up group chats.
- Share and download photos, files and documents.
- Add reactions and emojis.
- Organize conversations with project channels.
Check out how easy it is for Thryv users to communicate with TeamChat in this Knowledge Center article.
8. Model communication expectations
Senior team members and leaders set the tone for communication styles and expectations. Do you answer emails immediately or does it take you a few hours to respond?
Are you more likely to send a chat when it’s urgent but an email when it’s not? Do you use text abbreviations or write out full sentences? Do you send out funny GIFs to ease a tense moment?
Keep in mind: Whatever you do, your team will likely follow. One time during an important Zoom meeting, I realized that my team seemed to all be answering emails or looking at their phones. I felt the need to say: “Hey, can everyone stop multitasking for a minute and pay attention?”
And yes, it was a humbling reminder for me, too.
While it may take some timing, planning and even self-reflection, focusing on morale and communication can truly foster collaboration among employees. Give these tips a try and see how it helps to take your team to the next level.