How to create a collaborative work environment

Better collaboration means better business.

by MT staff
Last Updated: 24 May 2018
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Down to business

Companies that promote collaborative working are five times as likely to be high performing.

That’s according to a study last year by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) and Rob Cross, Edward A Madden Professor of Global Business at Babson College, which examined more than 1,100 companies[1].

So how can companies create a more collaborative and open work environment?

Identify your goals

‘Don’t fall into the trap of over-collaborating,’ warns Kerri Hollis, product marketing manager for Intelligent Communications, Microsoft UK. ‘Be super-clear about what you’re trying to achieve.’ Start by identifying your goals. Once you have a framework to work within, you can quickly identify and enact the changes you need. Some of these may turn out to be quite subtle. ‘When they are given a clear and gripping cause to be involved with, team members naturally become as passionate about the goals and objectives as their leaders,’ comments author and psychologist Sherrie Campbell.

Collaboration begins at the top

Collaboration usually begins with culture – and this starts at the very top with the boss. If you’ve got a CEO who is locked in their Ivory Tower, then you’ve got a big problem; after all, who is going to give their all for someone they never see? ‘You need role models – people who are walking the talk about collaboration,’ agrees Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates.

Communication is at the heart of great collaboration, so leaders should be visible and prepared to listen to the viewpoints of others. Likewise employees should feel that it is ok to ask questions and offer their opinion.

Reward teamwork

Give people an incentive to collaborate. Most reward systems in organisations are designed for individuals, not team accomplishments. ‘Finding ways to recognise and reward individuals, leaders, and teams who engage in productive collaborative behaviours can pay off in a big way,’ says Kevin Martin, chief research officer, i4cp.

Make the most of meetings

Meetings are probably one of the most common forms of collaboration within any company – but make sure they are effective. There’s no point having a meeting for the sake of simply having a meeting; everyone is far too busy for that.

Set an agenda and stick to it. And involve people from all different departments to encourage multiple viewpoints and allow ideas to flow freely. ‘Create cross-disciplinary teams. Take people out of their team silos and put them together on projects in one place,’ recommends Julie Dodd, director of digital transformation and communication at Parkinson’s UK.

Get the best out of tech

In a world where collaboration is how work gets done, teams need workspaces and tools they’re comfortable using. And it’s up to businesses to make it easy for them to get both.

Businesses must recognise that there’s never been a wider spectrum of work styles. There are more millennials in the workforce than ever before, remote working is commonplace, and the tools used to get work done have expanded far beyond emails and phones. Businesses need to provide collaboration tools that suit different personalities and skillsets and meet varying needs. For example, 45% of millennials say their preferred workplace collaboration tool is instant messaging, while 36% of baby boomers believe it’s the least effective[2]. So give your employees a choice.

At MT and Microsoft’s Collaboration: Make it Work event, we asked a panel of experts what they feel are the best ways to create collaboration within the workplace. Here’s what they had to say:


[1] Purposeful Collaboration: The Essential Components for Collaborative Cultures

[2] Collaboration Trends and Technology: A Survey of Knowledge Workers, Dimensional Research, 2015

Download Microsoft’s Unite your Workforce ebook here.

Image credit:  frank60/shutterstock



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