Collaborative Culture: How To Effectively Work Together

Collaborative Culture: How To Effectively Work Together
Summary: Getting your staff more comfortable with the emerging digital landscape is good. Helping them acquire new reflexes by teaching them about new practices is better. How can you help them work together? How can you develop a collaborative culture to accelerate this transformation? By implementing a truly collaborative, scalable and cross-functional culture.

Building A Collaborative Culture In Your Organization

Developing a collaborative culture is a challenge for everyone involved. Within most organizations, employees often (rightly so) have the impression that they do not have time to work together or collaborate and that incentives are structured in a way as to discourage collaborative practices – this is particularly true in large companies.

eBook Release: Digital Culture At Scale
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Digital Culture At Scale
Discover key best practices for implementing digital culture at scale through training in your organization.

Yet, collaborative workplace practices present numerous advantages. They not only allow people to better leverage their experience by promoting best practices and knowledge (and therefore improve performance), they also create a sense of community belonging within the company. Putting collaborative practices into place also helps challenge vertical systems by developing bottom-up mechanics and valuing everyday employee expertise. In doing so, collaborative practices boost internal innovation by highlighting and promoting ideas from all levels of the organization.

Getting Staff On Board, A Must Have

How can you do this? First and foremost, getting staff on board internally is essential and intrinsically linked to defining and constructing a company-wide reflection and strategy for corporate culture. At our last conference, one of the participants brought up Elon Musk and his company SpaceX, whose mission is not simply to verify if there is life on Mars but to create life there in the next 70 years. By then, most current SpaceX staff will no longer be alive; yet, employees are as committed and motivated as ever to fulfill this mission. The notion of commitment is key: without it, without them adhering to a common vision and highly ambitious mission that requires everyone to work together in order to succeed, there is very little chance of generating a collaborative working environment.

Cultivating ethical, daily collaborative practices across teams is also vital. The term “collaborative” tends to be used as a catchall, without a concrete meaning attached to it. You must have a pragmatic vision of what it means to be collaborative: for example, by incorporating specific goals directly related to individual jobs like sharing best practices, putting collaborative processes into place, etc. – and by creating incentives related to this. It is also necessary to teach staff how, when and where they can work collaboratively. There are different ways of doing this, including:

  • Leveraging important moments, for example during strategic pivots to encourage collaboration: in addition to creating collective momentum, this type of initiative is extremely effective in making staff aware of different methods they can later use on a daily basis (design thinking, feedback collection, etc.)
  • Creating spaces dedicated to collaborative work: rooms, digital interfaces, etc.
  • Training staff on daily work practices that will transform their relationship to their job.

Peer-To-Peer And Documentation Culture: What Practices To Put Into Action

Creating a collaborative workplace culture requires you to rethink some of your current processes: the goal being to put mechanisms into place that allow individuals to work together in a flexible, but disciplined, manner. This implies a larger reflection on the tools your company uses (favor cloud-based tool, easy to use on a daily basis) and to instill certain habits in your employees:

  • Sharing Knowledge
    Systematically documenting best practices is an absolute necessity for collaboration since learning how to summarize one’s expertise in order to facilitate the work of others already incorporates notions of teamwork and joint participation. All of these best practices must be easily accessible to all.
  • Creating Internal Feedback Loops
    To encourage staff to give and receive feedback and continually adjust & optimize ongoing projects.
  • Developing Independence
    Collaborative working paradoxically requires a large amount of independence because you have to be able to properly understand your priorities to efficiently work with someone else.
  • Ensuring Transparency Of Information
    Without proper visibility on business objectives and global corporate strategy, it is difficult to encourage staff to work together – everyone must do everything possible to develop transparency, including, for example, logging information into digital interfaces and phasing out paper documents.
  • Creating Team Alignment
    You can achieve this by encouraging the sharing of information & creating clear decision-making processes.

The Essential Elements For Creating A Climate Of Internal Trust

Generalizing collaborative practices requires creating a managerial atmosphere that is conducive to collaboration and working together. This is done by making sure staff are free to speak their mind internally and driving project ownership amongst employees.

Let’s take the example of creating a company university: instead of deciding top down the skills staff need to acquire, why not directly ask employees what skills they would like to learn? This is what one of the participants who attended our last conference on this topic did, with impressive results. By adopting an exploratory, operational, and creative method, project owners of the company university initiative surpassed their goals with an 87% registration rate on the e-learning platform.

Involving managers in the project is also crucial. To establish long-lasting collaborative workplace habits, managers must constantly communicate, show signs of engagement and demonstrate exemplary behavior. They also need to be reassured about their role within a collaborative environment. They should be driving forces within the organization by animating working communities and by empowering employees to take responsibility and finding solutions to problems on their own.

Developing internal transparency of information using accessible formats is also key. In large companies, employees are often subjected to a deluge of information and announcements. In this context, it is difficult to understand what the top priorities are at any given moment and to feel involved in them. Creating clear road maps at all levels of the organization is essential for developing collaboration.

Finally, applying collaborative workplace practices internally requires developing both a sense of empathy and understanding each employee’s organizational process. This can be encouraged by “Live My Life” programs where staff members test out another position at the company or by simply documenting different positions and the different tasks performed by everyone at the company.