In this day and age, collaborative working encompasses a whole lot more than simply turning around to talk to the person sitting at the desk behind you.
Now, teams span cities, countries, and indeed the world, and they work collaboratively despite these vast distances. In order to do this successfully, it’s vital that you have the right tools, skills, techniques, and mindset within your workplace – all of these factors are important elements of the best kinds of collaborations.
In this article, we will cover the factors that make collaborative work more efficient and successful. So, keep reading!
What Is Collaborative Working?
According to the Institute for Collaborative Working, collaborative working can be defined as:
“People working jointly on an activity or project to achieve a common goal. Especially where this involves co-operation between several teams, departments and/or different organizations to achieve an agreed objective.”
In fact, the word ‘collaboration’ derives from the Latin word ‘collaborare’ which translates as ‘to work with’.
So, collaboration means working alongside another individual as you share your ideas, expertise, skill sets and workloads in order to jointly create something.
In a workplace, this content could be anything from a creative piece to an official document or even something non-physical, such as a presentation or meeting.
What Is a Collaborative Working Environment?
In a collaborative working environment, the sharing of ideas, time and effort is encouraged. Individual team members are recognized for their strengths and skill sets and are asked to contribute these to the shared task so that the best possible results are achieved.
When done right, a collaborative work culture is an inherently positive environment where the team works as one unit while supporting each other. Collaboration is especially important for large-scale tasks, when working to meet a tight deadline, or when the expertise of multiple individuals is required. For example, if you are creating a big new marketing campaign, you need the input of many different team members, with different specializations and levels of influence.
What Are The Benefits and Challenges of Collaborative Working?
Sounds pretty idyllic, right?
It’s clear that an environment of collaboration brings with it a wide variety of benefits, including:
Producing higher quality work
By working together, you can access more skills, specializations and expert opinions while also having extra pairs of eyes check over the work. This means that mistakes are a lot less likely to pass through the net.
More efficient way of working
Rather than requiring a single employee to do everything for a project, each team member contributes their expertise. You will find that you can brainstorm ideas, evolve the project, and solve problems far more efficiently.
As outlined in the point above, all of this translates into time saved. In turn, this also means an increase in profits, too.
Utilizing all of your team’s strengths
It seems crazy to have a wealth of expertise on hand and not to use it properly. By working collaboratively, you can ensure that every team member has input and can help guide the project according to their personal specialization.
An increase in creativity
Collaborative work allows room for all team members to add new ideas, innovate and get creative, with the knowledge that they have the support and advice of their team on hand.
Keeps the team flexible
This modern approach to teamwork helps everyone to remain flexible, open-minded and helpful, benefitting all aspects of the workplace.
An environment where everyone feels supported, valued and useful is a fantastic way to boost the motivation of your team.
However, it’s important to note that collaborative working is not without its challenges. The difficulties that can come with working on a collaborative basis include:
It’s more complex to manage
Since there are more people involved, it can become trickier to govern the team.
A potential for less transparency
Achieving workflow transparency can be significantly more difficult, as it may be less obvious who has done what, what remains to be done, and whether the whole task is running according to schedule. Therefore, good project management is key!
Communication becomes even more important
Collaboration makes strong, regular communication all the more important. If you don’t communicate regularly, openly and honestly, then you could quickly find it challenging to meet deadlines.
People get competitive
In some teams, an environment of competition may be inadvertently encouraged. In small doses, competition can be helpful, but if it goes too far, it can have a negative impact.
So, if you are the project manager of a project which is being undertaken collaboratively, bear in mind the potential pitfalls. Here are some more challenges of teamwork and how you can overcome them.
What Are Important Skills For Teamwork and Collaboration?
As you can see, although there are a whole host of benefits to a collaborative working environment, benefits can only be realized if you approach this work in the right way.
In order to foster a positive collaborative workplace, it’s essential that all team members have the right attitude. As project manager, you can encourage these personal skills and create an environment where these traits are rewarded. Then, your collaborative work will consistently meet your standards.
In this blog article from Zety you can read more about teamwork and teambuilding skills.
Our five most important personal skills for collaborative work are:
In order to meet deadlines and ensure that the task is completed in a well-managed way, the organization of everyone involved is absolutely essential.
In any top company, communication is king. Each team member will need to regularly report on where their tasks stand, how they are finding the project, and whether they think any changes are needed. They will also need to respond succinctly to any questions asked of them. This open, honest and transparent communication is essential for a successful piece of collaborative work.
The project manager for the task will need to collect feedback efficiently and make it clear to each individual what changes are required, if any. Other team members need to be able to give constructive and precise feedback that is easily understandable.
With Filestage, you can easily collect and manage all feedback on your files in one centralized place. This way, you reduce misunderstandings and foster collaboration.
Positive approach to suggestions
When they do receive feedback, each team member should approach it in a positive, flexible way. It is their job to incorporate the team’s advice and use it to improve the project. Compromising is crucial.
One of the top benefits of collaborative working is that it is easier to solve problems with so much assistance available. Once an issue has been identified, the team can work together in a constructive way to find the best solution.
10 Tips for Improving the Way You Collaborate with Your Team
If you think that you have what it takes to introduce an environment of collaborative working, that’s fantastic. As long as you approach collaboration in an open-minded way, you’ll soon start reaping the rewards.
In order to help you get started with this workflow evolution, we’ve provided our top 10 tips for improving the way that your team collaborates. Read on to find out the best collaboration skills for this modern approach to the workplace.
1. Regular communication is key.
We may have said it several times already, but we cannot stress it enough: Regular communication is an essential part of collaborative working.
To help you communicate more efficiently, introduce messaging systems across your team. This is a great way to keep conversations transparent, well-managed and helpful.
It sounds obvious, but always treating your colleagues with respect and kindness is the best way to create a positive environment.
If you want more tips on how you can improve communication in your workplace have a look at this article.
2. Give clear and precise feedback.
With feedback, your team members can understand what they did well, where they might have missed the mark, and how they can improve for the future. However, these messages are of no use if the feedback is unclear, confusing, or misapplied.
For any feedback that is issued – both in general and for feedback specific to certain content – make sure to re-read your message before you submit it so that you can double check that your comments are absolutely crystal clear.
With Filestage, you can get your files approved three times faster. This online proofing software makes it easy to leave precise, detailed feedback on any file type and discuss this feedback with all members of your team.
3. Be open to discussion.
Have you ever heard of the expression “kill your darlings”? In essence, this saying means that sometimes even your favorite elements of a project should be removed. Even if you’re happy with something that you created, if your team members suggest that the piece would be better off without it, be brave and remove it.
Don’t guard your contributions too closely. Remember that any project is a collaborative task, and it is always best to go with the opinion of the team as a whole. By approaching discussions with an open mind, you can take the project to a whole new level.
4. Define responsibilities.
Each team member should apply their specific set of personal skills and thus make unique contributions to the project. For example, there is no point having a great coding expert on your team only to have them write the website copy.
It is the project manager’s job to clearly define and delineate each team member’s responsibilities and roles to create a solid basis for effective teamwork.
5. Assign clear deadlines.
Additionally, the project manager should clearly define the deadlines for all the responsibilities of each team member – explicitly state what is expected of them and when it should be completed.
Not only does this include a team member’s contributions to the project, it also covers the feedback that they need to provide for others in any review and approval stages. There should be clear deadlines put in place for the submission of feedback.
6. Be transparent.
By keeping the workflow transparent, you can encourage independent organization, efficiency and proactivity, which will keep the project running smoothly.
Give everyone access to the essential information pertaining to the project, so that everyone knows the status of the project at any time. That way, your team members can work together to ensure that deadlines are met on time.
A great way to achieve transparency throughout your collaborative working is by incorporating specialized task and project management software into your workflow. When you use such software, everyone can follow the status and progress of projects, tasks or files.
For example, the approval software Filestage allows you to easily keep track of all your files in review. On a glance you can see who has already reviewed, left feedback or approved a file and who’s feedback is still missing.
7. Clarify goals and expectations.
Every team member should understand exactly what they need to do to make a project the best that it can be. This covers both the team leaders’ expectations of them (as outlined in their role responsibilities) and the goals that the organization has for the project on a larger scale.
8. Trust each other.
What’s the use of working as a team if there’s no trust involved?
On occasion, we’re all guilty of feeling nervous if a task is left in someone else’s hands. However, you need to develop trust in your colleagues and avoid micromanagement. After all, this is the best way to make the project a success and boost collaborative productivity.
9. For managers: Reward successful teamwork.
It’s an easy thing to forget, but no matter how high-ranking an individual may be, praise is sure to make them feel good. So, if collaborative work was well-received or if the turnaround time was particularly impressive, tell them!
Team members should also be encouraged to praise each other, and recognize their colleagues’ successes. This will help to create a positive environment that fosters collaboration.
Here are a few tips on how you can reward team collaboration.
10. Use the differences within your team to your advantage.
Any business is composed of individuals with different skills and experiences. In a collaborative environment, this is a great thing. It means that you have a wealth of ideas and unique approaches at your disposal.
People from different backgrounds and with different skill sets will keep the project strong on all angles. Not only can this improve productivity, but with team members’ unique insights, you can make the project far better than one managed by a single person.
3 Collaborative Working Techniques to Utilize
You can encourage the development of the best personal skills for collaborative working in a number of ways.
To help your team approach collaborative work in the best way, we wholeheartedly recommend these three top techniques.
Incorporate collaboration software.
Collaboration software is specifically designed to help teams collaborate more effectively. This is achieved using a range of specialized tools. Depending on the software that you choose, it has the potential to improve your team’s communication, achieve greater transparency, help you manage and discuss feedback, and establish a simpler workflow for the project, amongst other benefits.
With this technology, you can digitize the collaboration process, which will boost your efficiency across the board. We’ll cover this point in more detail later on.
Collaborative working is a hugely personal thing – rather than simply completing work on their own, your team members will adjust to operating in tandem with colleagues. This requires a significant amount of trust and humility, as well as strong communication.
Team-building activities are a great way to help your team members nurture their relationships and develop these key skills, while getting to know each other more. In fact, simply by knowing each other on a more personal level, your team will build trust in each other.
So, by creating possibilities for employees to socialize with each other outside of a typical work environment, you can improve how they collaborate with one another.
Positive ideas for team-building activities include sports, adventure or ropes courses, retreats, and artistic classes. Or, if your team is remote, you could foster team building by playing online games, hosting quizzes, or meeting up for an online coffee break. Here you can find more ideas for virtual team building activities, including ‘Online team building Bingo’.
Delegate workloads and create a clear structure of roles and responsibilities.
When it comes to collaborative work, you can never be too organized. As the project manager, your team is relying on you to outline tasks and communicate in clear terms what needs to be done and when.
A great technique to do this effectively is by using a structural system of delegation. As you would in an illustration of a company’s internal structure, create a clear structure of roles and responsibilities for those involved in the project.
By looking at your design, it should be immediately obvious who is in charge of each element, as well as those best suited for certain questions and those with the most senior authority.
What Kind of Software Can Support Collaborative Work?
As mentioned previously, collaboration software is an invaluable tool to have on hand throughout the collaborative working process.
This type of software is designed to support team work by connecting users to an array of intelligent online tools, including:
These tools are designed to help a team collaborate more effectively and in real time, even if they’re miles apart from each other. Its main features include 1-on-1 and group messaging as well as video chats.
This includes tools that help to create, manage and oversee all elements of a project and ensure everything is running smoothly.
These software solutions provide a single, easily accessible online location through which managers can set up digital workflows, e.g. for content review and approval. These centralized collaborative workspaces make it easy to oversee the progress of each project and make it more transparent.
Collaborative working software includes a variety of editing features. For example, teams could utilize document collaboration tools, project collaboration tools (to manage an entire project), video collaboration tools, enterprise project management tools or design collaboration tools.
File governance software
With these tools, users can more effectively manage their files, documents, and brand assets, including different versions. They can determine how files are edited and who can access them. These tools include digital asset management capabilities, digital file sharing software, and brand management features.
All of the above tools are intended for use across collaborative working as part of the team’s standard daily procedure. For example, a team may use collaborative software for the review and approval process for a newly created image.
10 Pieces of Collaboration Software to Share with Your Team
Now that you are familiar with the benefits of introducing collaboration software to your organization, the next step is to find the tool that provides the best fit for your operations.
Below, we’ve listed 10 of the most highly recommended collaboration tools on the market. Each of these options provides its own unique features, tools and functions, so be sure to read up on each one before making a decision.
Depending on your team’s requirements, it may even make sense to use several of these tools in combination.
Filestage – an efficient approval platform
Filestage provides a centralized platform where users can easily share files with team members and receive and discuss feedback as well as get the final approval of their work.
This intuitive and easy-to-use software offers a wide range of collaboration features including adding comments, annotations and attachments to files, tagging users, replying to comments and many more. The ability to create customized workflows and automate repeating tasks further streamlines the approval of any content type.
Asana – a work management tool
Asana provides an overarching work management aid with full campaign management tools on offer. It allows users the ability to design A/B tests and to create a clear workflow list view setting. This includes making transparent the details of each step of the process, like who is accountable for what, and when each task should be completed.
Monday – for comprehensive project management
Monday is a collaboration software that provides a digital, cloud-based workflow. In this software, teams can clearly see deadlines for tasks, which team member has been assigned to which tasks, and whether they are on track to complete it by the deadline. The tool displays this information in a simple and easily accessible, digital format.
Front – quick and easy team communication
Front is a collaborative communication software that helps teams ditch long-winded and confusing threads of email messaging. Instead, Front encourages more effective communication across the team, while also offering time-saving tools like email sequences, shortcuts, mail merges, and pre-made templates.
Slack – for better communication
Slack is a communication tool that improves clarity, transparency and efficiency across the collaborative working process. It allows users to create new direct messaging threads pertaining to specific projects or topics. You can also create channels for specific projects and teams, or host direct messaging threads with one or more people. In addition to messaging, teams can also easily call each other through Slack.
Trello – transparent workflow management
Trello is a visual workflow management tool that allows users to create boards and cards to detail their tasks. On these cards, team members can add details about each task, such as deadlines, checklists and comments. They can then invite colleagues to view the cards and leave comments. Trello even includes helpful visual features, such as color coding.
Teamwire – a centralized messaging portal
Teamwire is a simple and secure collaborative messaging portal. With it, users can quickly and easily communicate with each other and share key information about the project. In addition to quick messages, users can also send images, videos and voice notes to the entire team.
ActiveCollab – a project overview tool
ActiveCollab is designed to provide a clear, easy-to-use project management tool that allows managers to oversee a collaborative project with far more clarity. Plus, it is designed to suit the operations of companies of all sizes. Its key features include time tracking, invoicing, third-party integrations, and document management capabilities.
ClickUp – a workflow management suite
ClickUp offers users a suite of collaborative software. With ClickUp, users can organize, oversee, track and modify a collaborative workflow using a range of transparent team management features. This fully customizable online tool provides a digital workflow, reminder notifications, scheduling features, and a direct messaging inbox, to name just a few of its features.
Miro – a scalable whiteboard collaboration tool
Miro is a visual whiteboard collaboration tool. With this software, users can centralize their communication and brainstorming discussions. Users can also opt for a number of deep integrations, including with the Microsoft Ecosystem, the Atlassian Ecosystem, DropBox, Sketch or Slack. Miro is highly suited to collaborative teams working in creative industries.
We hope that we’ve given you some solid insights into the goldmine that is collaborative working. When we want to make sure that a task is done well, almost all of us have that initial instinct of wanting to do it ourselves. But it’s essential that we nip this urge in the bud – not just for our own sanity, but for the good of the project, too.
We can remember that, through our team, we have access to a fantastic source of innovation, creativity, new approaches and intelligent problem-solving solutions. And, if you approach collaborative work with the right frame of mind, you can take your work to an entirely new level.