As companies grow, a big challenge grows alongside them: cultivating a workforce that has strong teamwork and collaboration skills. The issue is that these two concepts can easily get mixed up since both involve the relationships between employees, and their efficiency to complete tasks and reach goals quicker. Despite the apparent similarity, each notion has its own particularities, and understanding where one ends and the other begins can help organizations use them to their best advantage.
What constitutes teamwork?
The first thing people can misinterpret about teamwork is that it is something necessarily related to the efforts made by a team. In reality, teamwork combines the individual efforts of each team member to achieve a common goal. In other words, those within a team are delegated individual tasks to complete, and, by executing them, they contribute towards the team’s end purpose. Some realistic situations that require teamwork are group learning with individual research and team discussion, training, and development.
In the workplace, teamwork is characterized by the employee’s ability to work together effectively, communicate well, respect roles and leadership, share resources, and actively listen to each other. This set of learned skills improves morale in the workplace, creates a welcoming and reliable environment, develops mutual trust, friendship, and affinity between people, improves retention rates, and, just as important, helps to increase the quality and quantity of the output.
What are the most common teamwork skills?
- Active listening: Being attentive to what people have to say, whether it is their opinions, feedback, reports, or even to let someone steam off, can make coworkers feel valued and reduce miscommunications.
- Reliability: Your teammates must feel that they can trust you and your sense of responsibility towards your work. This means that you have to complete your tasks, respect deadlines, and let others know they can count on you.
- Interpersonal communication: It’s the skill of interacting with others and sharing your thoughts and ideas while being open to opinions and constructive criticism.
- Conflict management: It’s the ability to mediate between members and settle disputes fairly. It helps to maintain harmony in the professional environment and keep the work progressing.
- Good spirit and positivity: It means having a positive attitude and outlook, being excited about working with others, and encouraging colleagues.
- Time management: It’s the ability to manage your time to prioritize productivity, performance, and dedication to tasks and projects that are relevant for the team.
A strong teamwork culture is something that just about every company hopes to achieve in their environment. For it to exist, organizations must inspire everyone to work together and express how big of an impact this union has on the business’ performance. With the right leadership, teamwork can help to achieve goals more efficiently by sharing out the workload evenly and delegating tasks to those with the most suitable skill set. Finding the balance between autonomous working, teamwork, and collaboration is key to avail each person’s individual strengths to keep the workforce engaged and motivated.
What constitutes collaboration?
Now that we’ve covered teamwork, let us explore what collaboration in the workplace means. To put it quite simply, when people are collaborating, they execute tasks together as equals, working collaboratively to complete a project collectively.
In business, collaboration refers to employees with diversified areas of expertise working together on a common goal to accomplish a purpose or deliver results. Workplace collaboration can improve productivity, solve problems, foster healthy relationships, and strengthen teamwork skills. Some applicable examples of collaboration in the workplace include brainstorming, group discussions, reaching a consensus about processes or analyzing problems, and finding solutions.
What are some of the most common collaboration skills?
- Efficient communication: To collaborate with others, you must be clear about your needs, your strengths, and your role in the task, project, or company.
- Purpose-driven: A big part of collaboration is about enthusiasm and drive. Keep in mind the purpose of the project and its goals, and use them as fuel to boost your performance.
- Data management: Access to information is one of the most important assets for any project, keep it organized and always share it with your colleagues.
- Acceptance: Be open to contributions, feedback, new ideas, suggestions, and different takes on the project.
- Dealing with problems and failures: It’s the ability to forgive those who make errors, apologize for your own mistakes and be willing to find and discuss obstacles with an open mind.
- Modernize your knowledge: Although some skills are more behavior-related, it’s important to have a good comprehension of technology, especially collaboration tools, to centralize and optimize contributions to the main goal/project.
- Be humble and share success: Keep in mind that accomplishments were a result of shared efforts, so always make sure to recognize members when the team wins.
According to a Stanford study, people working collaboratively persist on a task for 64% longer than those working individually on the same task. The study also reported higher levels of engagement, success, and lower levels of fatigue. To succeed at working collaboratively, people must have excellent interpersonal skills as it’s very important that every person involved offers their ideas, opinions, and personal knowledge.
Real-life examples of teamwork
1. Udacity: Teamwork and fun
To create a sense of teamwork, companies often work on engaging and connecting people. According to a study by Octanner, when this happens, there is a 156% increase in the odds that employees will have a strong sense of wellbeing. Considering this, Udacity realized that one of the easiest ways to get people to connect was through creating moments of shared fun.
Thus, every week, they set aside both time and resources for special corporate team-building events, where people come together over something purely fun, like Fancy Fridays or after-hours recess. This creates a culture of camaraderie rather than competition. Hiring team players is a great start, but it takes building a strong teamwork culture to help them reach their greatest potential as a unified team.
2.Community Tax: Recognition and contribution
Jacob Dayan, Community Tax Partner, and co-founder, affirms that encouraging employees to actively recognize their peers has proven to be quite a powerful motivational tool. And, as we’ve mentioned before, having a positive influence and motivating others is one of the most effective teamwork skills.
Dayan says that he “asks employees to share or report instances when someone on their or another team has been particularly helpful or has gone above and beyond their call of duty. After we thank the contributing employee for their input, we make sure the employee being acknowledged knows the source of the information. Having employees “nominate” their peers for recognition has the added bonus of bringing them closer together and building camaraderie with long-term productivity benefits.”
3.ResumeCompanion: Onboarding and company’s values
Laura McAdams, career advisor, and the hiring manager at ResumeCompanion, believes that developing teamwork should start at the very beginning of an employee’s journey in the company, which is why she implemented intra-team relations to create a sense of belonging to a team early on in the onboarding process.
McAdams explains that “during onboarding, we have new employees shadow an experienced “coach” who is tasked with helping their integration into the team. […] Next, when we begin a new project, I personally assign mini-teams to handle those projects. These smaller units are often composed, in part, of employees who haven’t had a chance to work together. This way, new hires get an opportunity to work and develop relationships with everyone they collaborate with.[…] This level of exposure and collaboration resulted in very strong teamwork at our company.”.
4. Dell: Connecting teams and virtual programs
While trying to adapt to the new reality that is remote work – whether caused by the pandemic or not – many businesses struggled with the concept of the virtual workspace. To prevent this from harming its teamwork culture, Dell implemented their Connected Workplace Program. This system allows eligible team members to select the work style that best fulfills their needs on the job and in their personal lives, by choosing when and where they want to work—while still keeping as connected as if they were in the same office.
With this program, Dell reassured people’s individuality and freedom of choice, while still maintaining the bonds previously formed between teams and members, all with a strong sense of comradery and connection, no matter the distance.
Real-life examples of collaboration
1. Target: Sharing ideas and innovating
Remember when we said that collaboration is created when people offer their best ideas and contributions to projects? This is exactly what happens at Target. Although they currently have more than 350 000employees, they manage to still give each of them a voice. How? The company has surveys where team members can give honest feedback and write in ideas for products or services. Then, these contributions are personally read and considered by the head of HR.
This method is extremely successful when it comes to making employees feel open to sharing new or out-of-the-box suggestions. Not to mention the benefits for the company itself, since it will gather ideas that could improve or even revolutionize aspects of the business. This demonstrates how powerful is the simple act of asking others for their ideas and effectively listening to them.
2. GetVoIP: Brainstorming and communication
Reuben Yonatan, founder, and CEO, believes that brainstorming content ideas is an essential collaboration activity. He shares that: “We come up with ideas for marketing and sales strategies, customer retention tactics, and more. We used to do this in person, but we mostly use video conferencing now.”
Yonatan explains that once the team has a clear game plan, team members start communicating through their project management tool to perfect the outcome. After that, the team leader defines the project and lists its goals, schedules, and tasks. With a clear view of those details, the team is able to start collaborating around their work. If there’s an issue, the team leader calls a meeting to solve the problem. He completes by saying: “As soon as one project is finished, they start on another, and the process continues.”
3. Pixar: Environment and interaction
At the beginning of Pixar, Steve Jobs had to relocate the company to an abandoned factory that was supposed to be divided into three buildings with separate offices. Instead, Jobs decided to have a single vast space with an atrium in the middle. The reason he decided to implement this configuration was to get different cultures to work together and collaborate. He saw the separated offices as a design problem.
In the new format, the meeting rooms, cafeteria, coffee bar, and gift shop were located in the atrium. According to Brad Bird, director of “The Incredibles”, “Steve realized that when people run into each other and they make eye contact, things happen.” Jobs believed that creativity happened at its best when people from disparate fields were connected.
4. TeamBuilding: Review and refine
Michael Alexis, the company’s CEO, shares that one of the most effective collaboration methods he applies is conducting internal demos with employees from different functional areas: “We run virtual team-building activities and events for our clients, and our creative team is constantly working on new programs. It helps tremendously to review them internally before showing them to clients.”
This moment of review gives employees the opportunity to collaborate and refine the product’s quality. For the company, the feedback is very welcoming. Alexis says that “This process is very successful. It gives us the opportunity to see what we’ve created from different perspectives. For example, a sales rep may provide feedback on the length of the event based on client comments.”
5. Marvel Comics: Contribution and creativity
From the very beginning, to create its legendary comic books, Marvel believed in the collaboration of super-talented teams. Therefore, every project was divided into smaller steps and everyone had a chance to participate in the development process. Writers like Stan Lee himself would come up with the main idea for the story, illustrators would fill the pages of dramatic sequential drawings and colorists added the primary colors, but these last two could also make suggestions for the HQ’s content. The next steps were sending each material to printers, then to distribution, and, lastly, to local stores or comic book shops.
From this example, we can visualize that Marvel built a work chain carefully planned and developed to enable all contributors to collectively cooperate with every product. Not only that, but the collaboration between writers and artists as they developed characters and storylines enhances creativity and, consequently, the quality of each project.
Research shows that approximately 75% of employers rate teamwork and collaboration as very important. They are instrumental in any major or small project and they also have a great influence on the product or service outcome. Without them, companies are in serious trouble. It’s no wonder that businesses of every size and field have made collaboration and teamwork their main priorities. There isn’t great success without healthy and efficient relationships between employees. This is why leaders and workers should always strive to achieve and cultivate a strong collaboration and teamwork culture.