21 NOVEMBER, 2022


Collaboration in the workplace simply describes two or more people working together towards a common goal. While its definition is straightforward, it is often not simple to implement. Daily stresses, a lack of resources and conflicting responsibilities can all make it substantially more difficult for employees to unite as a team and collaborate. In order to promote a collaborative culture, organisations must transform the way employees communicate with both each other and external stakeholders.

What does a collaborative workplace look like?

There are numerous indicators of a collaborative team culture. Within a collaborative workplace, individuals will come together independently to brainstorm and share ideas. Meetings will have a warm atmosphere that makes them ideal places for judgement-free sharing and creative thinking. There will be clear ownership of responsibilities and employees will feel appreciated for their contributions.

Other telltale signs of a collaborative workplace include:

  • Aligned goals and objectives
  • Open communication and transparency
  • Trust
  • Accountability
  • Increased employee engagement

Why is a collaborative team culture important for organisations?

Many hands make light work.

Multiple minds working together on a project are naturally more powerful than a single person working in isolation. A collaborative team culture creates opportunities for employees to learn from peers, see different perspectives, develop more creative ideas and solve problems more efficiently. Combined, all of these factors directly increase innovation, enhance productivity and improve overall performance.

Challenges in building a collaborative team culture – and how to address them

A key component of understanding how to improve team collaboration is overcoming these challenges.

Lack of team governance – instead, lead by example

True collaboration isn’t one-sided. Without good governance, a team is at a higher risk of experiencing a lack of direction and focus. Team governance promotes healthy conflict resolution, ensuring accountability is upheld and tasks are properly delegated.

A good leader possesses a wide range of traits and skills. They are honest, fair, committed, thoughtful listeners, appreciative and empathetic. But in order to lead successfully, they must first embody the behaviour that they expect in others. Leading by example actively builds rapport and increases trust within the team, both of which lay the foundation for healthy communication.

Competitive barriers – instead, emphasise common goals and objectives

A toxic work environment marked by self-serving behaviour is the antithesis of a collaborative culture. While a healthy level of competition can spur productivity, unbridled competition contributes to a stressful work environment where employees are afraid to voice their opinions or trust one another.

If organisations want to learn how to increase collaborations between teams, it’s important that they first examine the pre-existing competitive barriers. Emphasising common goals and incorporating them in individual responsibilities can set the stage for a working environment that requires employees to band together in order to succeed.

Lack of transparency – instead, set clear expectations and accountabilities

A lack of transparency can severely damage all facets of a company, including its people’s ability to successfully collaborate. If employees are unsure how others in their team are contributing to company goals, they will inevitably be less likely to approach them with ideas or feedback. Setting clear expectations and accountabilities that are accessible to all employees will inevitably help with knowledge sharing.

Poor engagement – instead, measure impact and report value of collaboration

Collaboration fosters a culture where knowledge and ideas are freely shared. This drives innovation and creative problem solving through teamwork.

So, how do you improve collaboration in the workplace through increased engagement?

Here are several proactive strategies for organisations looking to boost engagement:

  • Create a culture of positive feedback and recognition
  • Use employee surveys to identify what your employees value
  • Organise regular one-on-one meetings to check in with employees
  • Ensure role clarity
  • Provide training and additional support
  • Employ business intelligence tools to streamline workflow
  • Offer diverse tasks and meaningful work

Communication breakdown – instead, leverage technology for open communication

It’s impossible to achieve collaboration without open communication. Communication breakdown can result in increased tensions and misunderstandings between team members, both of which can leave employees feeling unmotivated in their roles.

To support internal and external communication methods, organisations should consider the benefits of utilising technology beyond just emails and instant messaging. This may include employee social media sites, internal newsletters, employee surveys, forums and other online productivity tools.

Bottlenecks – instead, set realistic timelines for work

Bottlenecks occur when employees are unable to complete their work within the designated time period, resulting in a delay in output. Bottlenecks can happen for numerous reasons including high stress levels, a lack of resources, insufficient training, unclear communication and a deficit in delegation.

Organisations must gain a deeper understanding of capacity in order to more accurately predict timeframes and alleviate some of the stresses associated with bottlenecks.

Lack of work-life balance – instead, set boundaries for work

Stressed and overworked employees will inevitably struggle to collaborate. While creating a culture that promotes a healthy work-life balance is naturally a long-term project, it is undoubtedly a precursor to ensuring happy, motivated employees.

Setting boundaries for work can be as simple as focusing on output rather than hours worked. It can also involve drawing attention to wellbeing and encouraging employees to take regular vacations or breaks during the working day. Organising corporate volunteering, for example, is an activity that both supports employee wellbeing and authentic collaboration outside of the workplace.

Unbalanced team effort – instead, keep track of workloads

Unbalanced workloads within a team can result in employees feeling demotivated, frustrated or even resentful towards one another. This can further complicate matters for organisations wanting to know how to improve cross team collaboration.

To achieve an equal distribution of work, organisations need to realign their current workload with organisational priorities. This might involve stepping back and asking important questions. Is the unbalanced workload a result of one specific team being responsible for reaching a key target? Can specific tasks be postponed or delegated to a team with more capacity? Are individual skill sets being properly utilised?

A collaborative team culture starts with training

While humans benefit greatly from collaboration, we often lack the skills to translate our drive to collaborate into purposeful communication within the workplace. A tailored workshop provides the perfect setting for employees to refine their communication skills, learn valuable collaboration strategies and align their values with their organisation’s. Discover how a DeakinCo. workplace solution could empower your employees to bring your vision of a collaborative culture to life.