It goes without saying that when your employees work together, they'll be more effective. Not only can people accomplish more as a group, a collaborative atmosphere could motivate employees to do more.
But if you feel like employees aren't cooperating as well as they should, there could be a hidden problem brewing under the surface. Here are some of the common issues that hurt employee collaboration without managers knowing it.
1. Poor Communication
Without clear communication, it's impossible to collaborate effectively. Yet the 2018 Slack Future of Work Study (conducted by Kelton Global among 1,459 knowledge workers ages 18 and over in the U.S.) found that 24 percent of employees are dissatisfied with communication at work. Some common complaints from employees were that they do not receive replies quickly enough, information is not shared properly across the organization and their employer is not transparent with how they make decisions.
Employees are more motivated when they understand the underlying mission and purpose of your organization. It's inspiring to work for a bigger cause. But as companies expand and make changes, this purpose can get lost.
Your workplace training should set standards for how employees should communicate, like the maximum amount of time they can go without responding to emails. Your managers should also conduct regular meetings, at least weekly, where they explain who is working on what, as well as how each project connects with your organization's long-term goals. Investing in collaboration tools, like project management software and chat programs, can keep employees more connected.
2. Working in Silos
As people work together, they naturally split into silos, where they mainly deal with others in their department. While the nature of work means that employees will be divided by their roles, there still should be some communication between everyone. Otherwise, it's the classic case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.
Encourage people from the different departments to communicate regularly. You could schedule employees from different groups to meet for a call or lunch to discuss what they're working on. This helps create bonds between the different groups so they're more likely to stay in touch.
Consider also launching projects which combine members from different departments to bring in a new perspective. For example, someone from sales sits in on a finance department brainstorm for improving expense management, working capital and cash flow, or a marketing coordinator consults with your engineers to help design a potential new product. This cross-department collaboration could inspire your next breakthrough.
3. Unresolved Employee Conflict
Your employees are human and it's only natural for issues to come up. People disagree, have different work styles, get stressed during busy stretches, etc. But this starts to become a serious issue when employees are actively upset with other and have trouble maintaining a professional relationship. Their problems can spill over and create tension with the rest of your workforce.
Your managers should keep an eye out for signs of conflict, like clashing personalities, gossip, an employee not handling their work or a misuse of company resources like business credit cards. If it feels like employees are getting upset, the manager should pull them aside immediately to start talking the problem through and coming up with a solution, rather than letting it fester.
The key is to identify and solve the underlying cause of the argument, rather than just telling the employees to calm down and work together. This may be a good time to bring in someone from HR, who doesn't have an ongoing relationship with the employees, as they can review the situation from a neutral position.
4. No Understanding of the Big Picture
Employees are more motivated when they understand the underlying mission and purpose of your organization. It's inspiring to work for a bigger cause. But as companies expand and make changes, this purpose can get lost. Some ways employees might stop realizing your mission include:
- You acquire or merge with another business
- You change your products, goals or mission statement
- You expand and bring on new employees
- Your company experiences turnover or layoffs
Consider surveying employees throughout the year to see if they can define the company mission statement. If they can't, managers and other senior executives need to do a better job explaining it in order to improve collaboration.
5. Disengaged Employees
If employees aren't engaged with their jobs, they aren't going to go the extra mile and collaborate. A 2018 Gallup poll of a random sample of 30,628 adults, aged 18 and older, working full or part time for an organization, found that only 34 percent of employees are engaged with their jobs. While this is an improvement over years past, this still shows that employers have a long way to go if they're going to motivate all their employees.
One way to increase engagement is by offering regular praise and rewards for employees who do a good job, especially if they did something to improve collaboration. You could also set up team bonding exercises outside of the office, where employees handle non-work challenges in a fun environment.
Finally, the Gallup poll also found that at least 70 percent of the variation in a workplace team's engagement level comes from the quality of their manager or team leader. This shows why improving engagement and workplace collaboration must start from the top.
If you and other key executives show that you value open communication, inclusivity and collaboration, the rest of your employees can follow your lead. Solving these hidden workplace problems can be a great start to doing just that.
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