6 Ways to Foster Collaboration in Your Workplace

Learn how to leverage your staff's individual talents by creating a more cohesive work environment in your small business.
November 30, 2012

What do the The Avengers, The A Team, The Expendables and X-Men have in common? They are all stories of individuals combining their talents to achieve a common goal. Teamwork produces victory in the world of fiction and can help you do the same in business. 

Collaboration is a big theme in small business today for a reason: it works. As CEO of the first e-commerce company in the commercial printing space, I know the importance of building a team-oriented workforce. I can attest that people thrive in an environment that frees them to collaborate. When my employees experience job satisfaction, my customers reap the benefits.  However, implementing this approach can be challenging. A paradigm shift, which changes the focus from individual accomplishment to team success, is required. 

The first step to getting started is equipping each team member for robust participation. Here are six ways to cultivate a collaborative environment.

1. Communicate company expectations. 

Make it clear that collaboration is the minimum standard. Define roles and responsibilities within the team. Every team member should understand their position and what is required of them. In a collaborative environment every team member takes responsibility for good outcomes. At PrintingForLess.com, we have a Project Insta Team, or PITstop process. Our employees, from sales through manufacturing, have the power to stop any order to ensure accuracy and quality. Every member of our team knows they are equally accountable for customer satisfaction.

2. Set team goals.

Ensure concise, measurable goals are set on a quarterly basis. Getting the team to focus on goals will keep individual efforts aligned with desired outcomes.  Be willing to re-evaluate goals as needed. All our quarterly goals are published on our PrintingForLess.com intranet. Each quarter the outcome of each goal is also published. This keeps us focused and transparent.

3. Foster a creative atmosphere.

Allow team members to question and brainstorm in a non-judgmental framework.  Encourage the team to look at obstacles as being conquerable. Nurture a “can do” company attitude. Ask why, or why not, on a regular basis. One way we cultivate a creative atmosphere at my company is by providing leadership training that encourages character development. We purposefully hire employees who aspire to be and produce their very best.

 4. Build cohesion.

Include every person on the team in as many large decisions as possible. Create a means of communicating current work flows to avoid duplication of effort. Initiate daily team huddles where each member shares what they will be accomplishing that day. This keeps everyone on the same playbook and enables team members to re-direct their efforts as needed.

5. Know one another.

Different personality dynamics, skill sets and experiences are present in every team. It is worth the effort to have each member complete a simple personality profile. Share the results and openly discuss likes and dislikes with regard to communication, tasks and personal focus. At my company we utilize Insight Discovery™ to provide personality and work style assessment. We print the resulting insight “color graph” on each team member’s nameplate.

6. Leverage team member strengths.

Position each team member for success by assigning tasks that play to their respective strengths. Reward both individual and team accomplishments regularly.  

Establishing a collaboration policy is just the beginning. Collaboration must be consistent and purposeful, with resources dedicated to its success. You may have many superheroes in your office already; but you can build your productivity exponentially by getting them to work as a collaborative team.

Read more posts about improving your small business' company culture

OPEN Cardmember Andrew S. Field is the Founder and CEO of PrintingForLess.com  the nation’s first e-commerce commercial printing company.

Photo: Thinkstock