Team Collaboration: How to Maximize Productivity (& the Tools to Help)

by in Mobility, Best Practices

Team collaboration has evolved to a state where teams who never meet face to face are able to work in sync more collaboratively and more efficiently than ever before. Entire companies have fully remote teams, and even online schools have remote educators that connect with students virtually.

When it comes down to it, the presence of reliable video conferencing technology has truly enabled this kind of collaboration — without it, communicating in real time with colleagues, clients and customers wouldn’t be nearly as effective and efficient as it is today.

Team collaborating with remote coworkers on a project

What is Team Collaboration?

Team collaboration is an approach to project management where team members work together to achieve a common goal. Greater collaboration can lead to better idea generation and create a more innovative company culture of problem-solvers.

Technologies like video conferencing enable individuals from various locations to collaborate as a team -- discussing goals, progress and challenges, and working collectively on a project, wherever they are in the world.

Collaborating effectively on a team plays a huge roll on accomplishing goals and maintaining happy company culture. A recent Forbes article highlights that collaborative teams are actually five times more productive because they feel more motivated to reach a common goal.

3 Common Collaboration Challenges

Collaboration is crucial to a successful workplace but not always easy to achieve. Without a strong collaborative workforce, people will become an incohesive group of competing individuals. This causes businesses to experience a decline in productivity, motivation and ultimately, revenue. Here are some common collaboration challenges that can come up when working in a team. 

1. Knowledge Gap Between or Within Teams

It’s common to group up into sub-teams within a larger team to work on smaller, specific tasks. While splitting the work up is seems like a natural way to get things done, it also causes knowledge gaps between sub-groups, causing people to be unintentionally left out of the loop. It’s important to take time to share decisions that were made with the rest of the team so everyone is always on the same page.

2. Lack of Clear Communication

No one has time for a bad meeting. Whether it be the content being discussed or the technology being used to make the call, having a clear way to communicate with your team is crucial when it comes to your team’s success.  Have a clear agenda, send it out before your meeting starts and try your best to stick to it — everyone will know what’s going on, what they need to do, and how they need to do it. And make sure your collaboration tools are up to date, easy to manage, and work properly so no one has an excuse to not be on the call.

3. Lack of Transparency

Working in a team means everyone must be open and honest with their thoughts, opinions, and concerns about any given task. One member’s work is likely to depend on that of another team member and so it is imperative to be completely transparent about their progress, barriers, and concerns. It’s important for a project manager to build trust within the team, so everyone can share and discuss freely.

3 Traits of Effective Team Collaboration

So how can a team reach their goals while simultaneously creating a positive collaborative environment? Whilst this isn’t the easiest thing to achieve, it is certainly doable. Here are some ways to ensure there is effective team collaboration in place:

1. Alignment of Tasks and Goals

We all know communication is key, but regular communication as a team is even more important especially when discussing goals and expectations. The more often you reiterate your tasks and goals to your team, the more clear they are on what they need to do to achieve those tasks and goals.  A 10-minute stand up in the morning at the same time each day can help to promote the idea that each team member, on an individual basis as well as a collective, is working towards a specific goal together.

2. Embracing Diversity Among Team Members

Everyone has their own strengths, weaknesses, work styles, and ideas. And in a team, these traits should be embraced to make a better functioning team. A study by OfficeTeam found that 66% of employees were more likely to quit their jobs if they felt unappreciated.

Teams are most effective when everybody’s strengths and weaknesses are shared and complement one another. By delegating tasks to suit strengths, individuals feel more empowered and are likely to have higher productivity levels and a sense of belonging within the team.

3. Creating a Strong Sense of Community

Creating a sense of community in the workplace is essential for collaborative working environments. When individuals feel that their ideas and opinions matter, they feel valued and are more likely to apply themselves. In a recent study, 54% of employees stated that a strong sense of community encouraged them to stay at their company longer.

Finding the right conditions for effective team collaboration can be tricky. There’s no point in having lots of meetings for the sake of collaboration, every task doesn’t need to be worked on together as a team. One daily meeting, to discuss the team’s tasks and goals for that day, is more than enough and it can also help reduce duplication and increase alignment.

4 Ways to Foster Collaboration Within Your Team

Pulling together a high performing team isn’t just about getting the smartest people in the room, it’s about finding a group of people who can work together and collaborate effectively.

Each team member must be good at communicating, interacting, and intuitively acting on decisions with one another in order to achieve their goals. It really boils down to having respect, transparency and the right attitude. Here are four ways you can foster collaboration within a team:

Create Clear Communication Channels

Collaboration is dependent on clear communication. However, this cannot just be top-down communication, it must be an open communication channel between all team members to enable everyone to speak equally and with authority. Project managers need to set clear goals, reiterate them often and encourage regular communication between the whole team — whether it be through emails, a chat application, or daily stand up video calls.

Appoint Leadership

Every team needs a leader to look after the bigger picture, ensure goals are being met and tasks are being completed on time. It is also important for the project manager to motivate their team, unite them to reach shared goals and explain the value of team collaboration. Without a strong team leader, individuals can become unmotivated, frustrated and lack productivity.

Leverage Accountability

Maintaining clear communication ensures everyone is on the same page. The whole team then know what their roles and responsibilities are, what is expected of them, and the set standard of communication. This ensures each team member is clear of what they need to do and can be accountable for their tasks. Creating this structure early on in the team-building process will ensure there is no confusion later down the line.

Encourage Mutual Respect

We’ve already established that trust is key when it comes to transparency, but mutual respect is just as important for great communication. Each job is just as important as the next, and no person is more important either.

Project managers need to facilitate an environment where everybody is respected no matter what their position is in the company. Each team member must feel valued so that they can speak freely when discussing tasks, make compromises when necessary, be reliable and ultimately work better together.

4 Best Team Collaboration Tools for 2019

There are a wide variety of collaboration tools available for businesses to use, each with their own set of features ranging from encrypted video calls to whiteboard usability.  

While many of these tools are great on their own, some come with the ability to integrate with others. For example, the free online video conferencing tool, Lifesize, can be integrated with instant messaging solutions like Slack and Microsoft Teams to better improve overall collaboration. Here are a few tools to look for to increase collaboration for your team.

1. Reliable Video Conferencing

Lifesize Go is a free cloud-based online meeting tool that offers a range of features including encrypted video calling and screen sharing for teams. This ensures that important information doesn’t become public knowledge. Lifesize Go is free, easy to use and can connect up to eight participants on a fully encrypted high-quality call.

2. Internal Messaging Tool

Instant messaging tools are very effective ways of communicating with internal teams. Platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams are very easy to use and enables quick communication between individuals or groups of people. Lifesize can be integrated with these tools providing a wider service offering, catering to video, audio and instant chat needs.

3. Project Management Software

For greater and more transparent collaboration, good project management tools should be employed. Project management tools like Trello and Asana allow team members to assign responsibilities to themselves and others, track the progress of specific tasks, and manage deadlines. These collaboration tools are free and widely used amongst large and small organizations.

4. File-Sharing Tools  

For the collective creation and development of documents, cloud-based file-sharing tools are very effective. Google Docs and Office 365 both have different features that enable greater collaboration. They allow several people to work on the same document at the same time as well as have access to all the necessary documents in one area.

Lifesize can also be integrated with these file-sharing tools allowing users to work on documents and be on a video call at the same time, all fully encrypted for security.

Conclusion 

A smooth functioning digital workplace is difficult to achieve yet highly effective when done correctly. Finding the right collaboration tools and setting expectations from the beginning will ensure long-term collaboration for your team so that they can work together without the need to be in the same physical space.