The phrase ‘two heads are better than one’ was coined in the 16th century. However, it has never rung truer than today. It’s especially true when it comes to business; more and more businesses around the globe are wising up to the benefits of a collaborative workplace culture.
According to data from the Global Mobile Workforce Forecast Update, employees now spend 50 percent more time collaborating in meetings and on the phone with teams than they did a few years ago.
As reported by Microsoft, this percentage looks set to rise further as Generation Z enters the workplace, because Gen Z workers will expect to be able to communicate instantly and quickly with teams all over the world, through tech such as chat and text, as well as more traditional methods of communication.
There are multiple benefits for companies who foster collaboration. Not least, to the bottom line. Firstly, collaboration has been shown to improve innovation in companies. A study be Nielsen found that collaborative ideation improved the performance of new products developed by companies in the consumer packaged goods industry.
Not only that, but further research has suggested that collaboration culture can decrease employee churn. 52 per cent of workers questioned in a survey by Gusto said they’d be more likely to stay at a company if they worked as part of a community towards a common mission.
Research by Stanford University, meanwhile, suggests that even the mere perception of working collaboratively on a task can improve the performance of those carrying it out. Away from the stats lab and into the real world, Richard Branson is reported to believe that collaboration has been one of the keys to his business success with Virgin.
It’s not just companies that benefit from a collaborative work culture, either. Research has shown that employees themselves gain from it, too. A study by WeWork found that a collaborative workplace culture made workers happy. In fact, the most satisfied workers claimed to collaborate with five or more people every day.
Harvard Business Review, meanwhile, has suggested that workers who are part of a value-based culture – e.g. a business that centres around collaboration – are healthier than workers in different workplace cultures.
Today, the bedrock of collaboration culture is technology. Anthony E Byrne, the CEO of Product2Market, recently admitted to Entrepreneur magazine that the collaboration culture he’d worked so hard to instil while his company was a start-up was nearly destroyed by failing to get the collaboration technology set-up right as the company grew.
In addition, business analysts put forward a number of reasons for why some companies fail at developing an effective collaboration culture. These reasons include lack of trust, the fact that personal achievements aren’t recognised, a lack of clarity, a lack of visibility and poor communications. All of these, and the last three in particular, can be overcome by getting the right tech in place.
In 2019, there are four main strands of technology that are essential to developing a successful culture of collaboration in the workplace. The first must-have is team chat. When colleagues work collaboratively, the progress of tasks can be seriously slowed down by a single person failing to respond to a query or decision point quickly enough. With studies showing that the average 35 to 50 year old takes 24 minutes to respond to an email, emails are not the most productive way for teams to communicate.
So, this is where team chat apps come in. Services such as Slack, Rocket.Chat and Flowdock allow team members to collaborate instantly and in real-time. Analytics by Slack itself suggested that using a team chat app can reduce the use of emails within a business by 48.8 per cent. The same investigation suggested that the use of a chat app can improve transparency in workplace culture by 80 percent.
The second essential bit of kit supporting a collaborative workplace culture is interactive displays, which can be thought of as the next-next generation of whiteboards. Featuring interactive technology, these screens can be set up so anyone within a business can walk up to them, access any company document they might need – from email to spreadsheets – and annotate and manipulate these documents in front of, or with the help of, team members in order to come to speedy and collaborative decisions.
Flooring manufacturers Altro Limited reported that team engagement increased dramatically after the business installed interactive display technology across its headquarters. Altro also reported that the addition of the screens made teams more creative.
Video messaging is the third essential piece of collaboration technology. Today, platforms like Zoom allow up to 100 people to participate in a call at any time, from locations all over the world. In May 2019 RBS said that it had saved significant amounts of money on workers’ travel expenses by installing Skype into its business. Not only that, but a spokesperson for RBS said that the video chat technology was getting people to “collaborate with people they had never collaborated with before”.
There’s a secondary role that video messaging apps can play in workplace culture, too. In addition to using video chat to bring remote and office based workers together to make decisions and come up with ideas quickly and collaboratively, some companies are now using video messaging products to help remote workers combat loneliness and to connect with fellow workers.
Next up in the essential collaborative technology arsenal is digital project management tools. Tools like Trello, Jira and Wrike are the antidote to the lack of visibility and clarity that can be the death knell for collaboration culture, as mentioned above. With these sorts of tools, teams are able to know who’s working on what task at every second of the day. Every element of a task can be accounted for and deadlines can be clearly shown on all tasks so that everyone in the team can be on the same page at all times.
To sum up, there’s no doubt that collaboration is becoming an increasingly beneficial part of workplace culture. Studies have shown it can play a crucial role in innovation, decreased employee churn and long-term success in general. Further research shows it can benefit employees themselves – from their happiness to their health.
However, workplace collaboration can sometimes fail and, often, these failures can be traced back to technical inadequacies. The good news is that just four pieces of collaboration technology are needed to create a workplace culture that’s fit for the future. Businesses that implement team chat platforms, interactive displays, video chat services and digital project management tools should set themselves up for success when it comes to workplace collaboration.