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16 Team Collaboration Tips Every Workplace Needs to Know

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Collaboration is a social skill… and we aren’t often taught it!

A study of 1,400 corporate executives and employees found that 86% of people blame poor collaboration1,will%20impact%20bottom%20line%20results. and ineffective communication for their workplace failures. Over 95% of respondents believe lack of team alignment impacts the outcome of a task. So how do remote, hybrid, and cross-functional teams stay connected while working efficiently? How does a leader encourage participation, ideation, and diverse perspectives?

Effective team collaboration requires strong leadership, streamlined workflows, relevant technology, and proper communication to promote teamwork and innovation. Let’s explore 16 tips to help teams of all sizes and industries achieve greater success through effective collaboration.

What is Team Collaboration? (Effective Team Collaboration Definition)

Effective team collaboration is a cohesive effort of individuals working to achieve a common goal in the most efficient, innovative, and profitable way possible. A collaborative workplace is defined by the following traits:

  • Cooperation: Team members use relevant tools and technologies to share information, resources, and ideas that help each other succeed.
  • Open and respectful communication: A collaborative team practices transparent communication, active listening, and respect for diverse viewpoints.
  • Inclusive discussions: A culture of collaboration ensures that individuals feel welcome, valued, and empowered. They are motivated to share their ideas and take ownership of their tasks.
  • Joint decision-making: Team members can openly contribute their skills and expertise to the decision-making process for company projects, events, and goals.

A truly collaborative team works like a well-oiled machine to achieve a shared objective. For example, consider a major event planning assignment. A team with good collaboration has regular meetings and check-ins, divides responsibilities based on individual strengths, creates metrics for success, and maintains consistent communication throughout the planning process and onto the day of the event. 

Cross-functional dynamics ensure that no one feels isolated: People in charge of speaker scheduling work closely with the marketing team to promote the event. The hospitality and catering team regularly checks in with the venue coordinator to ensure they are on track. Their collaboration is rooted in quality communication and proactive troubleshooting.

Conversely, a team with poor collaboration is disorganized and incongruent. There is no regular communication, and each individual feels like they are on their own island, separate from the rest of the group. Without proper leadership and regular meetings, the objectives of the event are unclear, and team members are regularly confused about their roles. The result is a poorly executed event with frustrated staff and reduced team morale.

Benefits of Team Collaboration

Investing in a collaborative work environment can boost employee morale and dramatically affect your organization’s bottom line. Collaboration helps mitigate losses due to employee disconnect while unlocking the potential for greater productivity, innovation, and success. 

A Salesforce study found that American companies lose up to $37 billion annually2 due to employee miscommunications and misunderstandings. However, an Economist Intelligence Unit survey found that businesses with highly collaborative teams are 1.9 times more profitable3 than those without.

Needless to say, cooperative teams pay off big time. The benefits of improving your team cooperation and communication include:

  • Streamlined communication: Over 80% of employees and executives cite lack of communication4,and%20communication%20on%20office%20productivity. as the primary reason for failures. When a team is collaborating properly through multiple mediums, miscommunications are less likely to occur because team members know exactly how, when, and who to talk to about specific projects and questions. 
  • More creativity and innovation: Studies show that companies with high collaboration are 30% more innovative5 Many minds are always better than one. Collaborative teams invite more unique ideas for solving problems and disrupting industry norms.
  • Greater efficiency: Lack of organization, interpersonal disputes, and misunderstandings are less likely to occur in a collaborative setting. A cohesive team can optimize their time for more efficient task execution.
  • Higher productivity: A Stanford study found that companies that promoted collaborative working6 were 5 times as likely to have high-performing teams. When people have the leadership and tools to thrive, they can do more work in less time.

“The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.”

—Babe Ruth

How to Improve Team Collaboration: 16 Ways to Work Better Together

Icebreakers and team retreats are lovely, but how do you improve workplace team collaboration daily? Use these practical, science-backed strategies to create a happier, more collaborative workplace.

  1. Make everyone feel like their ideas matter

Gallup’s State of the American Workplace7 report found that only 30% of employees feel like their opinions matter at work. This means the majority of employees feel like their contributions are undervalued or overlooked. 

“No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you’re playing a solo game, you’ll always lose out to a team.”

—Reid Hoffman

Actively encourage all team members to participate and contribute their ideas during discussions and meetings. You can do this by….

  • Leveling the playing field: Seat everyone at the same level and intersperse team leaders with employees. When inviting people to share ideas, avoid superior or condescending body language like standing above others, sneering, eye-rolling, or talking over others.
  • Show some vulnerability: Research shows that people are more likely to trust leaders who show vulnerability8 For example, in a problem-solving meeting, you may confess a mistake that you made and ask employees for feedback on how they would approach the issue. This demonstrates your self-awareness, humility, and willingness to learn from your team. However, avoid too much vulnerability that may erode confidence in your leadership skills.
  • Equalizing air time: Try to equalize how much people have to talk. For example, if a manager has 5 minutes to share their idea, an entry-level employee should receive the same amount of time. This can help create a safe space where individuals feel comfortable expressing their thoughts without fear of judgment or criticism.
  • Thanking people for their contributions: When someone speaks up with a new contribution, a short discussion of their idea and a genuine “thank you” sends the message that their insights are welcome. You never want to send the message that employees aren’t valued, even when someone shares a strange or absurd idea you know isn’t realistic.
  • Use the psychology of seating: Studies show that circular tables create more belonging9 and teamwork. To equalize the room and welcome more ideas, consider a round table where the boss can sit at the same level as everyone else. Here is How to Pick the Right Seat in a Meeting EVERY Time.

You can also watch our video below to learn where to sit for a meeting… according to science!

  1. Use and encourage active listening

Active listening is a communication skill that combines verbal and nonverbal cues to say, “I hear you and care about what you’re saying.” While passive listeners seem distracted or disinterested, active listeners appear engaged and excited.

You can practice more active listening with these tricks:

  • Give your full attention to the speaker. No phones, computers, or background noise.
  • Maintain eye contact. Darting eyes seem distracted, but proper eye contact builds rapport and makes people feel important.
  • Use the slow triple nod to encourage shy or introverted people to keep talking.
  • Verbally cue them with the occasional “mhm,” “oh,” or “I see” to show you’re interested.

Want more? Here are The 7 Most Charismatic Cues to Use While Listening.

  1. Diversify communication channels for different purposes

Tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, and WhatsApp facilitate quick and efficient communication, allowing teams to share ideas, resolve queries, and collaborate in real time. These apps offer features like group chats, channels, and integrations with other tools.

Pro Tip: Establish a communication plan, so every team member knows what information to discuss via different channels. For example:

  • Project updates are discussed via email.
  • Meeting invites are sent via Google Calendar.
  • Quick questions are asked via Slack chat channels.
  • Big topics like role changes, promotions, and raises are only discussed in person.

Here are The 15 Best Team Communication Tools For Businesses.

  1. Acknowledge and validate employee ideas

Employee appreciation doesn’t always have to come in the form of thank-you letters or staff retreats. People often feel more valued by your little actions to reinforce their importance to the team. 

Pick one “Weekly Win” for each staff member and share it on your weekly team call. When you publicly recognize and appreciate the ideas and contributions of team members, they are more likely to feel genuinely appreciated. For example, you may highlight how a specific employee worked late and knocked out a ton of backed-up orders from the previous week.

You can also celebrate successes by giving credit where it is due. For example, if you are recognized for your team’s sales improvements in the last quarter, use your time in the spotlight to emphasize a specific employee’s innovative marketing idea or a team member’s dedication to re-writing your cold-calling script. Highlight how specific ideas have positively impacted the team’s progress or outcomes. This recognition reinforces the belief that everyone’s ideas have value.

You can also validate your team’s contributions by acknowledging their ideas. When someone shares a new idea, you can briefly paraphrase their idea back to them. For example, “If I understand correctly, you’re proposing that we create a customer loyalty program with personalized rewards. That is a unique idea we should definitely discuss more!”

Ask follow-up questions to show your engagement and commitment. For example, “What kind of software or organization system do you think could help track the customer’s purchasing patterns to determine their loyalty rewards?”

Here are 30 Fun Ways to Make Employees Feel Valued & Appreciated.

  1. Choose the best team collaboration software

With the rise of remote and hybrid work, the proper communication tools and project management apps are essential for success. 

Cutting-edge software programs enable teams to organize tasks, set deadlines, assign responsibilities, and track progress. These platforms provide a centralized space for collaboration, facilitating communication, file sharing, and seamless workflow management.

Some of the top-ranked team collaboration apps include:

  • (best for connecting and streamlining workflows)
  • Trello (best for simple productivity boards, lists, and cards)
  • Asana (best for project management—this is what we use at Science of People!)
  • Miro (best for whiteboard-style collaboration)
  • Slack (best for daily communication features and integrations with other apps)
  • Microsoft Teams (best for meetings, conferences, and group chat)
  1. Overcome conflicting schedules with planning tools

Use calendar tools, such as Google Calendar or Microsoft Outlook, to synchronize schedules and identify mutually available meeting time slots. Encourage flexibility and compromise among team members to accommodate different working hours. For example:

  • Use a poll: Create a Doodle or When2Meet poll to ask team members about available time slots for a particular meeting. These tools aggregate responses and highlight the best overlapping times for scheduling.
  • Batch meetings: Instead of scheduling multiple short meetings throughout the week, consider batching similar discussions or updates into longer meetings, allowing team members to have more uninterrupted work time on other days.
  • Alternate meeting times: Rotate meeting times for recurring events to accommodate different team members’ schedules. This way, everyone gets the opportunity to attend meetings during times that work best for them.
  • Asynchronous Collaboration: Embrace asynchronous collaboration tools like project management platforms (e.g., Trello, Asana) or shared document editors (e.g., Google Docs) to allow team members to contribute and review work at their convenience, reducing the need for simultaneous coordination.

Pro Tip: When managing a remote team, try to be respectful of time differences and always emphasize the time zone in your meeting invites.

  1. Use open communication

Open and direct communication is crucial for team collaboration. It promotes the exchange of ideas, encourages active listening, and ensures that everyone is on the same page. 

Open communication means individuals can freely express their thoughts and ideas together. For example, in a corporate setting, senior managers may practice transparent problem-solving where they involve the entire team in an issue rather than resolving it in secret. This allows people to stay “in the loop,” avoid surprises and collaborate better.

One should also strive for direct and concise communication. Avoid being passive-aggressive or vague in your conversations with coworkers.

Open communication is one of our top 10 Must-Know Productivity Secrets of High Performing Teams. You’ll also want to know about how you can design your office environment for more productivity (hint: windows with a view of nature are a huge plus) and a trick to increase focus by eliminating multitasking.

  1. Do team-building exercises to build rapport

Promote a culture of respect, empathy, and effective conflict resolution by organizing fun, engaging team-building exercises outside of standard work assignments. Don’t worry. These don’t have to be corny! Simply learning about team members’ personalities and preferences can dramatically improve collaboration.

For example, a one-question meeting icebreaker, a team book club, or a night out at an escape room can help create opportunities for connections outside of work to build rapport.

Watch our video below to learn the single best team building exercise:

You can also try hosting an all-day or weekend creative retreat to reset the team. Bring in our founder, Vanessa Van Edwards, to host it!

  1. Prioritize face-to-face communication

Surveys show that employees are lonelier than ever10 Workplaces are increasingly isolated due to technology, so it’s important to prioritize face-to-face human interactions as much as possible. 

  • If you work in an office, could you walk over to your team member’s cubicle for a brief discussion rather than sending an email?
  • If you work remotely, can you hop on a quick video call to share a document and walk through some new protocols? For longer conversations, try to prioritize video conferencing over virtual chat. Take note whether your team members are introverts or extroverts. The former may prefer e-mail or chat communication, while the latter do best with face-to-face discussions.
  • If you do hybrid work, can you organize a team lunch meet-up once per month to stay connected?

People don’t want to feel like they are cogs in a machine. Maintaining a collaborative workplace requires more than emails and chats. A genuine smile and brief conversation can go a long way, even virtually.

Struggling with remote team communication? Here is How to Build a Strong Virtual Team in 7 Steps.

  1. Welcome different work styles

Some people thrive in a fast-paced environment with a lot of communication. Others prefer to receive their project assignment and work independently until they can report back with results. Collaboration looks different for everybody.

Create understanding and appreciation for diverse work styles within the team. Just because someone is more introverted or detail-oriented in their assignments doesn’t mean they aren’t collaborating. 

Encourage open dialogue to find common ground and leverage individual strengths. Establish clear guidelines and expectations for collaboration and workflow processes.

Pro Tip: Learn more about your team by encouraging everyone to take the Working Genius quiz (use our code VANESSA25 to get 25% off). Invite everyone to share their results in a group call, so your team can learn about each other. 

Here are The 6 Work Styles and How to Find Yours (Using Science!).

  1. Cultivate effective leadership

Without effective leadership, teams don’t know who to look to for an example. Managers can improve their leadership skills by:

  • Embodying a growth mindset, wherein they are constantly learning and asking for feedback.
  • Maintaining an open-door policy so employees feel comfortable approaching them for help or guidance at any time.
  • Setting clear goals or expectations so people always know exactly what to do and where they are headed.

If you feel like your personal or workplace goals aren’t being met, here is a free goodie we designed to help:

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Studies show that certain styles of leadership are particularly advantageous for collaborative teams:

  • Servant leadership is a management philosophy where a leader focuses on the growth and well-being of employees. Rather than leading with power, the leader empowers the team through community-building, trust, and coaching.
  • Similarly, transformational leadership inspires and motivates team members to achieve their full potential, encouraging innovation and collaboration through inspiration and boosting team morale.
  1. Embrace diversity

Embracing diversity within teams brings a wide range of perspectives, experiences, and skills to the table. Diverse teams can generate innovative ideas, enhance problem-solving abilities, and lead to better decision-making. To embrace more diversity, remember to:

  • Promote a culture of respect and empathy towards others. Encourage team members to consider different viewpoints and understand the experiences and challenges faced by individuals from diverse backgrounds. For example, you can serve diverse cuisines at team lunches or highlight holidays beyond conventional American holidays.
  • Offer training programs to enhance cultural sensitivity and awareness within the team. 
  • Design collaborative activities and projects that require diverse perspectives and skills. For example, you may group a creative and artistic employee with a data-driven team member to figure out innovative new ways to present business numbers to a client.

Managing diversity requires creating an inclusive environment where everyone feels valued and respected, overcoming potential challenges such as communication barriers or unconscious biases. Here is How To Manage Cultural Differences in Workplace Communication.

“The most innovative company must also be the most diverse. We take a holistic view of diversity that looks beyond usual measurements. A view that includes the varied perspectives of our employees as well as app developers, suppliers, and anyone who aspires to a future in tech.”

—Apple, Inc. in this interview
  1. Create a non-hierarchical company culture

When a football team wins the Superbowl, their win is not only defined by its coach or the famous quarterback—the defensive line, running back, kicker, and personal trainers are all integral to the success of those in the spotlight. In other words, there is no hierarchical structure; everyone works as a team to win the game.

Use this analogy to foster a culture where everyone’s ideas are respected, regardless of their position or seniority. This doesn’t mean there aren’t managers or leaders; rather, it’s about removing the perception that some people are more important than others. Even the office janitor plays a role in an executive’s ability to grow their profits.

Here are a few ways to reduce hierarchical perceptions:

  • Encourage open dialogue and flatten hierarchies by promoting collaborative decision-making processes. 
  • Avoid condescending body language, like speaking overly slowly (it can make someone feel like you think they’re stupid) or dismissing people (like a backhanded wave).
  • Empower “lower level” staff members to co-lead projects.
  • Teach leadership skills to team members to help their professional development and open doors for more opportunities. 
  • Create opportunities for junior team members to share their ideas and opinions without feeling intimidated.
  1. Encourage innovation with creative brainstorming sessions

Organize regular brainstorming sessions (1-2 times per month) where team members can freely contribute their ideas. Create a structured and inclusive environment that encourages creativity and innovation. 

Use these techniques to stimulate idea generation and collaboration:

  • Mind mapping: This visual brainstorming technique inspires creativity and helps teams organize new ideas on paper. Write a central theme, phrase, or word in the center of a whiteboard and circle it. Begin a discussion and draw branches radiating from the central idea with subtopics or keywords. Circle those topics and create subranches from there detailing more specific information or ideas that are related. 
  • Design thinking: Present an idea or problem and identify key pain points on a screen or whiteboard. Next, provide 5-10 minutes for individuals to brainstorm their own solutions or ideas. Then, use a “round robbin” approach to go around to every team member and welcome them to share their ideas. Optionally, they can write them on sticky notes and bring them to the whiteboard. Work together to arrange the ideas in a way that makes sense visually. Then, hold a group discussion to dig deeper into the most practical solutions.

Pro Tip: Research shows that creativity is highest in the morning11, especially when people get good rest. Outdoor or walking meetings can also encourage more idea generation. Consider a once-weekly morning brainstorming session in your office courtyard. For a virtual team, gift glare-blocking screen protectors and invite staff to bring their laptops to their patio for a meeting.

  1. Empower autonomy and task ownership

People naturally enjoy a level of autonomy and freedom to design their schedule in a way that works for them. Rather than micro-managing, encourage team members to take ownership of their ideas and projects:

  • Empower them to make decisions and take the initiative (i.e. “I know you have the skills to take on this project on your own! As long as you meet the objectives and deadlines, feel free to take creative liberties.”) 
  • Provide the necessary support and resources to help them bring their ideas to fruition. (ie. “I’m confident in your abilities, but do not hesitate to ask if you have any questions or you get stuck.”)
  • Always let the team know who is working on what so they can work directly with each other on cross-functional projects. (ie. “Sarah is in charge of venue scheduling, Michael is in charge of promotional materials, and I will take care of coordinating the presenters.”
  1. Use AI to your advantage 

Recent advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) can enhance team collaboration by streamlining workflows and increasing efficiency. A few tools to consider include:

  • Task automation: Repetitive or time-consuming tasks like coding, data entry, or organizing documents can be taken over by AI tools such as Axiom.
  • Overcoming linguistic barriers: Natural language processing, or NLP, is an AI-based translator that can instantly recognize speech and translate between people who speak different languages.
  • Virtual assistance: An AI-powered virtual assistant can help teams by scheduling meetings, managing calendars, and answering common questions from customers. This frees up time for team members to focus on strategy and immediate customer support.

Key Takeaways: Enhance Team Collaboration With Tech, Thoughtful Leadership, and Open Communication

If you feel like your team is disconnected or could work better together, it may be time to implement new strategies. A combination of modern technology and time-tested communication skills can help any team maximize collaboration. 

When implementing new collaborative methods, remember to:

  • Clearly communicate your desire to enhance collaboration and 
  • Welcome a diversity of ideas, work styles, and 
  • Recognize and appreciate your team’s contributions so
  • Build rapport and trust through team exercises, face-to-face communication, and genuine interest in people’s personal lives.
  • Thoroughly train team members with new apps or software and emphasize which tools will be used for specific types of communication. 

Remember, trust and teamwork are the foundation for productive collaboration. If trust has been broken in the workplace, here are the 30 Best Trust-Building Exercises to Rebuild Relationships.

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