How To Build A Culture Of Collaboration
23 June 2015

How To Build A Culture Of Collaboration


Barry Chignell

Barry Chignell

Barry Chignell worked in Ciphr's marketing team from 2012-2020.


Leadership and management Strategy culture and values


Collaboration is fundamental to a successful business. If your employees find it difficult to work as a team then efficiencies and productivity suffer greatly. Here’s how to achieve a true culture of collaboration.

Ask where the problem areas are and create wish lists

If you’re trying to improve the collaboration within your business then the chances are that there’s a few known issues already.

wish listCompiling a list of prioritised issues, based on a consensus, is the first step towards creating a culture of collaboration that benefits the entire business.
Speak to every employee and ask what they feel are the current obstacles when trying to work with, and communicate to, their team. Asking the people that coexist and work with each other every day will provide the most experienced and comprehensive list of suggestions and enable you to build a researched list of which areas need to be addressed and in what order.

Some examples of wish list items and what to look for in a solution include:

  • Can employees collaborate from anywhere i.e. while working at home or on site with a customer?
  • Is the system easy to use and quick to learn?
  • Is the system configurable?
  • Is the system secure?

As well as compiling a list of issues consideration should also be given to what additional functionality, improved efficiencies or additional training should be considered based on the everyday experiences of your employees.
Whether it be the solutions used to communicate and share information, the facilities provided by the business or an individual that requires training in certain forms of communication, optimising all areas of the company is vital if everyone is to benefit.

Buy-in from the business is key and, as such, priorities should be agreed upon by all parties with any implementation project involving a representative from each department.

Don’t step on toes

step on toesBefore searching the internet for a brand new solution(s) make sure you investigate those systems that are already in place and being used internally.

Even though collaboration can be improved it may not necessarily mean that the current tools cannot be utilised.

  • Are all systems up to date, taking full advantage of the latest functionality?
  • Are these systems being used correctly or is training required to get the most from them?
  • Is a tool being used by a particular area of the business which could be rolled out to everyone?
  • Is the problem with current systems the data quality? Could a data cleanse be all that’s required to utilise the system more effectively?

If one particular department’s using a solution successfully then, instead of replacing it for a company-wide system and losing the backing of those employees, investigate whether it can be rolled out on a wider basis.
If the system can’t be expanded throughout the business then it may be that any new collaboration tool will need to integrate with it, this requirement should be added to your already created wish list.

Most systems nowadays will link with others to improve the way in which they can be integrated into a business. If financially viable it’s better to have seamless integration between a couple of systems and the buy-in from employees than 1 system that no one uses.

Start early but don’t forget experience

It’s important to reinforce your collaborative culture as early as possible in the employee life-cycle. By participating in social media discussions, sharing content and asking for feedback and opinions you’ll promote your employer brand as one which interacts and collaborates those that may not even considered a role within your business, the passive candidate.

From this stage, through the recruitment stages and on into the onboarding process, collaboration should be an evident part of what your brand believes in and highly encouraged among its employees.

collaborateJob adverts should clearly state what your company philosophy is and that you’re looking for applicants of a similar mindset.
It’s also crucial to promote why collaboration is important and the benefits it brings to both the business and its employees, this way applicants can relate to what you’re trying to achieve and know what to expect should they be successful in the application.

The onboarding process should give any new employee a chance to enter their own data and participate in company forums and discussions from as early as possible. Self-service employee onboarding systems such as Ciphr Onboarding allow new employees access to controlled pages on your company intranet for this very reason. Enabling them to complete their personal information and view company news, announcements and specified documents regarding policies, procedures etc.

Just as important as instilling your culture values among new employees is getting your more experienced employees on board. This can be a difficult task as many of these employees will have a natural and ingrained view of the business and unlikely to fully accept change unless fully justified by the brand.
Involving these people at every stage of the transition will allow you to monitor and discuss any concerns or suggestions they may have.
Remember these more experienced staff will know what works and what doesn’t so don’t ignore them.

Don’t force culture or solutions on employees

One of the most counterproductive things a business can do is force new processes or solutions on employees and expect them to simply accept them and be immediately motivated and enthused. Even if a particular solution is the perfect fit for a business, not informing employees and simply installing it one day won’t go down well with your workforce.

Transparency and clarity regarding the process and just as importantly why the business feels it’s the best option will go a long way in terms of trust and acceptance.

The benefits of involving your staff far out way the problems caused by not including them.

Enlist product sponsors

Rather than a single member of staff attempting to discuss the culture change with the entire company it’s much more efficient and collaborative for a number of project sponsors to assist.
By working as a team you’ll be able to capitalise on their familiarity with their own teams, the simultaneous conversations that can take place and the moral support of your project team.

It’s also good to have a team in case you’re away from the office for any reason as they can continue the project in your absence if needed.

Gamify if necessary

gamifyIn some cases gamifying a change or new solution within a business can help with the transition.
Rewarding employees for certain achievements or making a competition out of the process can be the difference between a motivated and inspired workforce and one that’s not really that interested in what you’re trying to achieve.

Encourage collaboration on social initiatives too

One great way to encourage and instill a collaborative culture is to enable the use of the collaboration processes and tools when promoting or discussing social events or initiatives. Most tools can be set up to have distinct areas for business and social communication.
If employees can see that using the tool can help organise fun social activities then they’re more likely to utilise it for work too.

It doesn’t have to be complicated or cutting edge

Improving collaboration could be as simple as encouraging people to talk to each other or pick up the phone, it doesn’t have to mean a new high tech system.
Sometimes the simplest options are the best choice, offering the best return on investment and ease of implementation.

Monitor, discuss, improve

Once the collaboration starts to improve and the culture takes hold it’s still important to monitor progress and address any issues or efficiency suggestions.
Discussing how things are going with representative’s from around the business will give a clearer idea of what’s working and what can be improved moving forward.

Any changes should be discussed with employees to keep them informed and part of the process, maintaining their buy in.