This is a contributed article from John Allen, Director of Global SEO at RingCentral.
How Your Small Business Can Grow Through Excellent Team Collaboration
One powerful way to drive success in a small business is via collaboration. Not limited to any specific type of business or sector, connecting with your team and other businesses around you to work towards a common goal is a sure-fire way of improving your customer service and bottom line.
Collaboration leads to new outlooks and new methods for the same old business. Business owners often get caught in the rigmarole of daily tasks; they forget to test new strategies and set new goals. They avoid branching out to new technologies or assessing existing ones. And, while they may keep up to date with industry news, the benefits are not there if there's no practical application.
Collaborating, sharing ideas, and having regular catch-ups leads to this mindset change, which can often lead to a more streamlined business.
Here are a few ways your small business can grow through excellent team collaboration.
Create a 'Why'
For proper cohesion, your employees need to be given a compelling reason to be a part of the company mission. The more exciting and passionate the reason is, the easier it is for teams to want to be a part of the company's success.
When given a definite cause to be a part of, and knowing how each role contributes to that cause, staff naturally become more engaged with their goals and objectives. If a workforce is unclear about these goals, they'll soon lose any kind of synergy. For collaboration to work, the why needs to be evident.
Collaboration Leads to Innovation
Collaboration amongst team members can push the boundaries of your business. It can be a way to trial new ideas you may not have felt confident pursuing alone. Any business must take measured risks, and collaboration opens the door to those possibilities. It can open up new ways of thinking, leading to more opportunities and directions to explore going forward.
If team members know their ideas are considered seriously , they’re unafraid to suggest something bold. A single product or marketing idea can transform an entire business. So, these types of forums must be encouraged. You may get nine terrible ideas, but one that has serious potential.
Better collaboration is enabled with the addition of everyday collaboration tools that everyone can access and utilise in order to improve day to day productivity. This could be anything from project management software and small business phone lines, to more practical ideas like blackboards in the break room and to-do lists in pencil that people can add and subtract from. If you make it a team activity, then there’s more chance of these tools being taken advantage of.
Collaboration Can Grow Your Network
How many people do you know? As in, interact with at least once a month? 50? 60? By collaborating with someone else, you can tap into an entirely new network of contacts.
Of course, not everyone in your or your collaborator’s network will help you grow your business, but some might. They may be able to connect you with other entrepreneurs who may offer new collaboration initiatives or can help in different ways, like suppliers or trading partners.
It Brings People Together
If specific teams within your business hardly interact with one other, those teams and departments are working in isolated silos. So, you might want to try creating a mixed-skills team.
These are usually ad hoc teams that process tasks or jobs that need staff with different skill sets and expertise. For example, a mixed-skills team can be made up of a developer, a designer, an account manager, and a content writer. It’s basically an independent team brought together to accomplish a goal. By doing this, you’ve meshed people from different sides and given them a common purpose.
In a more traditional shopfront, try switching roles once a week/month so everyone gets a chance to understand each other’s perspective better. Encourage your team to spend as much time in other departments, so if a customer has a question that isn’t their area of expertise, they can at least provide some base, practical knowledge before seeking further help. It’s important each member of the team knows how everyone else functions in order to boost customer experience.
Beyond the practical aspect, this may lead to better social connections, which can only be a good thing in any office or workplace. In this instance, collaboration has broken down the silos and bonded departments together.
Collaboration Increases Morale
As more and more of these mixed-skills teams spring up, it increases overall trust between employees, which leads to better morale. A business without confidence or morale is never going to succeed. Regularly collaborating with people outside of your own team or department is a sure-fire way to increase both.
And, the higher the overall morale, the greater the likelihood that more people will feel comfortable collaborating with someone from another department.
It Boosts Retention Rates
With a more open, connected, and engaged workforce, the more appealing it is for outside candidates to apply and current employees to stay. An atmosphere that encourages open collaboration goes a long way to convince top performers to stay and maintain these relationships.
Humans intrinsically value connection, especially in the workplace. We want to work with those we trust, who respect us, understand our perspectives, and work well with others despite our backgrounds, experience, or beliefs. Collaboration as a founding principle of an organization makes this possible.
Collaboration Makes People More Productive
Working collaboratively will stimulate the productivity of team members. Team building exercises can help breed healthy competition, and group participation tasks can help identify common goals.
By joining left and right brain thinkers together, employees arrive at a resolution in less time. This helps build momentum and increases excitement as employees see all the cogs in their machine coming together to produce concrete results.
When team members are enthusiastic, they’re more likely to execute tasks to a higher quality in less time.
It Leads to Better Marketing Outcomes
It's come time to create a new marketing campaign, and you and/or your marketing team is stumped. Whether it’s writer's block or the fear of new ideas, nothing seems to be working.
This is another way workplace collaboration can help. Send a company-wide email, ask people to vote on a color scheme or a tagline. If you want to promote your website, ask people to follow the link and give their honest opinions.
Marketing ideas come from all sorts of inspirations, and your marketing team must cast their net as wide as possible to source new ideas.
If you don't ask, you'll never know.
It Can Better Your Social Media Output
Going hand in hand with marketing efforts, an open attitude to social media can lead to more positive outcomes across your social channels. In some companies, there's a single person within the marketing department generating the social noise, meaning you get a great deal of output but often very little engagement.
You can take a different approach. As a company, like and share your employee's posts. Comment on their photos and share their successes. In turn, they'll do the same for you, humanizing your brand and putting more eyes on your product.
Conduct interviews with team members and post a new one each week for them to share with their circle. Soon, you'll have far better engagement and a more wholesome and exciting page!
Collaboration Facilitates Stakeholder Relationships
When it comes to collaboration, it's always a good idea to explicitly focus on external collaboration with vendors and partners. Essentially, all the stakeholders related to your projects, products, or services.
If you use and include vital feedback from these stakeholders in the development process, you can align your customers' needs with your product's features appropriately.
Nurturing a good connection with stakeholders enhances your business' understanding of the marketplace it operates in. This further assists in identifying potential new consumers, creating diversified services or products, and serving alternative market segments.
Encourages More Flexible Working
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated remote working patterns, but some have found the transition far more straightforward than others.
Those that have flourished have been the companies with collaboration as part of their identity and have met customers where they are: online. Even when working remotely, the tools and processes already existed to encourage cross-team collaboration.
And so, if we ever do get back to full-time, in-office work, you need to encourage this type of collaborative behavior. So, if we're ever stuck at home again, transforming digitally won't be an issue.
The Collaboration Will Benefit Your Customers
Employees within an organization can offer better experiences and unwavering support by having the ability to tap into multiple sources and resources of information that can be used to serve your customers better.
When team members have faster access to information through their colleagues in a collaborative environment, it becomes easier for them to offer appropriate solutions. That means happier customers and longer business relationships.
When customer service teams work together on claims or queries, answers are delivered more efficiently. The team member with the knowledge to address the issue can either handle the claim themselves, or assist other team members in order to produce an answer as quickly as possible. With each member of staff bringing their own experience and skills, that collective entity approach makes you a much stronger and faster force. For example, if a complex issue arises and a junior member of the team seeks help from someone more in the know, it provides both an education for the junior member as well as a faster answer for the root customer.
Collaboration Can Mean More Profitability
Collaboration escalates businesses' profitability! After you've recruited and then retained the right talent from alternative sectors and schools of thinking, and then encouraged a culture worthy of their ability, you're creating an environment of forward-thinking ideas. These new ideas are unlocked by the collaboration that will propel you forward and lead to better profit.
Deloitte, for example, found that the quantitative value of collaboration is $2,517 per employee per year.
Across the world, business owners have shifted towards more collaborative attitudes to carry out daily processes. These practices automatically lead to happier customers, and more satisfied customers equal more profit.
How to Improve Team Collaboration
By now, it should be clear how important collaboration is, so here are a few more ways to foster and improve the collaborative process:
Lead by example
The success of any collaboration starts at the top. So, if you’re in charge, the onus is on you to get the ball rolling. Team members should not be afraid to share an idea or opinion. It’s also possible some may not like to work in teams, and it’s vital that too is respected. Keep in mind a supportive relationship defines future success.
Define roles and responsibility
Team members should know their tasks within a collaborative environment, to avoid any toe-stepping or unnecessary overlaps. Also, don’t forget to review and refine these roles as time goes on. Encourage people to take more responsibility and be ready to support them as well.
Outline clear goals
Every team collaboration needs to understand the common goals, how these goals are measured, and what their focus should be. Only set accomplishable goals; otherwise, you’ll only find frustration as opposed to success.
Support collaboration with the right technology
Workplace technology has evolved so much over the years. A collaborative culture doesn’t just consist of the process, but the collaboration tools used to fulfill this process as well. Today there are thousands of tools to choose from, ranging in cost, interface, and capability.
A combination of these tools should be used to engage teams and foster collaboration. So if it’s project management platforms, computer telephony integration products, video conferencing tools, reminder apps for contingent workers, or even just a good old fashioned whiteboard, it all needs to be taken into consideration.
“Collaboration” isn’t a process; it’s a mindset. One that needs full integration to your entire business. It leads to increased productivity as well as less revenue and time spent on individual projects. Through collaboration, team members can share values, responsibilities, and feel a sense of allegiance to your organization as they all work together towards a common goal.
If you feel there’s more room for collaboration within your small business:
- Set small collaboration goals (setting up a mixed-skills team or sitting people in different teams for a day)
- Communicate the value of collaboration
- Know that it won’t happen overnight and ensure the right time and resources are committed to making it a success
- Motivate and support your workforce
- Invest in the right tools that supports your business