Come Together, Right Now! Tips for Fostering Collaboration in the Workplace.

We're all smarter together. Each of us brings unique experience, perspective and skills to our workplaces, but there are plenty of valid reasons for not collaborating the way many of us would like.

Unless a person is a hiring manager, for example, he or she simply may not know the abilities their peers offer - some turning to social media to find out. LinkedIn, for example, reported that 30 percent of its members who search for people on LinkedIn each month do so to view their coworkers' profiles.

Wanting to know why, LinkedIn surveyed 814 professionals in North America and found that only 38 percent of respondents said their companies' intranets are effective at helping them learn about their coworkers, and 58 percent said they could do a better job if they could find coworkers with specific skills. As is the case with many surveys conducted by tech companies, a product addressing these issues was later released by the researcher. The product, LinkedIn LookUp, gives users the ability to search within their company by name, experience, job function, title or expertise. Knowing what their coworkers can do is only half the battle.

Employees working for enterprises that don't encourage or reward collaboration, for instance, likely won't seek their peers' help independently. One way brands have tried to foster collaboration in the workplace is to tear down walls, literally and metaphorically, so that conversations about experience, projects and skills happen in a more natural setting.

The open-office floor plan, for example, was designed to not only easily scale (as companies, particularly those in tech, grew rapidly), but also to level the playing field so everyone could contribute an idea, talk to one another and, generally, be more aware of happenings. There is, however, an abundance of scornful articles about the floor plan from, "9 Reasons that Open-Space Offices are Insanely Stupid" by Inc. to "Open-plan offices work for your boss, not for you" by CPA Australia. While the setup has its supporters, opponents cite decreased productivity, more noise, higher stress, increased sick days and lower morale as problems.

A person's physical surroundings can certainly present collaboration challenges - closed off in an office, at home on a laptop or trying to be quiet in a cubicle - but technology can be used to have the digital version of an open space where people get to chat quickly without impacting the office decibel.

Popular ways to share ideas digitally - and keep it out of email inboxes - include chat, online communities and collaboration software. Like all technology, there are unintended consequences of some digital methods of communicating with peers like real-time notifications disrupting workflows, over-sharing or opportunities to drastically divert from original conversations. Still, enterprises are signing up for offerings like Slack in great numbers for its ability to easily share documents, talk in one place, search for information, and openly and privately communicate. Slack isn't the only option, of course, Website Magazine detailed some alternatives, but it's a popular one.

Whether it's freely communicating in the office or openly communicating in a digital space, enterprises that prioritize collaboration are often those set up for better employee retention, results and revenue.


the-question-mark-350168_640:: OFFICE CHATTER ::

To see how enterprises collaborate in the real world, we caught up with Andrew Cross, partner and vice president at Walker Sands, a public relations and digital marketing firm as well as Pete Peranzo, co-founder and CEO of Imaginovation, a digital agency offering Web design and development, mobile apps, SEO and marketing services.


What role does collaboration play in your enterprise?

ANDREW: Collaboration is critical at Walker Sands. Our work tends to be fast-paced, and that demands a high degree of collaboration. We need to be able to tap into different specialties and expertise within the office - media relations, social media, SEO, design, video, demand gen - and deploy them within our campaigns. 

PETE: We have a global team at Imaginovation. With team members all over the world, effective collaboration is paramount to getting projects done on time.


What are some specific steps/routines/scenarios that exist within your company to improve collaboration?

ANDREW: We are structured by practice area, so our FinTech, MarTech and enterprise software teams, for example, work on a specific set of clients and are able to get deep within their respective industries. But to get the best results for our clients, we need to draw on the best creative thinkers within the agency - even if some of those minds live outside of the practice area. Our FinTech and Retail Tech teams have a high degree of cross-over, so they've started holding knowledge-sharing sessions.

We also have monthly company-wide learning sessions where team members talk through recent case studies and field questions from colleagues. Everyone walks away with a better understanding of what other team members are working on and how they can tap into those talents.

PETE: When we are kicking off a new project, expectations, roles, tasks and deadlines are communicated upfront. At the center of each project is a project manager that ensures all tasks are being completed effectively and on time. 


Do you use any collaboration tools and to what effect?

ANDREW: Our Web Services team experimented with Slack. Our designers, developers and project managers used Slack to communicate during larger Web projects. They recently switched to Active Collab, which is especially useful for collaboration among designers and developers, and during late-stage website work where there's a lot of back and forth. G-chat is pervasive in our office. It's a great way to get quick answers to small questions that don't justify an email. Teams also use G-chat to schedule meetings and get a quick response to other timely items.

Imaginovation recently switched to Jira to manage all of our tasks. It integrates seamlessly with Hipchat, so our discussions are clearly associated with each project. Having a reliable and effective chat client is also important for collaboration and the team is quickly seeing its value. Having a chat client that works specifically with our project management platform has been invaluable. 

How does your enterprise encourage collaboration? Let us know in the comments below!